Life and the Cosmos

The Scientists Behind Life and the Cosmos

  • Ofer Cohen, SAO

    Ofer studies solar, planetary and astrophysical plasma physics using sophisticated computer simulations. His research focuses on the dynamic interaction of charged particles with magnetic fields in different environments in the solar systems and in stellar atmospheres. This research involves solar and stellar winds and their interactions with planets (including exoplanets), the solar cycle, space weather, stellar coronae structure and evolution, and space environment of the early solar system.

  • Bob Craddock, NASM

    While at the Center for Earth and Planetary Studies Bob's investigations have focused on understanding the geologic processes that have occurred on Mars. His terrestrial research interests include several analog studies that will help us to better understand the surface of Mars. He works with curators in documenting and maintaining the National Collection of manned and unmanned planetary artifacts.

  • Bill Dimichele, NMNH

    Bill's research at the National Museum of Natural history focuses on fossil plants of late Paleozoic and early Mesozoic age (240-350 million years old), and paleocology and evolutionary biology. He has also performed research centered on the documentation of ancient plant communities and the response of plant communities to environmental changes.

  • Jeremy Drake, SAO

    Prior to initiating the Life in the Cosmos project, Jeremy's research centered on stellar physics, including radiative transfer, stellar atmospheres and activity, pre-main sequence stars, stellar chemical compositions and evolution, compact stars and novae.

  • Christine France, MCI

    Christine's primary field of interest is stable isotopic applications to vertebrate paleontology and archeology. Her most current research focuses on dietary reconstruction of Pleistocene ecosystems in North America. She is specifically interested in the changing structure of food webs and the role this may play in the end-Pleistocene megafaunal extinction. She utilizes stable isotopes in well preserved bones and teeth as proxies for ecological influences, diet, climate, and physiologic mechanisms. To this end she also studies the preservation of vertebrate fossil material with an emphasis on the potential diagenetic alteration of original isotopic values. In addition to her personal research she manages the Smithsonian OUSS/MCI Stable Isotope Mass Spectrometry Laboratory which performs stable isotope analyses (C, N, O, H, S) for all Smithsonian units. She oversees all users of the facility, provides technical support, and consults on a variety of projects.

  • Allen Herre, STRI

    Allen's research interests involve Figs and their associated organisms, Sex Ratio evolution, Effects of Population Structure, Mycorrhizae, Mutualism, Parasitism, and Plant-Insect Interactions.

  • Carlos Jaramillo, STRI

    Carlos' research investigates the causes, patterns, and processes of tropical biodiversity at diverse scales of time and space. He intends to address questions from a paleontological perspective (mainly using fossil pollen, spores. plant megafossils, and dinoflagellates), a point of view that is largely needed to understand and predict the behavior of biota in tropical ecosystems. He is also interested in Cretaceous-Cenozoic biostratigraphy of low latitudes, developing methods for high-resolution biostratigraphy and the paleobiogeography of Tethys.

  • David Lathan, SAO

    David is a Co-Investigator on NASA's Kepler mission to discover and characterize habitable Earth-like planets, with responsibility for follow-up observations for the confirmation and characterization of transiting planets. He is the Chief Mission Scientist for the proposed Transiting Exoplanet Survey Satellite, an all-sky survey from space for nearby bright transiting planets, selected for Phase A by NASA.

    David is a member of the Harvard University Origins of Life Initiative, working to characterize the bulk properties and geochemistry of exoplanets. Does life utilize only one fundamental biochemistry? This is an overarching question for the Harvard initiative.

  • Haris Lessios, STRI

    Haris' research Interests are centered on speciation, evolution of reproductive isolation, and rastes of protein and mitochondrial DNA evolution. He studies the effects of gene flow in the evolution of marine populations, phylogenetic reconstruction, molecular biogeography, the ecology of tropical marine invertebrates, and the impact of mass mortality on coral reef biota.

  • Glenn MacPherson, NMNH

    Glen studies isotopic and petrologic studies of carbonaceous chondrite meteorites, and their bearing on the earliest history of the solar system; experimental studies of clinopyroxene crystallization in igneous rocks; petrologic studies of volcanic rocks in ophiolite belts.

  • Piet Martens, SAO and Montana State University

    Piet is a solar physicist who studies magnetohydrodynamic processes such as dynamo processes in the solar interior and solar flares in the outer solar atmosphere, or "corona". He has a strong interest in the influence of the Sun and its variations on the Earth's biosphere. He is a co-Investigator on several solar space missions, including the Solar Dynamics Observatory.

  • Ben Turner, STRI

    Key research questions being addressed by Ben include:

    What forms of nutrients are present in tropical soils? How do their solubility and/or availability vary in time and space? Are there marked differences in nutrient availability that may partly explain above ground ecology?

    How do organisms access nutrients from tropical soils, especially organic nutrients? Likely mechanisms include secretion of phosphatase or organic anions, mycorrhizal association, and direct uptake of low molecular-weight organic compounds.

    Could the differential availability of nutrients based on the above mechanisms regulate species diversity?

  • Peter Wagner, NMNH

    The fundamentals of my research revolve around phylogenetic relationships among Paleozoic molluscs. The majority of my work has been on Cambrian - Devonian anisostrophic gastropods, although I've started dabbling with bellerophont gastropods also. I also have worked with a more obscure and entirely extinct group, the Rostroconchia.

    The primary purpose of this phylogenetic work is to provide a template for the macroevolutionary studies discussed below. However, it also has resulted in an extensive taxonomic revision of Early Paleozoic gastropods.