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Science Magazine Article Reviews Early Life Research of ODU's Noffke

The research of Nora Noffke, an Old Dominion University geobiologist who has won international recognition for research proposing "microbially induced sedimentary structures" as evidence of the earliest life on Earth, is noted in the article "Life on an Anaerobic Planet" in the Jan. 23, 2009, issue of Science magazine.

Frances Westall, of the Centre de Biophysique Moleculaire at the Universite d'Orleans in France, wrote the article about the challenges involved in identifying signatures of small anaerobic life forms that are believed to have been present on the early Earth, before oxygen came to be the planet's dominant atmospheric gas.

Noffke, associate professor of ocean, earth, and atmospheric sciences, is interested in the geological record of bacteria that lived during the Archean period, which extended from about 3.8 to 2.5 billion years ago. She studied microbial mats-the rug-like weaves that cover tidal flats today-and has found sedimentary structures in South Africa showing that the same type of mats existed during the Early Archean. This research helped coin the term "microbially induced sedimentary structures," or "MISS."

Westall's article notes the recent MISS research and concludes, "(T)he past half decade has seen a breakthrough in the methods used to identify biosignatures, opening the way for a future that will reveal the profusion of life on an anaerobic planet.

Noffke's work was the subject of a news article in the May 5, 2006, edition of Science and of her papers in the April 2006 issue of the journal Geology and the September 2008 Earth Science Reviews. The work also was reviewed last year in the journal Nature.

In 2007, Noffke was elected a Fellow of the Geological Society of America in recognition of her research establishing MISS as evidence of the earliest life on Earth. She also won the 2007 James Lee Wilson Award of the Society of Sedimentary Geologists, which is given annually to recognize international excellence in marine geology by a young scientist.

This article was posted on: February 2, 2009

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