"Follow the Energy" Approach to Guide Exploration for Extraterrestrial Life Forms


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All conceivable life forms, whether earthly or extraterrestrial, require an energy source, and scientists are increasingly employing a "Follow the Energy" approach in the search for signs of habitability and life beyond Earth, as described in a report in the December 2007 Special Issue (Volume 7, Number 6) of Astrobiology, a peer-reviewed journal published by Mary Ann Liebert, Inc. The paper is available free online at www.liebertpub.com/ast.

Tori Hoehler, from NASA Ames Research Center, Jan Amend, from Washington University in St. Louis, and Everett Shock, from Arizona State University, present the concepts behind this strategy in a paper entitled, "A 'Follow the Energy' Approach for Astrobiology." As pointed out by the authors, given that energy is a universal imperative for life, an increased understanding of energy flow in terrestrial biology and ecology represents a firm foundation on which to develop an energy-based approach to a variety of astrobiological questions. In describing how energetic considerations can simultaneously refine, quantify, and broaden our concepts of habitability and biosignatures, the authors propose that a "Follow the Energy" strategy adds important new elements to the "Follow the Water" approach, which has guided the last decade of exploration for life beyond Earth. The paper also serves to introduce a special issue of Astrobiology that highlights a diverse suite of current energy-themed research in astrobiology.

"A Follow the Energy approach leads to a new understanding as to where and how to search for evidence of life in the geological record, whether on Earth or beyond," says journal Editor, Sherry L. Cady, Ph.D., Associate Professor in the Department of Geology at Portland State University. "We are becoming more sophisticated in our ability to determine where life is most likely to be productive in an ecosystem and which signatures it may leave behind. This, along with an assessment of the preservation potential of an environment, affords a more efficient way to get the job done, an important consideration when carrying out remote paleontological investigations."

Astrobiology is an authoritative peer-reviewed journal published bimonthly in print and online. The journal provides a forum for scientists seeking to advance our understanding of life's origins, evolution, distribution and destiny in the universe. A complete table of contents and a full text for this issue may be viewed online at www.liebertpub.com/ast.

Astrobiology is the leading peer-reviewed journal in its field. To promote this developing field, the Journal has teamed up with The Astrobiology Web to highlight one outstanding paper per issue of Astrobiology. This paper is available free online at www.liebertpub.com/ast and to visitors of The Astrobiology Web at www.astrobiology.com.

Mary Ann Liebert, Inc., is a privately held, fully integrated media company known for establishing authoritative peer-reviewed journals in many promising areas of science and biomedical research. Its biotechnology trade magazine, Genetic Engineering & Biotechnology News (GEN), was the first in its field and is today the industry's most widely read publication worldwide. A complete list of the firm's 60 journals, books, and newsmagazines is available at www.liebertpub.com.

A "Follow the Energy" Approach for Astrobiology, Astrobiology. 2007, ahead of print pgs. 819-823

Contact: Vicki Cohn,
Mary Ann Liebert, Inc.,
(914) 740-2100, ext. 2156,
vcohn@liebertpub.com

Mary Ann Liebert, Inc.
140 Huguenot St., New Rochelle, NY 10801-5215
www.liebertpub.com
Phone: (914) 740-2100
(800) M-LIEBERT
Fax: (914) 740-2101

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