John Ward's Group
MSci in Palaeobiology from UCL (2008)
Current research interests
Having completed my degree in palaeobiology I decided to turn my interest in fossils and biology to an area with incorporates the study of molecular fossils and biological systems in unusual environments. The requirement of this project to look at areas with a high pH has sent me to two rather different sampling localities, one in Wales and the other in Kenya. Both have a high pH although the underlying chemistry is quite different and the site in Africa also has a varying salt content from a low salt content, up to saturation in parts.
This work is in based around the concept of astrobiology and finding evidence of life in other parts of our universe, in particular my research interest is in Mars. Recent orbital data indicates that the geology of the planet is not as homogenous and once thought and that a variety of environments, including aqueous potentially neutral to alkaline milieu have existed in the surface during periods of the planets history.
My work is based upon studying the organisms we can culture from these extreme pH environments and looking at the survivability of some of these organisms. Other work in the Department of Earth Sciences and with UCL Mullard Space Science Laboratory involves using geological samples from alkaline environments to ground test the ESA ExoMars, PanCam equipment. The interdisciplinary nature of my work enables me to combine both geological and biological research into one project.
As more data on the different environments present on Mars in its history is gathered I believe it is important that the types organisms which occupy these sorts of areas on Earth are fully understood.
Hobday, C. et al.(2009): Alkaline environments as analogue conditions for early Earth and Mars; preliminary data. AbGradCon '09 Poster Presentations. Astrobiology 9(5): 517-528