Follow the Elements

The Elser lab is an part of the large inter-disciplinary Astrobiology Team at ASU that is “following the elements” to help guide the exploration for life beyond Earth, in our Solar System and on planets orbiting other stars.

Our research is motivated by a simple observation: that life-as-we-know-it uses a non-random selection of the chemical elements. This observation prompts many questions:

1. What are the rules that govern the selection of these “bioessential” elements?
2. How might these elements differ in extreme environments on Earth or beyond?
3. How common are the bioessential elements in the extraterrestrial environments that might harbor life?
4. How are the distributions of these elements in the cosmos shaped by astrophysical processes?

Our work is primarily involved in collaborative projects aimed at questions 1 and 2. The work involves intensive laboratory studies of the effects of element (N, P, Fe) limitation on extremophilic microbes and field studies investigating element ratios and nutrient limitation in hot springs at Yellowstone National Park and in "not-so-hot" springs at Cuatro Cienegas, Mexico.

To learn more about the Astrobiology project, go the main ASU Astrobiology web site. LINK




Ariel Anbar (lead PI)

Everett Shock

Hilairy Hartnett

Susanne Neuer

Valeria Souza

Janet Siefert

and others!


NASA Astrobiology Program