UWAB hosts a biannual colloquium series every spring and fall, featuring speakers from both UW and other institutions presenting on a wide range of astrobiology related topics. Here, you can find the schedule for upcoming colloquia and seminars, as well as an archive of abstracts and live recordings of past events.
If you would like to be notified about upcoming events, you can email us and request to be added to our events mailing list.
You can also watch a live broadcast of our events by logging in remotely during the scheduled colloquium time!

Spring 2014 Series:

See below for the current schedule. Titles and abstracts will be added as more information becomes available. 
Events are held in PAA A114, Tuesdays at 3:00PM.
Tom Tobin  (University of Washington)

Modeling The Climate Effects of Deccan Traps Flood Volcanism (Astrobiology Research Rotation Presentation)

This presentation will relate work done towards an Astrobiology research rotation completed with Dr. Cecilia Bitz. The goal of this project was model the potential climatic effects from Deccan Traps Flood Volcanism. The Deccan Traps may have been a contributing factor the end Cretaceous mass extinction, but it disputed whether they are sufficiently large enough to have clear climate effects. Warming events have been temporally associated with the timing of Deccan. Our relatively simple models suggest that the Deccan Traps could feasibly have created the observed warming patterns, but much hinges on the range of different published estimates for Deccan Traps gas emissions.
Amit Misra  (University of Washington)

Measuring Interdisciplinarity Using Citations

Interdisciplinarity is an integral part of modern research, especially in astrobiology, but it can often be difficult to measure interdisciplinarity. We've developed a citation-based metric for measuring interdisciplinarity that uses the Jensen-Shannon divergence to compare how similar a journal's citation pattern is to journals it cites and is cited by. I'll describe the advantages of this method over existing methods and the limitations of the metric. I will discuss notable results, such as the low interdisciplinarity of Astronomy journals, and where journals of interest to Astrobiologists fall in the rankings.
Jonathan Fortney  (UC Santa Cruz)

Characterizing A New Kind of Exoplanet:  Low-Mass Low-Density Exoplanets

NASA's Kepler Mission has revealed that the most common size of planet in our galaxy may be those from 2-3 Earth radii. Such medium-sized planets are significantly more common on close-in orbits than Neptune and Jupiter-class giant planets. We have no analog for these planets in our solar system. To explain their size, most require a thin envelope of H/He gas, atop a core of high pressure rock and/or water. An example relatively close to home is planet GJ 1214b, which is 2.6 Earth radii and 6 Earth masses, and orbits a cool red dwarf star near the Sun. This planet has been extensively studied with the Hubble and Spitzer Space Telescopes. In this talk, Prof. Fortney will first discuss our current understanding of the composition and atmospheric physics of GJ 1214b, which is potentially a prototype for this class of low-mass low-density planets, and will describe the physical processes that may be common to this type of fascinating planets.
Leslie Rogers  (California Institute of Technology)

Bulk Composition and Habitability of Sub-Neptune-Size Exoplanets

Sub-Neptune and super-Earth sized planets are a new planet category. They account for 80% of the planet candidates discovered by Kepler, and 0% of the planets in the Solar System. What is the nature of these sub-Neptune-size planets, how did they form, why are they so numerous, and could they support liquid water oceans? Dr. Rogers will review some highlights from the complement of exotic sub-Neptune-size planets discovered to date and present an updated planet mass-radius diagram. With planet interior structure models, she will constrain the masses and radii both of rocky planets and of volatile-rich planets harboring liquid water oceans. These insights into the size demographics of rocky and volatile-rich planets have important implications for the occurrence rate of habitable planets throughout the galaxy.
Fang-Zhen Teng  (University of Washington)

The Origins of the Moon, Rise of Atmospheric Oxygen, Volcanic Eruption, and Continental Weathering: A Non-Traditional Isotope Perspective

Leslie Bebout  (NASA Ames Research Center)
Michael Line  (UC Santa Cruz)

Remote Sensing of Extrasolar Planets

Thanks to the Kepler spacecraft, we now know that nearly every star in our galaxy possess a planet. Understanding these planets is key to understanding our place in the universe. Over the past decade we have begun to characterize exoplanet atmospheres using ground and space based observatories. Such observations reveal clues to the composition and temperature structures of these planets. Dr. Line will discuss how we can use statistical methods combined with radiative transfer, known as atmospheric retrieval, to infer the temperatures and compositions of these planets, and will describe what we have learned about a small handful of extra solar planet atmospheres from these methods. Understanding the composition of these objects offer clues to the atmospheric chemistry, dynamics, their formation history. Time permitting, Dr. Line will address how we might apply these tools to earth-like transmission spectra and what we might be able to say about their atmospheres.
John Priscu  (Montana State University)

Microbial Habitability of Icy Worlds

As active exploration of space begins its sixth decade, we have, for the first time in the history of humanity, the tools and techniques to probe the profound questions of planetary habitability: how has life evolved and survived on Earth for more than 3.5 billion years?; is there life beyond Earth? These questions served as a driving force for the space program and, eventually led to the interdisciplinary field of astrobiology in the late-1990s; bringing together astronomers, biologists, chemists, geologists, and physicists, to answer these fundamental questions about the role of biology in the Universe. NASA’s present search for life beyond Earth prioritizes the search for liquid water: where we find liquid water on Earth, we generally find life. Over the past few decades a major revolution has occurred, shifting our understanding of where liquid water may be found. Moons of the outer solar system such as Europa, Ganymede, and Enceladus orbit the planets Jupiter and Saturn, and though these moons are covered in ice they harbor sub-surface liquid water oceans that contain many times the volume of liquid water found on Earth. These oceans are there today and have likely persisted for much of the history of the solar system, providing key environments in which to search for extant life beyond Earth—life from a possible second, independent origin. Recent discoveries of metabolically active microorganisms in subglacial environments on Earth provides us with a compelling case that sub-ice oceans in the outer Solar System possess the ingredients necessary to support life.
Benjamin Charnay (University of Washington)
Lucianne Walkowicz  (Princeton University)

Past Colloquium Series: