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Tullis Onstott - About Me

Tullis Onstott has been focusing his research on subsurface microbial life and microbial ecosystems of permafrost and its implications for global warming, petroleum biodegradation, life on Mars and the origin of life. This research involves exploration in the Canadian High Arctic, in the mines of South Africa and North America and Yellowstone National Park with the goal of quantifying the microbial community structure, function and activity with molecular, isotopic and geochemical tools.  His research also involve collaborations with NASA scientists on the development of space-flight capable instrumentation for detecting life. 


PhD opportunities are available for multidisciplinary, international research into the microbial cycling of carbon in permafrost deposits in Greenland and on Axel Heiberg Island and the deep crustal biosphere of South Africa and Canada.

A Postdoctoral Associate  position is available for multidisciplinary, international research into the microbial cycling of carbon in the deep crustal biosphere of South Africa.  Please go to https://jobs.princeton.edu  to apply.  Requisition number 0110390.


Conference in South Africa, January 17-24 2011

New Horizons for International Investigations into Carbon Cycling in the Deep Biosphere conference was held at the University of Free State, Bloemfontein, South Africa sponsored by Deep Carbon Observatory.


Recently Given Talks:


Recently Published Papers:

Commercial DNA extraction kits impact observed microbial community composition in permafrost samples, 2014 (pdf)

Does Aspartic Acid Racemization Constrain the Depth Limit of the Subsurface Biosphere? 2013 (pdf)

Hydrocarbon Microspheres from >2 Billion Year Old Carbon-bearing Seams in the South African Deep Subsurface, 2012 (pdf)

The origin of NO3- and N2 in deep subsurface fracture water of South Africa, 2012. (pdf)

2 Ga old crustal neon component implies long water-rock reaction times of deep fracture water, 2011.  (pdf)

Microbes in Thawing Permafrost: The Unknown Variable in the Climate Change Equation, 2012.  (pdf)

Nematoda from the terrestrial deep subsurface of South Africa, 2011.  (pdf)

Extended Survival of Several Organisms and Amino Acids under Simulated Martian Surface Conditions, 2011. (pdf)


Research Projects:

PhD opportunities are available for multidisciplinary, international research into the microbial cycling of carbon in the deep crustal biosphere of South Africa (sponsored by NSF and the Sloan Foundation).


Witwatersrand Basin showing location of mines sample during LExEn deep microbiology project.

Global Warming Impact on Carbon Cycle of Permafrost from the Canadian High Arctic (sponsored by U.S. Dept. of Energy).


A Cavity Ringdown Spectrometer for Isotopic Measurement of Martian CH4 (sponsored by NASA-ASTID Program)

A Shallow-Borehole Array for Measuring Greenland Emission of Trace Gases as an Analogue for Methane on Mars (Project GETGAMM) (sponsored by NASA ASTEP Program)


Education and Outreach:


MRO aerobraking into Martian orbit.