Niki Parenteau

Niki Parenteau
Research Scientist
PhD Geology, BS Biology
Microbial Ecology, Geobiology, Astrobiology

I study the physiology of photosynthetic bacteria in extreme environments, and the production and preservation of in situ biosignatures such as lipid biomarkers, microfossils, and biofabrics.  I also characterize remotely detectable photosynthetic biosignatures, such as biogenic gases and reflectance spectra that might be visible on a habitable exoplanet.  The biogenic gas work is funded by the NAI Virtual Planetary Laboratory Team led by Vikki Meadows at the University of Washington.

I am also dedicated to education and public outreach, and as part of the NAI Ames team led by Dave Des Marais, we annually work with thirteen high school astrobiology interns in a year-long research program that provides training and mentoring in field work and laboratory experiments, report writing, and presentation of their research to the general public.  The focus of this program is place-based learning at Lassen Volcanic National Park in collaboration with Education Specialist Steve Zachary and Red Bluff High School.

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Biogenic Gases from Anoxygenic Photosynthesis in Microbial Mats

This lab and field project will measure biogenic gas fluxes in engineered and natural microbial mats composed of anoxygenic phototrophs and anaerobic chemotrophs, such as may have existed on the early Earth prior to the advent of oxygenic photosynthesis. The goal is to characterize the biogeochemical cycling of S, H, and C in an effort to constrain the sources and sinks of gaseous biosignatures that may be relevant to the detection of life in anoxic biospheres on habitable exoplanets.