About the Summons Group
We study organic matter from microbes, environmental samples, and rocks. Ancient rocks and oils contain a rich abundance of hidden information within, including molecular and isotopic signatures of the organisms that existed at the time the organic matter was formed. The goal of our research is to extract and interpret these signals, in order to reconstruct ancient environments and understand how life evolved within them.
Such interaction of the geosphere and the biosphere is how we define the field of geobiology. Through this study, we hope to obtain a better understanding of the timing and context of oxygenic photosynthesis (about 3 billion years ago), the conditions that led to the appearance of animal life on earth, and the causes of major mass extinction events. The techniques we develop might eventually help us detect signs of life on other planets, the science known as Astrobiology. Our lab is funded by the NASA Astrobiology Institute where we host the MIT Team.
Watch a series of youth-produced videos on our organic geochemsitry lab, what a GC-MS does, and more, narrated by Dr. Chris Hallman!
Love et al., 2009. Fossil steroids record the appearance of
Demospongiae during the Cryogenian period. (PDF)
Waldbauer et al., 2009. Late Archean molecular fossils from the Transvaal Supergroup record the antiquity of microbial diversity and aerobiosis. (PDF)