Dr. Alysia Cox receives grant as co-PI from NASA Exobiology

Dr. Alysia Cox, Montana Tech Assistant Professor in the Department of Chemistry & Geochemistry and head of the Laboratory Exploring Geobiochemical Engineering and Natural Dynamics (LEGEND), has received a grant as a Co-Principal Investigator (Co-PI) in collaboration with Arizona State University (ASU) from NASA Exobiology for the project, “Geochemical and Biomolecular Changes at the Transition to Photosynthesis.”

When photosynthesis started on earth more than 2 billion years ago, the oxygen produced changed the atmosphere and oceans allowing for complex life, like animals and humans, to eventually evolve and thrive. This project seeks to understand this key transition to photosynthesis. The goal of the project is to characterize the differences on either side of the photosynthetic fringe observed in hot spring ecosystems (Cox et al., 2011) in multi-dimensional geochemical and biochemical detail. The project will be guided by two major questions: 1) How does geochemistry set the stage for the transition to photosynthesis? 2) What are the biochemical responses that occur at the transition to photosynthesis?

The PI at ASU is Dr. Everett Shock with Co-PIs Dr. Jason Raymond and Dr. Jordan Okie. ASU PhD students Grayson Boyer and Kris Fecteau are also collaborators.

The grant is to Arizona State University in the amount of $852,867 and Montana Tech’s sub award is $179,702. Two Tech MS students and at least two undergraduates will participate in the research.

“I am very excited about this grant and the project. With only 15% of submitted proposals being funded, we are thrilled to receive the award,” noted Cox.