If we’re looking for how life will respond to rapid environmental changes, we should probably look to bacteria adapted to live in extreme environments – what scientists call extremophiles. Astrobiologist Dirk Schulze-Makuch examines the Anthropocene with thought experiments of bacteria throughout the solar system, using scientific principles documented on Earth. He discusses known extremophiles, certain problems posed by asteroid impacts, and the importance of keeping an open mind when analyzing evolutionary trajectories on Earth.
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Dr. Schulze-Makuch’s research interests focus on the interaction of microbes with their natural geological environment in an aqueous medium. In particular, he is interested in the presence of liquid-rich environments on other planets and moons inside and outside of our Solar System and how these environments can serve as a potential habitat for microbial life. Examples include investigations of the habitability of the near-surface environment of Mars, the Martian subsurface, the Gliese 581 system, water-rich clouds on Venus, and ammonia-water puddles and hydrocarbon lakes on the surface of Saturn’s moon Titan. He is also interested in the origin of cancer, which may be linked to bacterial behavior and quorum sensing of microbes within biofilms, which – under stress conditions – decouple from the collective.
Miles Traer is the creative director and co-producer of the Generation Anthropocene podcast. He began his academic career at UC Berkeley with a double major in Geophysics and Art History. He is currently a fifth-year PhD student in the Tectonic Geomorphology Lab modeling the evolution of the seafloor. Miles was first turned on to podcasts in 2007 and quickly became an avid consumer. Some of his favorites include The BS Report, the StarTalk Radio podcast, In Our Time with Melvyn Bragg, The Nerdist, and WTF with Marc Maron. In addition to his work as a scientist, Miles works as a part-time artist, contributing the art of this website including the portraits found on each interview’s page (drawn by hand). When he’s not working on science or this podcast, you can generally find him cooking cajun gumbo and listening to blues.