Registration for the 2017 Astrobiology Science Conference is now open. The meeting will be in Mesa, Arizona April 24–28. You can save 50 bucks by registering before March 28th: $395 for students and $550 for everyone else. That’s a bit pricier than in the past, but there are travel grants available for students (the deadline for those has passed, though).
AbSciCon is one of my favorite meetings, with talks on a huge variety of topics: exoplanet detection, habitable worlds within and outside the solar system, origin of life research, evolutionary biology, education & outreach, proposed NASA missions…if you can’t find something of interest in AbSciCon, you’re probably not that interested in science.
Along with Will Ratcliff and Eric Libby, I’ll be organizing a session on “Major Transitions in Evolution: Experimental, Comparative, and Theoretical Approaches”:
How and why complex organisms evolve remain fundamental questions in astrobiology. On Earth, complex life has evolved through a series of ‘major transitions’, in which formerly autonomous individuals become parts of new, higher-level individuals. For example, chromosomes are thought to have evolved from autonomous genetic replicators, eukaryotes from multiple prokaryotic ancestors, multicellular organisms from unicellular ancestors, and eusocial ‘superorganisms’ from solitary multicellular ancestors. This session will focus on experimental, comparative and theoretical approaches to understanding the evolution of higher levels of organization or new forms of individuality. Topics include chemical replicators, experimental evolution, systems biology, biophysics, phylogenetic reconstruction, comparative genomics, paleontology and molecular paleontology. We also welcome theoretical approaches for understanding this topic, including those that are mathematically, computationally, or philosophically abstract.
Other sessions relevant to the Major Transitions include “Origins of Life: From Molecules to Cells,” “Cellularity, Multicellularity, and Endosymbiosis: Major Transitions and Their Impacts on the Biosphere,” and “How Do Symbioses Enable Life to Colonize New Habitats?”
I hope to see you there!