Earth Science

Short (very short!) Essay

The quest to understand the origins of life on Earth is ongoing. Part of this endeavour involves searching for fossils of the most ancient forms of life. Recently, microfossils , formed by the attachment of sulfur-metabolising bacteria to mineral surfaces, have been found in the Strelley Pool Formation in the Pilbara region of Western Australia. These bacteria are thought to have existed about 3.4-billion years ago, during the Archean Eon when the atmosphere was lacking in oxygen.

Your assignment is in three parts. Firstly, you are to search the library databases for scientific literature (journal articles) relating to the discovery of these microfossils in Western Australia. Secondly, you should provide details of five journal articles that relate to this discovery. Finally, you should provide a brief (one page) account of the importance of these microfossils to the understanding of early extraterrestrial life.

This assignment may take you out of your comfort zone, as for many of you it may be the first time you have searched library databases for scientific literature. Note that you must use peer-reviewed literature (journal articles) for your assignment.

Some important points:

In providing details of the five journal articles, you must cite these according to the referencing style outlined Referencing Style

References should follow the accepted style used by the Australian Journal of Earth Sciences, examples of which follow

Arnold, G. O. & Fawcner J. F. 1980. The Broken River and Hodgkinson Provinces. In Henderson R. A. and Stephenson P. J. eds. The Geology and Geophysics of Northeastern Australia, pp. 175-189. Geological Society of Australia, Queensland Division, Brisbane.

Cox, A. & Hart B. R. 1986. Plate Tectonics: How it Works. Blackwell Scientific Publications, Boston.

Miller, G. L. 1982. Sedimentary development of a tropical chenier plain, Townsville, north Queensland. BSc(Hons) thesis, James Cook University, Townsville (unpubl.).

Turner, S. P., Adams C. J., Flottman T. & Foden J. D. 1993. Geochemical and geochronological constraints on the Glenelg River Complex, Western Victoria. Australian Journal of Earth Sciences 40, 275-292.

Don t be alarmed or disturbed if you come across information that seems technical and very new to you. It is often the case, no matter what our experience or level of expertise, that a first (or even second or third) reading of a journal article is confusing. There may be new terminology introduced, strange scientific techniques described, and other new concepts. I encourage you to persist, and remember your objective: to write a one-page account of the importance of the sulfur-metabolising bacterial microfossils to understanding the origins of life on Earth.
Your assignment will be assessed based on the appropriateness of the articles you find, and the quality of the one page account.

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