Karen Olsson-Francis is a microbiologist and gained her PhD from the University of Otago, New Zealand in Life at the Extreme Limits. Her work predominantly focuses on microorganisms that live in extreme environments, including the International Space Station. Karen is the Director of AstrobiologyOU, a group that aims to bring together expertise in science, technology, international development, law and education to address the scientific and governance challenges associated with the advancement of astrobiology and related space exploration missions.
Life at the Limits
The space environment is harsh, with conditions that on Earth would be considered unsuitable for life. However, some environments on Earth display temperatures, pressures and other conditions that make them suitable for investigating the potential for extraterrestrial life.
These environments can give us clues about the types of life that may be present beyond Earth, and what evidence they might leave behind that could be detected by space missions. Sites on Earth include everything from vast salty deserts that can be used to study the surface of present-day Mars to glaciers that can be used to study icy moons. In her talk, Karen will explain how studying extreme environments on Earth plays an important role in planning life detection missions