Echos of Life Symposium

12 May 2017, 2.00 PM - 12 May 2017, 5.00 PM

Profs. Richard Evershed, Tim Eglinton, Gerald Haug & Roger Summons

School of Chemistry, Lecture Theatre 2

We invite you to the inaugural Echoes of Life Symposium on the 12th of May to celebrate the 49th anniversary of the Organic Geochemistry Unit (OGU) and to honour Professor Geoff Eglinton FRS who passed away in Spring 2016.  Geoff came to Bristol in 1968 and retired in 1993, serving in the Schools of Chemistry and Earth Sciences, founding the OGU and the multidisciplinary Bristol Biogeochemistry Research Centre and inspiring several generations of scientists.  With James Maxwell, he was a visionary leader in analytical chemistry and organic geochemistry, through which they also contributed to the early development of planetary organic chemistry, petroleum geochemistry and palaeoclimate research. For more information about Prof. Eglinton, please see Prof. James Maxwell's remembrance.

The Symposium will be from 2:00 to 5:00 in Chemistry LT2, followed by a wine reception.

Details are still being fianalised, but the Symposium will feature brief reflections from Richard and Tim Eglinton (Geoff's son and himself a highly respected scientist and FRS, based at ETH), three brief talks by alumni and OGU early career researchers, and two visiting speakers.  Our guests, Gerald Haug (MPI-Chemistry) and Roger Summons (MIT), are two of the world's most eminent Earth and Environmental scientists, both of whom have worked with and been inspired by Geoff (abstracts of their talks below).  Although these talks will include personal reflections, the event’s focus – as Geoff would have wanted – will be to showcase a diverse range of world-leading research here at Bristol and abroad.

We are expecting this Symposium to be a popular event, therefore registration through EventBrite is necessary. Signing up early will help us guage numbers, allowing us to book appropriate facilities.

Eventbrite - Echoes of Life Annual Lecture

Paleoproterozoic sterol biosynthesis and the rise of oxygen - Prof. Roger Summons

Abstract: This is a talk in two parts. Firstly, I describe how the quadruple sulfur isotope system can constrain the timing of the earliest permanent presence of oxygen in Earth’s atmosphere about 2.3 billions years ago. Logically, this should correspond to the inception of oxygen-intensive biochemistries including the biosynthesis of sterol. In the absence of unambiguous molecular fossils, we use a molecular clock approach to estimate when sterol biosynthesis became extant.

‌Bio: Roger Summons is Schlumberger Professor of Geobiology at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. He has spent his entire career being fascinated by the molecules of nature and how they might tell us about the history of life on Earth and, possibly, elsewhere in the cosmos.

North Pacific seasonality and the glaciation of North America 2.7 million years ago - Prof. Gerald Haug

Abstract: To initiate and sustain the large Northern Hemisphere ice sheets of the Plio-Pleistocene ice ages, two requirements are broadly recognized. First, the more polar continental areas must be sufficiently cold for precipitation to fall as snow rather than rain and for snow and ice to survive the warm summer melting season. Second, adequate moisture must be introduced to high northern latitudes to promote the accumulation of glacial ice. The subarctic Pacific Ocean represents a significant source of water vapour to boreal North America, but it has been largely overlooked in efforts to explain Northern Hemisphere glaciation. Geoff, myself and others have proposed that late summer sea surface temperatures in the North Pacific rose, providing water vapour to northern North America, and atmospheric CO2 concentration dropped, leading to global cooling, both in response to an increase in polar ocean stratification some 2.7 million years ago, and thus allowed the major intensification of Northern Hemisphere glaciation.

‌Bio: Gerald Haug is Director at the Max Planck Institute for Chemistry in Mainz, Germany, and Professor at ETH Zürich, Switzerland. He has spent much of career being fascinated about the climate history of the Earth and the underlying processes of climate change.

Contact information

For further information about this event, please contact 

Professor Geoffrey Eglinton