OREGON STATE UNIVERSITY

Oct. 21-22 lectures link volcanoes, oceans, search for life

10/14/1998

CORVALLIS - How exotic life forms on the deep seafloor are providing insights into the possibility of life on other planets is the focus of a free public lecture on Thursday, Oct. 22, at Oregon State University.

The lecture, "Submarine Volcanoes, Water, and Life in our Solar System," will be presented by John R. Delaney, professor of oceanography at the University of Washington. The talk, sponsored by Oregon Sea Grant and the OSU College of Oceanic and Atmospheric Sciences, begins at 7:30 p.m. in OSU's LaSells Stewart Center.

Delaney will give a similar talk in Newport at OSU's Hatfield Marine Science Center on Oct. 21 at 7 p.m., which also is free and open to the public.

Delaney is a well-known oceanographer who specializes in the physical, chemical and biological processes associated with volcanic hot springs at seafloor spreading centers. He is a veteran of research cruises and submersible dives to these exotic sites off the Northwest coast and elsewhere.

His presentations will be illustrated by slides and video of the deep ocean floor and the unusual organisms that inhabit it. The primitive bacteria associated with seafloor hot springs have caused scientists to see these ecosystems as an important clue in looking for life elsewhere in our solar system.

"Microbial life forms thrive in water-saturated pores and cracks within deep, volcanically-active portions of our planet, and the same relationships may exist within other volcanically active planets as well," said Delaney. By the early 1980s space exploration had established that active volcanism is more common in our solar system than was previously appreciated, he pointed out.

Delaney does not try to conceal his enthusiasm for the possibility that his work will contribute to finding life on other planets. "Arguably, the discovery of viable extraterrestrial life forms will stand as one of the major scientific achievements in human history," he said.

The University of Washington professor's talks are intended to appeal to a broad audience, and high school students, teachers, and college students who are not science majors are encouraged to attend.

The presentations are part of the John V. Byrne Lecture Series, named for OSU's past president, a distinguished oceanographer and former director of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. The series is designed to increase public awareness and discussion of current issues concerning the ocean and atmosphere.