Washington State University

School of the Environment

Watershed Lab

Steffen Center


Earth Science/Geology

Astrobio Lab


Habitability of Exoplanets Research Group (HERG)

Project Leader: D Schulze-Makuch

Bold Mission to Mars 

Project Leader: D. Schulze-Makuch

Pitch Lake Project, a Natural Asphalt Lake in Trinidad and Tobago

Project Leader: D. Schulze-Makuch

Mars: Hydrothermal Fluids and the Search for Biomarkers

Project Leader: C. Fan

Modeling the Rise of Cyanobacteria in Earth’s early History

Project Leader: J. Wu

Pavilion Lake Research Project, Canada

Project Leader: D. Li

TANDEM Mission to Titan and Enceladus

Project Leader: A. Coustenis


Study of Mission Concepts in Collaboration with the Visual and Autonomous Exploration Systems Research Laboratory at Caltech

Project Leader: W. Fink

Diet and Cancer Study

Project Leaders: M. Antonio and D. Schulze-Makuch



The Biological Oxidant and Life Detection (BOLD) Mission: a proposal for a mission to Mars.

Investigators: Schulze-Makuch, D., Head, J.N., Houtkooper, J.M., Knoblauch, M., Furfaro, R., Fink, W., Fairen, A.G., Vali, H., Sears, S.K., Daly, M., Deamer, D., Schmidt, H., Hawkins, A.R., Sun, H.J., Lim, D.S.S., Dohm, J., Irwin, L.N., Davila, A., Mendez, A., and Andersen, D.

Published in Planetary Space & Science (2012), vol. 67, p. 57-69.


The next step in the exploration of Mars should include a strong and comprehensive life detection component. We propose a mission called BOLD: Biological Oxidant and Life Detection mission. The scientific objectives of the BOLD mission are to characterize habitability of the martian surface and to search for evidence of extinct or extant life. In contrast to the Viking mission, which was designed to detect heterotrophic life on Mars, the BOLD mission incorporates a more comprehensive search for autotrophic microorganisms, as well as detecting a variety of biomarkers and understanding their environment. Six miniature landers are envisioned for BOLD that utilize either an orbital (e.g. Viking) or direct entry (e.g., MER, Phoenix) mission architecture. The number of landers will provide mission redundancy, and each will incorporate a Mars Soil Analyzer, a Multispectral Microscopic Imager, a Nanopore-ARROW that detects biopolymers with single molecule resolution, an Atmospheric Structure and Surface Environment Instrument, a Fluorescent Stain experiment, and a Chirality experiment. A terrain navigation system, coupled with robust propulsion, permits a landing accuracy on the order of meters if required to meet the science objectives. The probes will use existing orbiters for communication relay if the orbiter architecture proves too ambitious.



Pavilion Lake Microbialites: Morphological, Molecular and Biochemical Evidence for a Cold-Water Transition to Colonial Aggregates


Investigators: Dirk Schulze-Makuch, Darlene Lim, Bernard Laval, Carol Turse, Marina Resendes de Sousa António, Olivia Chan, Stephen B. Pointing, Allyson Brady, Donnie Reid and Louis N. Irwin


Published in journal Life in 2013, for full article go to



The presence of microbialite structures in a freshwater, dimictic mid-latitude lake and their establishment after the last ice age about 10,000 years ago is puzzling.

Freshwater calcite microbialites at Pavilion Lake, British Columbia, Canada, consist of a complex community of microorganisms that collectively form large, ordered structured aggregates. This distinctive assemblage of freshwater calcite microbialites was studied through standard microbial methods, morphological observations, phospholipid fatty acid

(PLFA) analysis, DNA sequencing and the identification of quorum sensing molecules.

Our results suggest that the microbialites may represent a transitional form from the exclusively prokaryotic colonial precursors of stromatolites to the multicellular organismic aggregates that give rise to coral reefs.




  • Dirk Schulze-Makuch: Director



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