Simons Collaboration on the Origins of Life Postdoctoral Fellow
26 Oxford Street, Room 51
Cambridge, MA 02138
My overall research goals are to elucidate how and when the earliest eukaryotes evolved. I recently discovered two diverse assemblages of protistan-grade microfossils in the 1.45 billion-year-old sedimentary deposits of the Belt Supergroup in Montana. In addition to continuing to uncover new microfossils in these and other Precambrian deposits, I am also interested in exploring new geochemical routes to prebiotic polymer formation. I recently discovered that formamide, a unique water-alternative solvent that also serves as a reactive precursor, can be produced by gamma radiolysis of water, nitrogen and methane. My current project investigates the possibility that water was displaced as the dominant solvent in prebiotic microenvironments on the early Earth.
Ph.D. 2014, Montana State University, Earth Sciences
Dissertation title: Microfossil paleontology and biostratigraphy of the early Mesoproterozoic Belt Supergroup, Montana
M.Sc. 2006, University of Washington, Aeronautics and Astronautics Engineering
Thesis title: Actinides and the Origins of Life
B.Sc. 2004, University of Washington, Earth and Space Sciences
B.Sc. 2004, University of Washington, Aeronautics and Astronautics Engineering
2017 Simons Collaboration on the Origins of Life Postdoctoral Fellow, Harvard University
2015 Agouron Institute Postdoctoral Fellow, Harvard University
2010 Co-founder and Director, Blue Marble Space Institute of Science
2008 Representative, NASA Advisory Council, Subcommittee on Planetary Protection
2008 Associate member, NASA/FAA/DOD Launch Vehicle Range Safety Group
2007 Aerospace engineer, FAA Office of Commercial Space Transportation
AWARDS AND HONORS
2016 ELSI Origins Network Seed Grant Award, Co-I, $50k
2013 NASA Astrobiology Institute, Early Career Collaboration Award
2012 Tobacco Root Geological Society, Harrison Scholarship
2012 Belt Association Research Grant Award
2011 NSF Graduate Research Fellowship Program (GRFP) Recipient
2011 NASA Astrobiology Institute and American Philosophical Society, Lewis and Clark Fund for Exploratory Research Award
2011 PARSA Community Foundation Grant, Earthquake education in Central Asia, $20k
2011 Montana State University, Donald L. Smith Memorial Award
2011 Teachers Without Borders, International Fellowship Award
2010 National Science Foundation, IGERT Program Recipient, Montana State University
2010 Geological Society of America, Reviewer of the year for GSA Today
2009 American Chemical Society, Reviewer of the year for Chemical Reviews
RECENT INVITED TALKS
2015 “Microfossils from the Belt Supergroup, Montana: A new window into early eukaryote evolution”, NASA Astrobiology Science Conference, Chicago, IL, June.
2015 “Coupled thermodynamic feedback and organic synthesis in natural nuclear reactors”, Earth-Life Sciences Institute, Tokyo Institute of Technology, Japan, May.
2015 “Natural nuclear reactors as a case study for coupled thermodynamic feedback and organic synthesis in geological systems”, Harvard Origins of Life Initiative Chalk Talk.
2014 “Microfossils from the Greyson Formation, Lower Belt Supergroup: Support for Early Mesoproterozoic Biozonation”, GSA Rocky Mountain and Cordilleran Joint Meeting.
2014 “Astrobiology and the search for complex life”, Georgia Tech Planetary Seminar Series, Atlanta, GA, February.
2013 “Microfossils and the Mesoproterozoic Rise of Complexity”, University of Washington Astrobiology Colloquium, Seattle, WA, November.
2013 “Two paths, one destination: Integrating fossil data into genetic sequence models to investigate the origin of eukaryotes”, Matematiksel Evrim Symposium, Sirince, Turkey.
2013 “A case for 1.4 billion year old dimorphic fungi: New views on the early evolution of eukaryotes”, World Summit on Evolution III, San Cristobal, Galapagos, June.
2013 “The case for Mesoproterozoic fungi in the Greyson Shale, Belt Supergroup, Montana”, National Evolutionary Studies Center (NESCent), Raleigh-Durham, NC, May.
EPS/OEB56- History of Life on Earth, Teaching Fellow, Spring 2017
Historical Geobiology- Mass Extinctions, Guest lecturer, Fall 2014.
GSA Field Trip Guide
GSA Trip 408: Mesoproterozoic tectonics and sedimentation along the southern margin of the Belt Basin, May 2014.
Introduction to Evolution, Guest lecturer, Spring and Fall 2013.
Aga Khan Schools in Tajikistan, Afghanistan and India
Earthquake safety science and preparedness training for school teachers, 2011-2012.
2016 Public Night of Science, Brcko, Bosnia
2015 Chief Joseph Middle School Science Fair Mentor, Bozeman, MT.
2014 The Scientists Are In, Smithsonian Museum of Natural History, Washington, DC.
2013 Astrobiology Mentor for At-Risk Teens, Pittsburg Community School, Pittsburg, CA.
2013 Astrobiology and Paleobiology Guest Lecturer, Hellgate High School, Missoula, MT.
2013 Co-founder, SAGANet
2012 Student Earthquake Education, Aga Khan Schools, Gujarat, India.
2011 Student Earthquake Education, Public and Aga Khan Schools, Dushanbe, Tajikistan, Khorog, Tajikistan, and Shughnan, Afghanistan.
You can contact me at zach (at) bmsis (dot) org with any further questions or comments, please and thank you.