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Astrobiology in Europe - National Activities


Austria
Austrian astrobiologists aim to understand the habitability beyond the Earth and Life in the Universe. At the University of Vienna, Space Life Sciences platform provides tools for multi-omics analysis of microbial survivability in outer space in order to understand how microorganisms can withstand space journeys. Furthermore, microbial chemolithotrophic interactions with extraterrestrial materials are a focus of investigations to reveal potential biosignatures for life search missions. At Medical University of Graz, the microbiome of the ISS has been investigated to understand microorganisms' behavior under extreme situations. In February 2018, the Austrian Space Forum - in partnership with the Oman National Steering Committee for AMADEE-18 - conducted a highly international Mars analog field simulation in the Dhofar region, Oman. Directed by a Mission Support Center in Austria, a field crew conducted experiments preparing for future human Mars missions in the fields of engineering, planetary surface operations, and astrobiology. From 20th to 31st of August 2018, the 30th International Astronomical Union General Assembly was held in Vienna under the patronage of the Federal President of Austria. This event was coupled to a summer school "Basics of Astrobiology" hosted by the Institute of Astrosphysics, University of Vienna. More than 65 students from all over the world attended the school (online lectures). In September 2019, the group of Extremophiles/Space Biochemistry will host a workshop of the German Astrobiological Society (DAbG) at the University of Vienna. A number of outreach activities during 2018, including public talks, interviews on TV, communications in Austrian newspapers, and public podium discussions, aim to disseminate astrobiology insights and knowledge in Austria.

Contact:
Tetyana Milojevic

tetyana.milojevic (at) univie.ac.at

Belgium
In Belgium, the Astrobiology community is gathered around one academic structure, the Astrobiology Contact group, supported by the FNRS since December 2006. The initiative is led by Pr. Emmanuelle Javaux and Pr. Véronique Dehant. It involves 7 universities (ULG, KUL, UCL, VUB, ULB, FNDP, VUB and UGent) and 4 federal institutions (ROB, Royal Museum Tervueren, SCKCEN and BIRA-IASB). This group organizes yearly meetings, public lectures, workshops and one interdisciplinary Master course at the Université de Liège. The expertise of the involved research groups spans the whole range of disciplines astrobiology encompasses: life science, paleontology, geology, chemistry, geophysics, as well as space science exploration, astronomy and astrophysics and even law and philosophy.

In the wake of the contact group, two other projects arose:
ET-Home, an Excellence of Science (EOS) project: “Evolution and Tracers of the Habitability Of Mars and Earth” led by Pr. V. Debaille (2018-2021). ELiTE, an ERC Starting Grant on Early Life Traces and Evolution, and Implications for Astrobiology led by Pr. E. Javaux (2013-2018).

Contact:
Séverine Robert

severine.robert (at) aeronomie.be

Czech Republic
Projects dedicated to very different aspects of astrobiology are developed in the Czech republic in the frame of groups from the Universities and the Czech Academy of Science. Biology groups working on arctic and polar areas cooperate with the Exobiology group at Geoscience (both Charles University, Faculty of Science, https://www.natur.cuni.cz/). Important research with major implications to the high energetic processes in Space is developed at Josef Heyrovský Institute of Physical Chemistry of the Academy of Science of the Czech Republic (http://www.jh-inst.cas.cz/www/, Astrochemistry and Plasma Chemistry). Teaching of basic astrobiology is a part of curriculum at master level at Charles University in Prague (one course in Bioscience, one course in Geoscience both Faculty of Science, one course in Faculty of Mathematics and Physics) and at Faculty of Science, Masaryk University in Brno. The webpage http://astrobiology.cz/ is a hub introducing the main activities in the astrobiology field in the Czech Republic.

Contact:
Jan Jehlička

jan.jehlicka@natur.cuni.cz

France
Most of the activities - including pedagogical ones - in the field of Exo/astrobiology in France, are reported on the website of the French Society of Exobiology (SFE: Société Francaise d’Exobiologie). In 2018, two major events in the astrobiological activities at the national level must be highlighted. The 2018 session of «RED» (Rencontres Exobiologiques pour Doctorants), was held from March 4 to March 10 in the Reserve Ornithologique du Teich, near Bordeaux. This astrobiology introductory course, given in English, is particularly aimed at PhD students. This year it was followed by 40 students. From October 15 to 18, SFE organized its biennial colloquium, “Rencontres SFE” at OHP (Observatoire de Haute Provence), in the south of France. It was attended by 50 scientists. It included 5 sessions: (i) Habitability in the Solar System and Elsewhere; (ii) Organic matter: from MIS to the primitive Earth; (iii) The First Steps of Life; (iv) Environment of the Early Earth and Life in Extreme Environments; (v) History and philosophy of the origins of life, societal and ethical aspects. And a workshop on Biosignatures and life tracers in the context of exoplanets workshop. During this meeting was organized the annual general assembly of SFE, with the election of the councilors, who elected the new officers. After François Raulin and Muriel Gargaud, the new President of SFE is Hervé Cottin.

Contact:
Gregoire Danger

gregoire.danger (at) univ-amu.fr


Germany
The German Astrobiological Society (DAbG) serves as an umbrella organization for all colleagues who do astrobiological research and teaching in the German-speaking area. The DAbG holds annual workshops. The last one was held together with the EANA Meeting in Berlin (2018), and the next workshop will be held in Vienna, Austria, in September 2019. Among the main objectives of the DAbG are (i) promoting research and teaching in astrobiology, (ii) cooperation with international astrobiology organizations, (iii) promoting scientific cooperation in the field of astrobiology, (iv) promoting university teaching of astrobiology, (v) popularization of astrobiology in the German-speaking public, and (vi) supporting young scientists. The DAbG provides financial support for students to attend the workshops, including other astrobiology-related meetings such as the Synergy Meeting on Icy Ocean Worlds and Mars organized by the German Aerospace Center (DLR) and the University of Hohenheim in summer 2018. In Germany there are several universities teaching astrobiology and astrobiology related courses, one example being the Technical University Berlin, where two undergraduate courses and several graduate seminars in astrobiology are regularly taught, plus an astrobiology/astronomy field trip course to the Atacama Desert being planned for late spring 2019. Another example is the University of Hohenheim in Stuttgart where students can choose astrobiology as a field of specialization in the Master's program in Earth and Climate System Science.

Contact:
Dirk Schulze-Makuch

schulze-makuch (at) tu-berlin.de

Greece
Astrobiology in Greece is active since 2008, when we started the website http://www.astrobiology.gr, a website which is recently reformed and modernised, while recently we run a Facebook site on the same subject. Complimentary to this, we have a site on planetary sciences. We have been present in several science exhibitions organised for young people and for the open public, and we provided presentations on Astrobiology, related interactive tools, meteorite sample exhibitions etc. Some of them are the Athens Science Festival, Innovathens, Researchers Night. We also give talks to secondary schools, and we are becoming more active on public talks, such as to the ESA SPACE APPS CHALLENGE, to the NATIONAL OBSERVATORY OF ATHENS, and to CAFE POLIXOROS AITION. We have organised talks delivered to our University (NTUA) on Astrobiology, Astrochemistry, and Technologies. Around our website and Facebook community, we try to organise a solid group of Astrobiologists, forming the Greek Network of Astrobiology, and we try to promote EANA to the followers. We had the opportunity to present our group and its efforts on TV shows, Radio, and Newspapers.

Contact:
Elias Chatzitheodoridis

eliasch (at) metal.ntua.gr

Italy
At the begin of 2018, the Italian Society of Astrobiology - SIA has been reorganised and with it also new initiatives such as an online monthly report (in Italian) with information on national initiatives and personal option of Italian astrobiologists. In October, Naples hosted the 6th Workshop of the Italian Astrobiology Society (SIAW). From 2017, the Planetary Geology Section - SGP (funded in 2006) of the of the Italian Geological Society (SGI), have a new president and new activities linking field analogues, extreme environments and astrobiology have been promoted, and they include field trips and sessions associate to the annual SGI, but also international congresses. The astrobiological community in Italy have also chance to organise scientific sessions at the National Congress of Planetary Sciences.
At the national level, the number of students interested in astrobiology from each grade and levels in continuously increasing. Courses in astrobiology (at moment a least 10), mostly for BSc, are now offered in several Italian universities and the interest is growing; a number of BSc and MSc theses in astrobiology are produced each year. Workshop, open days and short courses are continuously organised for young scientists, general public and young students.

Contact:
Barbara Cavalazzi

barbara.cavalazzi (at) unibo.it

Portugal
Portuguese scientists are Committee Members of several international Scientific Societies related to Astrobiology, including the Astrobiology Society of Britain (ASB) (Ex-officio Committee Member), the Italian Society of Astrobiology (SIA) (External Expert Member of the Scientific Committee), and the AbGradE (Secretary).
The publication list is varied and reflects several research areas: 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9. Furthermore, several members of the Portuguese community are investigators in present and future space missions, such as ARIEL, PLATO, CHEOPS, Hayabusa2, OREOcube and EXOcube. R&D projects were funded by EUROPLANET 2020 (the European Commission’s Horizon 2020 programme), Fundação para a Ciência e a Tecnologia (FCT, Portuguese Foundation for Science and Technology), and WIA-E - Women in Aerospace Europe.
The Portuguese community is actively involved on science communication and outreach, including interviews on TV, Radio, Newspapers, talks in Museums and public events1, and also social media (e.g. Twitter1,2, blogs1,2). A couple of examples in which scientist from different research areas are working together towards science communication and outreach, include jointly public talks about exploring the Universe/Living outside of the Earth1, and also about Mars2).
There is a Barbie Astrobiologist in representation of a Portuguese member, who received a Barbie Award 2018 on the International Girl Child Day, for being an inspiration to girls1. This is part of a worldwide project by Mattel that aims to identify women who can be role models for future women.


Contact:
Zita Martins

zita.martins (at) tecnico.ulisboa.pt


Poland
The Polish astrobiology is represented by CASA* (Centre for Advanced Studies in Astrobiology and Related Topics), which since 2007 is formally organized as a consortium of five Founding Institutions: the Nicolaus Copernicus Astronomical Center (CAMK) of the Polish Academy of Science (PAS) in Warsaw, the Space Research Center (CBK) of PAS in Warsaw, the Institute of Paleobiology of PAS in Warsaw, the Nicolaus Copernicus University in Toruń and the University of Szczecin. The Headquarters of CASA* is the Faculty of Mathematics and Physics of the University of Szczecin. CASA* is coordinated by Franco Ferrari and Ewa Szuszkiewicz. The main goals of the Centre are to stimulate, perform and coordinate interdisciplinary research in astrobiology in Poland; to develop advanced technologies and to promote their commercial exploitation; to promote the collaboration on astrobiological topics of Polish research teams with other countries in Europe; to train the next generation of astrobiology researchers and to increase the public awareness for science.
Astrobiology is also present at the Polish Academy of Sciences in the Committee on Space and Satellite Research (KBKiS). This is one of the Task-force Committees – specially-selected teams of experts for addressing specific tasks. It is affiliated with Presidium of the Academy. One of the subdivisions of KBKiS is devoted to astrobiology and space medicine. Its aims are to promote broader awareness of research findings and also support the development of these specific fields.
Since 2003 Poland is a member of the EANA (European Astrobiology Network Association) network of the European nations active in astrobiology. Thanks to this long-standing European cooperation and other very succesful recent initiatives in the field (like the COST Action “Origins and Evolution of Life on Earth and in the Universe“ (2014 – 2018) in which the Polish research groups were very active), we are ready to join the effort to create the European Astrobiology Institute (EAI), which offers a great opportunity to take part in the vigorous research activities together with the whole European astrobiological community. There are no doubts that the participation in the EAI will be of great benefit to the Polish interdysciplinary research in astrobiology. Having this in mind, CASA* has submitted the research proposal which is aimed for providing full access to the EAI to the Polish scientific community. We present a truly interdisciplinary research project to be performed in collaboration with the CSH (Centre for Space and Habitability, Univerity of Bern, Switzerland) in the field of planet formation and habitability and the German Space Agency DLR (Deutsches Zentrum für Luft- und Raumfahrt) in the field of space exploration.
Our ways to reach the goals (few examples):
1) scientific research
MAESTRO grant of National Science Center , project: “The formation and evolution of mean-motion resonances in planetary systems” led by Ewa Szuszkiewicz (2013-2019); FIRST TEAM grant of the Foundation for Polish Science, project: “Laboratory of Molecular Astrophysics: stars formation regions in the outer parts of the Galaxy" led by Agata Karska (2018 – 2021).
2) training and outreach
Students perform their own research. The most recent example is the project: “ARES (Astrobiology and Radiation Experiments in Stratosphere)”, carried out by students from Wrocław Medical University, University of Wrocław and Wrocław University of Science and Technology Astrobiology courses are offered at several Polish universities, among others at the University of Szczecin and University of Wrocław; Outreach activities are organised on many occasions. In 2018 there was a public lecture given to celebrate 50 Years of “2001: A Space Odyssey”. We also took part in Planet Head Day 2018 in Poland to stress the importance of science education and cancer awareness.


Contact:
Ewa Szuszkiewicz

szusz (at) feynman.fiz.univ.szczecin.pl
Franco Ferrari

franco (at) feynman.fiz.univ.szczecin.pl

Russia
Events: In 2018 two meetings including astrobiology research sector were held in Russia.
1. The Ninth Moscow international Solar System Symposium (9M-S3) October 8-12, 2018.
The main astrobiology directions presented at the meeting were habitability within Solar System and microfossils as biomarkers. In the framework of 9M-3S a roundtable discussion between Russian and foreign astrobiologists to emphasize perspective astrobiology directions in Russia was organized. The conference organizers declared the intention of creating a separated section of astrobiology within the program of the next year conference at Space Research Institute in Moscow.
2. International Conference «Topical Issues of Space Radiobiology and Astrobiology» October 17-19, Dubna.
The conference was mainly focused on the effect of radiation on biological objects.

Initiatives: Two main initiatives have been announced.

National: The importance of coordinating astrobiology activities and contacting between different research groups related to astrobiology in order to designate the major astrobiology directions in Russia.
International: Intensifying contacts with colleagues from leading foreign astrobiology institutions and teams including EANA.

The activities aim at increasing competitiveness of astrobiology projects among other scientific directions in Russia as well as establishing useful and perspective international cooperation to provide more active information exchange and working contacts with colleagues abroad. The promising initiative is contribution of Russian astrobiologists to the activities of newly created EAI by participating in joint education astrobiology programs.


Contact:
Oleg Kotsyurbenko

kotsor (at) hotmail.com

Spain
The main organisations promoting astrobiology activities in Spain are REDESPA (Spanish Network of Planetology and Astrobiology) and Centro de Astrobiología, CAB (INTA-CSIC). These activities are focused on seminars and courses, and additionaly events.

REDESPA:
COURSES: 1. III edition of the Online Course on Planetology and Astrobiology,
2. II Edition of the Seminar cycle on Planetary Habitability in the Solar System 2
EVENTS: 1. Organization of the Symposium on “Astrobiology, Geoethics and Society”, in Asunción, Paraguay (July 2018).
2. REDESPA is co-organisator of the International Astrobiology Congress at Lima, Peru (October 2018).
3. Founder institution of the “European Astrobiology Institute”.


CAB (Centro de Astrobiología, INTA-CSIC):
OUTREACH EVENTS during 2018: School Visits; Talks and Workshops in Schools; Talks in Public Outreach Events; Madrid Science Week; Madrid Scientific Weekend; European Researchers' Night; Pint of Science Spain; “City Science” Project; “Science in the Neighborhood” Project; “Expoastronómica” Science Fair

Contact:
Rosa de la Torre Noetzel

torrenr (at) inta.es

UK
In June 2017, a community discussion meeting was held at the Open University. "Planetary analogues: The Solar System in a bottle". Workshop format discussion meeting within the UK community, ~30 attendees. In September 2017, the ASB 7th conference at the Open University was held - 'Habitability beyond the Earth'. There were ~100 attendees, 2 days of talks/posters with a 0.5 day training and development event at the beginning for early career researchers (networking, presentation skills, career pathways etc etc). The next ASB conference is planned for spring 2019, to be held at Newcastle University. In September 2018, we held the ASB Astrobiology Summer School at the UK Centre for Astrobiology, University of Edinburgh. 23 undergraduate and PhD students attended, providing a general introduction to a variety of astrobiology topics for students.

Contact:
Manish Patel

manish.patel (at) open.ac.uk

The Netherlands
The Origins Center is a Dutch initiative that aims to bring together a broad range of scientific disciplines to address one of the biggest challenges in science: the origin, or origins, of life on earth and in the universe. Its aim is to spark and facilitate transdisciplinary research between scientists associated with Dutch universities and research institutes that addresses the following five “gamechangers”:
  • Origin and co-evolution of earth-like planets and life
  • Predicting evolution
  • Building and directing life from molecule to biosphere
  • Finding extraterrestrial life
  • Bridging long temporal and spatial scales
Contact:
Inge Loes ten Kate

I.L.tenKate (at) uu.nl