Ashley Murphy - Anti Atlas Mtns., Morroco

     Ashley Murphy is the recipient of the first DEES Research Fellowship. The annual fellowship is made possible through the generous donation of an anonymous alumnus. This donation is in the form of an endowment so it will benefit DEES students for many years to come.

     Ashley Murphy is a 3rd year graduate student in the PhD program and working in Dr. Mihaela Glamoclija’s geomicrobiology laboratory. Ashley aspires to search for life on other planets and she would love to work for NASA after her graduation from Rutgers.

     Ashley’s graduate research is focused on determining how burial diagenesis and specifically dolomitization of carbonate rock containing stromatolites, can contain microbial biosignature preservation. She is working to expand the definitions of biosignatures by finding and characterizing new types of chemical and textural imprints of past life, as an alternative to body fossils which are less commonly preserved in very old, altered rocks. This research has implications for studies of ancient life on Earth and the search for life on Mars. The results are expected to improve interpretations of ancient dolomitized stromatolites.

     The Mars Rover 2020 mission is landing in Jezero crater, an ancient lakebed that is composed of carbonates deposits similar to those on Earth. There, it will search for signs of ancient life recorded in the rocks. By finding and characterizing different types of biosignatures in ancient stromatolitic carbonates on Earth, as well as studying the dolomitization of modern stromatolites in laboratory experiments, Ashley hopes to aid meaningful interpretation of possible biosignatures on Mars.