The mystery of when life first formed on Earth is one scientists have been trying to solve since the dawn of time. But the answer may be as simple as examining the rocks around us.
“Rocks record the entire history of the earth – they are like a book. And if you know how to read the pages in that book, then you will understand how the earth is formed,” says Neil Banerjee, Associate Professor of Geochemistry, Economic Geology and Astrobiology at Western University.
In 2007, Banerjee led a Canadian research team that discovered fossilized trackways left by slithering microbes in 3.35 billion year old volcanic rocks from Western Australia – the oldest evidence of life on Earth. With support from the Canadian Space Agency, Prof. Banerjee’s group is now studying the ancient volcanic rocks near Timmins and Kirkland Lake, Ontario, which may help us to understand more about the conditions that might support life on other planets, like Mars.
But Banerjee’s work is not just confined to space exploration. He is also applying his research to increase mineral exploration efficiency and effectiveness that will help sustainably develop global mineral resources, fuel growing economies, and add value to Canada’s extractive industries.