Tracking Life’s Evolution

UC Riverside biogeochemist Gordon Love will give a free public talk on campus Nov. 12

Tracking life’s evolution is the focus of Gordon Love’s talk at UC Riverside.

RIVERSIDE, Calif. – How life’s evolution can be tracked using ancient lipid biomarkers preserved in petroleum and rocks is the topic of a free public lecture at the University of California, Riverside.

Gordon Love, a professor of biogeochemistry at UC Riverside, will give the hour-long talk starting at 7 p.m., Thursday, Nov. 12, in Room A265, Bourns Hall.

Lipid biomarkers, which are preserved in ancient sedimentary rocks and petroleum that have undergone a mild thermal history, are fossil biochemicals that can yield valuable and unique insights concerning past ocean chemistry, plankton successions and biospheric evolution. Diverse lipid biomarker assemblages have been detected in rocks as far back as 1640 million years ago and provide compelling support for the view that life on Earth was dominated by prokaryotes (bacteria and archaea) for more than 80 percent of Earth history.

Love explained that a pulse of steroid biomarker detection in Neoproterozoic (1000-541 million years ago) rocks and oils signify that eukaryotes (including algae and simple animals) later became widespread and abundant in the ocean.

“We have tracked the first appearance of animals using unusual steroid biomarkers synthesized by ancient sponges back to an interval between two large glaciation events 713-635 million years ago,” he said.  “In the talk I will discuss lipid biomarker strategies and methodology, including self-consistency checks for assessing indigeneity, and show some of the major temporal trends evident in biomarker profiles linked to fundamental changes in biota and surface environments.”

Gordon Love is a professor of biogeochemistry at UC Riverside.

Gordon Love is a professor of biogeochemistry at UC Riverside.

Love will also present some basic concepts of molecular biosignature detection for the astrobiological search for life on other planetary bodies within the solar system. These include molecular targets, complications with molecular preservation, as well as possible analytical strategies to distinguish biogenic organic matter from meteorite and other abiotic organics.

At UCR, Love’s primary focus of research is molecular organic geochemistry, particularly applied to the ancient sedimentary record, but also to microbial cultures, recent sediments and carbonaceous chondrite meteorites.

His lecture is the second in a series of new lectures – “Cosmic Thursdays” – at UCR.

Parking information can be found here. Parking Lot 10 is recommended.

For more information about Love’s talk or Cosmic Thursdays, please email or

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