Kathy Campbell

Professor Kathleen Campbell (School of Environment) is the inaugural Director of Te Ao Mārama – Centre for Fundamental Inquiry, Faculty of Science, The University of Auckland.

Kathy received her Earth Sciences education at the University of California (BSc), University of Washington (MSc), and University of Southern California (PhD). This was followed by a post-doctoral position at NASA Ames Research Centre (Exobiology Branch) in California. She joined The University of Auckland in 1997, where she undertakes paleoecological, paleoenvironmental, and astrobiological teaching and research in the School of Environment. Her current research is primarily focused on marine hydrocarbon seeps and terrestrial hot springs, both modern and ancient, to help understand the origin and early evolution of life on Earth and potential astrobiological targets in the Solar System. This topic was explored in-depth by Kathy in 2014 at the Centre National de la Recherche Scientifique, France, on a LE STUDIUM Institute for Advanced Studies research fellowship. With colleagues from Australia, France, Argentina and the U.S.A., she was awarded a 2018 Royal Society Te Apārangi Marsden Fund grant to conduct scientific drilling that obtained unweathered core samples of the oldest life on land in ~3.5 billion year old hot spring-related deposits of the Pilbara region, Western Australia. Kathy participated in the 3rd & 4th Mars landing site selection workshops, where the Columbia Hills (Gusev Crater) hot spring site that her team advocated for was chosen/debated as a finalist for the NASA Mars 2020 mission. Kathy was part of an international team commissioned by NASA to evaluate potential samples and science for a Mars Sample Return campaign. Her developing research interests include collaborative projects with colleagues and students on subglacial life/calcites in Antarctica, and the abiotic/biotic growth of digitate silica structures (stromatolites) in modern hot springs to help determine the origin of similar ancient features on Mars. 

Kathy’s Research

A spacecraft has found new clues that suggest life may have been bombed into existence by comets.

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A study of hot spring deposits in New Zealand and Australia provides new evidence that life existed in these environments around 3.48 billion years ago, millions of years earlier than previously thought, according to an international research team including University of Auckland astrobiologist Professor Kathy Campbell.

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