Outreach Talks

Outreach talks offered by our ASB members

Here we list public outreach talks that our ASB members are willing to give, which cover various aspects of astrobiology. Contact information, the region(s) of the UK (or elsewhere in the world) in which the speaker is available, and descriptions of the topics covered can be found in the information below:

Name: Ian Crawford

Affiliation: Birkbeck College London

Email: i.crawford@bbk.ac.uk

Outreach region: London

Talks offered:

  • The search for life in the universe
  • Planets around other stars
  • Future of space exploration


Name: Martin Griffiths

Affiliation: Formerly of the University of South Wales

Email: martin.darkskywales@gmail.com

Outreach region: Wales and the south west of GB.

Talks offered:

  • The Plurality of Worlds – Alien life as imagined throughout western history.
  • The Building Blocks of Life
  • Organic Matter in the Universe
  • Panspermia
  • The Origin of Life on Earth
  • Evolution and Complexity
  • Human Evolution
  • Evolution and Intelligence
  • Nature of Exoplanets
  • Detecting life on Exoplanets
  • Rare Earth – is our planet unique?
  • The Coming of the Martians
  • Mars – is it fit for life?
  • Icy satellites in the solar system – possible abodes for life?
  • Alien Biochemistries – what could be possible?
  • The Drake Equation
  • The Fermi Paradox
  • Contact with Extraterrestrials: what will it mean for us?


Name: Jonti Horner

Affiliation: University of Southern Queensland

Email: jonathan.horner@usq.edu.au

Outreach region: Australia

Talks offered:

  • Jupiter: Friend or Foe?
  • The Neptune Trojans: A window to the birth of the Solar system
  • Exoplanets and life elsewhere: Which ExoEarths should we search for life?
  • Rocks From Space
  • Smashing Planets


Name: Sohan Jheeta

Affiliation: Science Communication Ltd and NoR HGT & LUCA

Email: sohan@sohanjheeta.com

Outreach region: Yorkshire

Talks offered:

  • Replicator Universe
  • Life in the Universe
  • The Moon and the space race
  • Life in space and gravitational waves
  • Moon rocks exhibition
  • Careers, motivational and inspirational interaction



Name: Louisa Preston

Affiliation: Birkbeck, University of London

Email: louisajanepreston@gmail.com

Outreach region: UK

Talks offered:

  • Astrobiology and the search for life in the Universe
  • The geology and biology of Mars (including missions such as NASA’s Mars Exploration Rovers, the MSL Curiosity Rover, ESA’s ExoMars Programme and many more)
  • Analogue space missions and Mars-like environments on the EarthLife in space and gravitational waves
  • Extremophiles
  • Biosignatures on exoplanets
  • Colonisation and space gardening on the Moon and Mars
  • Tim Peake and his Principia mission and life on the International Space Station

TED2013. Long Beach, CA. February 25 – March 1, 2013. Photo: Ryan Lash


Name: Sarah Rugheimer

Affiliation: University of St Andrews

Email: srugheimer@st-andrews.ac.uk

Outreach region: All of UK

Talks offered:

Earth 2.0 - Detecting a Second Origin of Life in our Universe

This planet we call home is teeming with life from the very depths of the ocean where no light penetrates, to small brine layers between ice crystals and near-boiling iridescent waters of Yellowstone. As we discover the vast diversity of extremophile life on Earth, our minds can only begin to imagine the possibilities for life to exist on other planets in the Universe. In this talk I present how we are going to characterize terrestrial planet atmospheres orbiting other stars with future missions, hopefully finding evidence of life in the Universe and answering the age-old question of “Are we alone?”

Story of Life on Earth

There is only one known planet with life, Earth. In this talk I cover the highlights of the history of life on our planet. We will first venture back to the earliest days of our Solar System with the formation of our planet and then the massive impact collision that formed the Moon. The Hadean era was characterized by the first basalt crust as Earth cooled and then the formation of the oceans and granite setting the stage for the origin of life. There is more we don’t know than we do know about life’s origins; one of my favorite quotes is by George Whitesides: “It’s a long way from slime to Mozart – and it’s a long way from HCN to slime.” Though looking first at the Stanley Miller experiment and the emergence of biomolecules, I will show how this foundation is thought to have contributed to the origin of self-replicating systems and competition. This early life was anaerobic, living the Archean era. I then discuss how oxygenic photosynthesis evolved and why O2 may evolve on other planets where water and CO2 are present, and thus why it is a key biosignature for exoplanet characterization missions. 

Ultraviolet light – friend or foe?

Ultraviolet light is famous for its destructive capabilities to life (and why we get those painful sunburns) but UV light is also important for some prebiotic reactions.  In addition, UV light is vital to interpreting future observations of biosignatures, signs of life, on a planet orbiting another star. UV destroys some biosignatures like methane, but it produces others like ozone. Additionally, all false positives known to produce oxygen relate in one way or another to UV photolysis. Thus, we will be unable to interpret if a biosignature is real or not unless we also understand the UV environment of the host star and the way that light is absorbed or transmitted in the atmosphere, which is the main focus of my research. This talk discusses these aspects, the positives and negatives of UV, both from a planetary and biosignature interpretation context, as well as its potential benefit to the origins of metabolism balanced by its destructive potential to key biomolecules in the origin of life.

Finding Connection in Public Speaking

Finding Connection is an interactive three-hour workshop on the voice and body performance aspects of public speaking. A primary focus of the workshop is finding connection with your audience and stage presence. We will techniques to combat stage fright, how to physically warm up your voice and body before a talk, and how to find connection with your audience. Other topics will include vocal resonance, posture, vocal intonation, and handling questions. It requires no advance preparation but will require audience participation! Attendance should be capped at 30 participants.


Credit: Ben Gebo Photography


Name: Adam Stevens

Affiliation: UK Centre for Astrobiology (UKCA), University of Edinburgh

Email: adam.stevens@ed.ac.uk

(Web: www.astrobiology.ac.uk Twitter: @UKastrobiology)

Outreach region: Scotland, Central Belt — but further possible

Talks offered:  UKCA can deliver a number of talks or workshops on various aspects of astrobiology, including:

  • Mars exploration
  • Life in space
  • Extremophiles

The UKCA has a wide range of professional outreach talks we can offer to groups and schools for all ages. We can happily cover all aspects of astrobiology and have a number of personnel to deliver workshops for large groups. Please get in touch if you would like to run something, we are happy to work to your requirements.


Name: David Waltham

Affiliation: Royal Holloway, University of London

Email: d.waltham@rhul.ac.uk

Outreach region: Southern England

Talks offered:

Is the Earth Special?

Is Earth a typical planet orbiting a typical star in a typical part of a typical galaxy, or, is it one of the weirdest worlds in the universe?  The truth is, we don’t know!  This talk looks at the many Earth properties that may (or may not) be essential for complex life and whether those properties are common or unusual.  The conclusion is that intelligent life, in particular, may be extremely rare in the cosmos.