Dr. Gordon “Oz” Osinski is a Professor in the Department of Earth
Sciences at the University of Western Ontario, Canada. He holds a PhD from the University of New Brunswick (2004) and a BSc (Hons) from the University of St. Andrews (1999). Dr. Osinski is also the Director of the Canadian Lunar Research Network. He was also the Founding Director of the Institute for Earth and Space Exploration at Western from 2019 to 2021. Dr. Osinski’s research interests are diverse and interdisciplinary in nature, motivated by understanding the evolution of the surface of the Earth and other planetary bodies as well as the origin and evolution of life. He has received numerous awards for his research, including the W. W. Hutchison Medal of the Geological Association of Canada (2018) and the Barringer Medal of the Meteoritical Society (2021). He is also involved in various exploration-related activities. Most recently, heled a study to develop an Integrated Vision System for lunar exploration. He is also a Co-I on the PanCam instrument on the ExoMars mission and is involved in providing geology training to astronauts. Dr. Osinski is also passionate about outreach and science communication and leads several educational initiatives, including Space Matters and Impact Earth.
The Role of Meteorite Impacts in the Origin and Evolution of Life
Impact cratering is one of the most ubiquitous geological processes in the Solar System. Over the past decade, it has become clear that impact events have profoundly affected the origin and evolution of Earth. The destructive geological, environmental, and biological effects of meteorite impact events are well known. This is largely due to the discovery of the ~200 km diameter Chicxulub impact structure, Mexico, and its link to the mass extinction event that marks the end of the Cretaceous Period 66 Myr. ago. In recent years, it has also become apparent that, once formed, impact events also have certain beneficial effects, particularly for microbial life. The effects range from generating conditions conducive for the origin of life (e.g., clays, which form catalysts for organic reactions, and hot spring environments) to varied habitats for life that persist long after an impact event, including hydrothermal systems, endolithic habitats in shocked rocks and impact glasses, and impact crater lakes. This may have important implications for our understanding of the origin and evolution of early life on Earth, and possibly other planets such as Mars.