Astrobiology is a highly integrative discipline that seeks to understand the origin and evolution of life in the universe, and brings together researchers across the entire range of the sciences.

The Wisconsin Astrobiology Research Consortium (WARC) is focused on research that is fundamentally built around a broad interpretation of Life Detection, which includes not only detection of the organic signatures of life in modern (and ancient) environments, on Earth or other planetary bodies, but also the inorganic signatures of life, which may have the greatest fidelity over billion-year timescales and complex geologic histories. Recognizing that development of robust biosignatures is challenging, our research plan back-stops development of the Signatures of Life with proxies that simultaneously inform us about the Habitability of ancient environments on Earth and other planetary bodies, including Mars.

The research efforts of the Wisconsin Astrobiology Research Consortium (WARC) follow three themes:

  • Developing Methods for Life Detection
  • Biosignatures: Developing the Tools for Detection of Ancient Life
    and Determining Paleoenvironments
  • Life Detection in the Ancient Terrestrial Rock Record

In addition, we have an extensive public outreach program, run largely through the Geology Museum at UW-Madison, as well as through NASA-JPL.

In 2018, UW-Madison Communications developed a web site and documentary film on “Origins” that highlights WARC research.

We are in our second five-year grant with the NASA Astrobiology Institute (NAI), a multidisciplinary umbrella for conducting research on the origin and evolution of life on Earth and elsewhere in the Solar System. Our team is led by 14 lead investigators from eight institutions. We are one of 12 teams who are currently members of the NAI. NAI-sponsored research and outreach efforts involve hundreds of scientists and educators with backgrounds and interests that range from geology to biology to astronomy.

The Wisconsin Astrobiology Research Consortium is funded by NASAUW-Madison, and other sources. A large part of the work is undertaken through the Department of Geoscience at UW-Madison.