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Dr Louisa Preston

Professional biography

I am a geologist by training and an astrobiologist by choice. I combine my two great passions through the study of the preservation of life within geological materials using infra-red spectroscopy. I did my undergraduate and graduate degrees at Imperial College London where i was first introduced to planetary science and the wonderful analytical tool that is spectroscopy. I joined The Open University as a Postdoctoral Research Associate in 2011 having spent 2.5 years as a Research Fellow at The University of Western Ontario, Canada.

November 2011 - present: Research Associate - The Open University

CAFE - Concepts for Activities in the Field for Exploration

January 2011 - May 2011: Assistant Professor - The University of Western Ontario

Astronomy 2021b, The Search for Life in the Universe.

February 2009 - September 2011: CPSX Postdoctoral Research Fellowship in Astrobiology - The University of Western Ontario.

Research interests

My research interests lie within planetary science and, more specifically, planetary geology and astrobiology. My main work at present is the creation of a planetary analogue database, CAFE, to catalogue human exploration fieldsites on the Earth as analogues for the Moon and Mars. Outside of this catalogue my work focuses on the detection and identification of biomarkers within geological materials using Infra-red spectroscopy. I study the biomolecular and morphological evidence of life preserved within environments that are analogous to those observed, or proposed to have existed, on Mars. I am actively engaged in instrument development and testing for future planetary missions, and analogue mission simulations.

My research includes:

  • Investigations of the preservation of organics over 2.1 Ma within jarosite and goethite deposits of Rio Tinto, Spain to aid in identification of biomarkers within iron oxide and sulphate deposits on the Earth and Mars.
  • FTIR studies of organics within bioalteration tubules found in Ontong Java Plateau glass shards and Reis impact glasses.
  • FTIR studies of organics within recent lava flows from the Eyjafjallajokull volcano, Iceland.
  • Spectral studies of organics within hydrothermal deposits at the Haughton Impact Structure, Canada.
  • The habitability of, and organic preservation in, cold seep precipitated jarosite on Earth and Mars.
  • Optical and spectral investigations of silica terrace samples from Yellowstone National Park and the Gunflint Chert.
  • Spectral analysis of fumarole deposits associated with a Precambrian proximal ejecta blanket at Stac Fada, Scotland.
  • FTIR effects of shock and thermal metamorphism in enstatite chondrite silicates, and terrestrial contamination of meteorites.
  • FTIR spectroscopy of biomolecules within carbonate speleothems in New Mexico.

Research Activity

Research groups

NameTypeParent Unit
Centre for Earth, Planetary, Space and Astronomical Research (CEPSAR)CentreFaculty of Science


Fourier Transform Infrared Spectral Detection of Life in Polar Subsurface Environments and its Application to Mars Exploration (2015-09)
Preston, Louisa J.; Johnson, Diane; Cockell, Charles S. and Grady, Monica M.
Applied Spectroscopy, 69(9) (pp. 1059-1065)
Impact-generated hydrothermal systems on Earth and Mars (2013-06)
Osinski, Gordon R.; Tornabene, Livio L.; Banerjee, Neil R.; Cockell, Charles S.; Flemming, Roberta; Izawa, Matthew R. M.; McCutcheon, Jenine; Parnell, John; Preston, Louisa J.; Pickersgill, Annemarie E.; Pontefract, Alexandra; Sapers, Haley M. and Southam, Gordon
Icarus, 224(2) (pp. 347-363)
A mission control architecture for robotic lunar sample return as field tested in an analogue deployment to the Sudbury impact structure (2012-12-15)
Moores, John E.; Francis, Raymond; Mader, Marianne; Osinski, G. R.; Barfoot, T.; Barry, N.; Basic, G.; Battler, M.; Beauchamp, M.; Blain, S.; Bondy, M.; Capitan, R-D.; Chanou, A.; Clayton, J.; Cloutis, E.; Daly, M.; Dickinson, C.; Dong, H.; Flemming, R.; Furgale, P.; Gammel, J.; Gharfoor, N.; Hussein, M.; Grieve, R.; Henrys, H.; Jaziobedski, P.; Lambert, A.; Leung, K.; Marion, C.; McCullough, E.; McManus, C.; Neish, C. D.; Ng, H. K.; Ozaruk, A.; Pickersgill, A.; Preston, L. J.; Redman, D.; Sapers, H.; Shankar, B.; Singleton, A.; Souders, K.; Stenning, B.; Stooke, P.; Sylvester, P. and Tornabene, L.
Advances in Space Research, 50(12) (pp. 1666-1686)
Mission to Mars (2012-12)
Preston, Louisa J.
The Biologist, 59(5) (pp. 16-20)
Carbonate precipitation under bulk acidic conditions as a potential biosignature for searching life on Mars (2012-10-15)
Fernández-Remolar, David C.; Preston, Louisa J.; Sánchez-Román, Mónica ; Izawa, Matthew R. M.; Huang, L.; Southam, Gordon; Banerjee, Neil R.; Osinski, Gordon R.; Flemming, Roberta; Gómez-Ortíz, David; Prieto Ballesteros, Olga; Rodríguez, Nuria; Amils, Ricardo and Dyar, M. Darby
Earth and Planetary Science Letters, 351 (pp. 13-26)
Issues of geologically-focused situational awareness in robotic planetary missions: lessons from an analogue mission at Mistastin Lake impact structure, Labrador, Canada (2012-07-15)
Antonenko, I.; Osinski, G. R.; Battler, M.; Beauchamp, M.; Cupelli, L.; Chanou, A.; Francis, R.; Mader, M. M.; Marion, C.; McCullough, E.; Pickersgill, A. E.; Preston, L. J.; Shankar, B.; Unrau, T. and Veillette, D.
Advances in Space Research, 52(2) (pp. 272-284)
Characterization of the acidic cold seep emplaced jarositic Golden Deposit, NWT, Canada, as an analogue for jarosite deposition on Mars (2012-06)
Battler, Melissa M.; Osinski, Gordon R.; Lim, Darlene S. S.; Davila, Alfonso F.; Michel, Frederick A.; Craig, Michael M.; Izawa, Matthew R. M.; Leoni, Lisa; Slater, Gregory F.; Fairen, Alberto G.; Preston, Louisa J. and Banerjee, Neil R.
Icarus, 224(2) (pp. 382-398)
Infrared spectroscopic characterization of organic matter associated with microbial bioalteration textures in basaltic glass (2011-09)
Preston, L. J.; Izawa, M. R. M. and Banerjee, N. R.
Astrobiology, 11(7) (pp. 585-599)
The preservation and degradation of filamentous bacteria andbiomolecules within iron oxide deposits at Rio Tinto, Spain (2011-05)
Preston, L. J.; Shuster, J.; Fernandez-Remolar, D.; Banerjee, N. R.; Osinski, G. R. and Southam, G.
Geobiology, 9(3) (pp. 233-249)
The Rhynie Chert, Scotland, and the search for life on Mars (2010-06)
Preston, Louisa J. and Genge, Matthew J.
Astrobiology, 10(5) (pp. 549-560)
A multidisciplinary study of silica sinter deposits with applications to silica identification and detection of fossil life on Mars (2008-12-09)
Preston, L. J.; Benedix, G. K.; Genge, M. J. and Sephton, M. K.
Icarus, 198(2) (pp. 331-350)
UK Space Agency “Mars Utah Rover Field Investigation 2016” (MURFI 2016): overview of mission, aims and progress (2017-03)
Balme, M. R.; Curtis-Rouse, M. C.; Banham, S.; Barnes, D.; Barnes, R.; Bauer, A.; Bedford, C.; Bridges, J.; Butcher, F. E. G.; Caballo, P.; Caldwell, A.; Coates, A.; Cousins, C.; Davis, J.; Dequaire, J.; Edwards, P.; Fawdon, P.; Furuya, K.; Gadd, M.; Get, P.; Griffiths, A.; Grindrod, P. M.; Gunn, M.; Gupta, S.; Hansen, R.; Harris, J. K.; Holt, J.; Huber, B.; Huntly, C.; Hutchinson, I.; Jackson, L.; Kay, S.; Kybert, S.; Lerman, H. N.; McHugh, M.; McMahon, W.; Muller, J.-P.; Paar, G.; Preston, L. J.; Schwenzer, S.; Stabbins, R.; Tao, Y.; Traxler, C; Turner, S.; Tyler, L.; Venn, S.; Walker, H.; Wright, J. and Yeomans, B.
In : 48th Lunar and Planetary Science Conference (20-24 March 2017, Houston (forthcoming))
Containers, sensors and samples to understand desert weathering (2015-03)
Schwenzer, S. P.; Barnes, J. J.; Charlier, B. L.; Grady, M. M.; Hall, C.; Melwani Daswani, M.; Morse, A.; Olsson-Francis, K.; Patel, M.; Pearson, V.; Pillinger, J. M.; Preston, L. J.; Sheridan, S.; Sherlock, S. C.; Steer, E. D.; Summers, S.; Verchovsky, S.; Dove-Jay, A. S. ; Jewell, S. and Musilova, M.
In : 46th Lunar and Planetary Science Conference (16-20 March 2015, The Woodlands, TX, USA)
Carbonate precipitation in acidic environments, a potential biosignature for searching for life on Mars (2012-04)
Sánchez-Román, M.; Fernandez-Remolar, D.; Sanchez-Navas, N.; Romanek, N.; Schmid, T.; Nieto, F.; Oggerin, M.; Rodriguez, N.; Preston, L.; Izawa, M. R.; Southam, G.; Banerjee, N.; Osinski, G.; Dyar, D.; Gomez-Ortiz, D.; Prieto-Ballesteros, O. and Amils, R.
In : Astrobiology Science Conference 2012: Exploring Life: Past, Present, Near and Far (16 - 20 April 2012, Atlanta, Georgia, USA)
CAFE - a new on-line resource for planning scientific field investigations in planetary analogue environments (2012-03)
Preston, Louisa; Barber, Simeon and Grady, Monica
In : 43rd Lunar and Planetary Science Conference (19-23 March 2012, The Woodlands, TX, US)
Introducing a new on-line resource for planning scientific field investigations in planetary analogue environments: CAFE (2012)
Preston, L. J.; Barber, S. J. and Grady, M. M.
In : Astrobiology Science Conference 2012: Exploring Life: Past, Present, Near and Far (April 16th - 20th 2012, Atlanta, Georgia, USA)
The Stac Fada “impact ejecta” layer: not what it seems (2011-08)
Osinski, G. R.; Preston, L.; Ferrière, L.; Prave, T.; Parnell, J.; Singleton, A. and Pickersgill, A. E.
In : 74th Annual Meeting of the Meteoritical Society (8-12 August 2011, London, UK)
TEMMI: a three-dimensional exploration multispectral microscopic imager for planetary exploration (2011)
Preston, L. J.; Osinski, G. R.; Banerjee, N. R.; Daly, M. ; Dietrich, P. ; Doucet, M.; Kerr, A.; Robert, M. ; Southam, G.; Spray, J. G.; Talbot, M.; Taylor, A. and Tremblay, M.
In : GAC/ MAC - MAC/AMC - SEG - SGA Joint Annual Meeting: Navigating Past & Future Change (25-27 May 2011, Ottawa, Canada)
An infrared study of modern and paleo-filamentous bacteria from Rio Tinto, Spain (2010)
Preston, L. J.; Shuster, J.; Fernandez-Remolar, D.; Banerjee, N. R.; Osinski, G. R. and Southam, G.
In : Goldschmidt Conference 2010 (13-18 June 2010, Knoxville, Tennessee)

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