A paleoecologist and astrobiologist as well as geologist, Kathleen Campbell’s current research is focused on terrestrial hot springs and marine hydrocarbon seeps. Because life may have originated in a hot spring, they can today be used as an analogue setting to search for the earliest fossils on Earth. And if there is evidence of life on Mars, it’s likely to be in a similar microbial realm too. Campbell has become involved in finding evidence of the oldest life on land – so far pushed back to 3.48 billion years ago. She’s also on a team pitching a rover landing site for the NASA 2020 Mars mission, using current work on hot springs in New Zealand and elsewhere to predict where Martian biosignatures can best be found.
Campbell is the director of the Centre for Fundamental Inquiry at the University of Auckland, which is dedicated to research on the origin and evolution of the Universe and its life.