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Karyn Rogers - Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute. Troy, NY, US

Karyn Rogers

Assistant Professor, Earth and Environmental Sciences | Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute


Focuses on the relationships between microbial communities and environmental conditions in extreme ecosystems

Areas of Expertise (7)


Geological & Environmental Sciences




Earth and Planetary Sciences

Biological Sciences


Dr. Karyn Rogers joined the faculty at Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute in 2013 after serving as a Research Scientist at the Carnegie Institution of Washington, Assistant Professor at the University of Missouri, and a Deep Ocean Exploration Institute Postdoctoral Scholar at Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution. Dr. Rogers completed her PhD in Earth and Planetary Sciences at Washington University in St. Louis, with previous degrees awarded from Stanford University (M.S. 2001) and Harvard University (A.B. 1996). Dr. Rogers is a member of the New York Center for Astrobiology (NYCA) and the Institute for Data Exploration and Applications (IDEA).

Dr. Rogers’ research focuses on the relationships between microbial communities and environmental conditions in extreme ecosystems, and is broadly applied to understanding the nature of the origin of life on Earth, the potential for life throughout the solar system, and the extent of life in modern extreme environments. To advance our understanding of environmental microbiomes in these systems, Dr. Rogers research program includes field research in early Earth and Mars analog environments as well as laboratory experimental studies of microbial behavior under extreme conditions. Additionally, the group is exploring the viability of abiotic synthesis of biomolecules over a range of early Earth conditions. The driving question in this research is how realistic environmental conditions combine to form habitable niches that can both support the early emergence of life as well as the long-term survival of life in these environments. Dr. Rogers’ fieldwork includes several terrestrial hydrothermal systems including Cerro Negro Volcano, Nicaragua, the Vulcano shallow marine hydrothermal system in Italy, and several modern deep-sea mid-ocean ridge environments. These field endeavors are combined with extensive laboratory analytical and experimental techniques to develop a holistic picture of functional microbial ecosystems. More specifically, laboratory techniques include cultivation of extremophiles under high pressure, high temperature, acidic, and anaerobic conditions; a next-generation genomics approach to determine the functional environmental microbiome in extreme systems; geochemical analyses and modeling of environmental and bioenergetics parameters; and the synthesis of these datasets using novel data analytics.






Karyn Rogers Talks about RARE Center George M. Low Gallery


Education (4)

Washington University: Ph.D., Earth and Planetary Sciences 2006

Stanford University: M.S., Geological & Environmental Sciences 2001

Washington University: A.M., Earth and Planetary Sciences 2001

Harvard University: A.B., Environmental Science & Public Policy and Earth & Planetary Sciences 1996

Media Appearances (2)

New NASA consortium to study how life began

EarthSky  online


How did life begin on Earth? That is one of the oldest and most profound questions that humans have ever tried to answer. Over the past several hundred years, the scientific answers have come a long way. Scientists want to understand what processes create life – both here and, possibly, on other planets – but there are many unsolved puzzles. To help solve the enigma, NASA this month launched a new research consortium – uniting researchers across multiple scientific disciplines – called Prebiotic Chemistry and Early Earth Environments or PCE3.

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Earth first origins project seeks to replicate the cradle of life

Phys.org  online


The evolution of planet Earth and the emergence of life during its first half-billion years are inextricably linked, with a series of planetwide transformations—formation of the ocean, evolution of the atmosphere, and the growth of crust and continents—underpinning the environmental stepping stones to life. But how, and in what order, were the ingredients for life on Earth manufactured and assembled?

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Articles (3)

The next frontier for planetary and human exploration

Nature Astronomy

V Stamenković, LW Beegle, K Zacny, DD Arumugam, P Baglioni, N Barba, J Baross, MS Bell, R Bhartia, JG Blank, PJ Boston, D Breuer, W Brinckerhoff, MS Burgin, I Cooper, V Cormarkovic, A Davila, RM Davis, C Edwards, Giuseppe Etiope, WW Fischer, DP Glavin, RE Grimm, F Inagaki, JL Kirschvink, A Kobayashi, T Komarek, M Malaska, J Michalski, B Ménez, M Mischna, D Moser, J Mustard, TC Onstott, VJ Orphan, MR Osburn, J Plaut, A-C Plesa, N Putzig, KL Rogers, L Rothschild, M Russell, H Sapers, B Sherwood Lollar, T Spohn, JD Tarnas, M Tuite, D Viola, LM Ward, B Wilcox, R Woolley

2019 The surface of Mars has been well mapped and characterized, yet the subsurface—the most likely place to find signs of extant or extinct life and a repository of useful resources for human exploration—remains unexplored. In the near future this is set to change.

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An Astrobiology Strategy for the Search for Life in the Universe

The National Academies Press

National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine; Division on Engineering and Physical Sciences; Space Studies Board; Committee on Astrobiology Science Strategy for the Search for Life in the Universe

Astrobiology is the study of the origin, evolution, distribution, and future of life in the universe. It is an inherently interdisciplinary field that encompasses astronomy, biology, geology, heliophysics, and planetary science, including complementary laboratory activities and field studies conducted in a wide range of terrestrial environments. Combining inherent scientific interest and public appeal, the search for life in the solar system and beyond provides a scientific rationale for many current and future activities carried out by the National Aeronautics and Science Administration (NASA) and other national and international agencies and organizations. Requested by NASA, this study offers a science strategy for astrobiology that outlines key scientific questions, identifies the most promising research in the field, and indicates the extent to which the mission priorities in existing decadal surveys address the search for life’s origin, evolution, distribution, and future in the universe. This report makes recommendations for advancing the research, obtaining the measurements, and realizing NASA’s goal to search for signs of life in the universe.

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Exploring the Deep Marine Biosphere: Challenges, Innovations, and Opportunities

Frontiers in Earth Science

Anaïs Cario, Gina C. Oliver and Karyn L. Rogers

In a new paper in Frontiers in Earth Science, DCO Deep Life Community members Anaïs Cario, Gina Oliver, and Karyn Rogers (all at Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute, USA) discuss the challenges of sampling and culturing microbes under constant high pressure, and also highlight recent technological advances. They describe the Pressurized Underwater Sampler Handler (PUSH50), supported by the DCO, which is designed to maintain in situ pressure during sampling and throughout the transfer and culturing process in the lab. By applying this technology to conduct experiments that avoid decompression entirely, the researchers hope to refine our understanding of deep life and its contributions to global biogeochemical cycles. The article is part of a Frontiers special collection on deep carbon science. “We’re just scratching the surface with our current understanding of the deep biosphere,” said Rogers. “The DCO has done an extraordinary job of shedding light on the extent and importance of the subsurface biosphere, but there’s still a lot we don’t know, and part of that is because of technological problems we’re still trying to solve.”

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