SFI Colloquium: Reconstructing the Wiring Diagrams of Earth’s Biogeochemical Cycles


Dr. Paul G. Falkowsk

SFI News:

The next SFI Colloquium features Paul G. Falkowski (Environmental Biophysics and Molecular Ecology Program, Rutgers University) speaking on “Reconstructing the Wiring Diagrams of Earth’s Biogeochemical Cycles.”

Falkowski’s talk is scheduled for 3:30 p.m. Tuesday, Jan. 8 in the Noyce Conference Room at the Santa Fe Institute, 1399 Hyde Park Road. 

Abstract: Life is far from thermodynamic equilibrium. Over the past decade, together with collaborators, I have been analyzing the biochemical reactions responsible for energy generation in all organisms, and we have identified a set of ~500 “core” genes which encode for the energy transduction systems on a planetary scale.

In this lecture, I will examine the evolutionary trajectory of these core reactions, culminating in the splitting of water by light and the use of oxygen as a terminal electron acceptor by aerobic microbes.

These two, and 15 other processes, form a global electronic circuit, where individual organisms essentially are transistors on a planetary circuit board.

The wires are the two primary geophysical fluids: the ocean and the atmosphere. The primary power supply is solar energy.

The output is a self-replicating system that decreases entropy at the cost of increased energy dissipation; a condition that is not amenable to classical Boltzmann functions.

The system has a limited number of transistor designs. We have identified 35 basic structural elements, which appear to have a single common ancestor with a core Fe4S4 motif.

We are attempting to develop a phylogeny of the core motifs in an effort to understand the evolution of biologically catalyzed redox reactions.

SFI Host: Rogier Braakman

Click here to view the online event listing.

The Santa Fe Institute is a nonprofit research center located in Santa Fe, New Mexico. Its scientists collaborate across disciplines to understand the complex systems that underlie critical questions for science and humanity. The Institute is supported by philanthropic individuals and foundations, forward-thinking partner companies, and government science agencies.