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National Aeronautics and Space
Administration (Technical Sponsor)

Universities Space Research Association
(Logistical Sponsor)

Lunar and Planetary Institute

NASA Mars Program Office




Stephen Clifford
Lunar and Planetary Institute

David Beaty
NASA Mars Program Office

Jean-Pierre Bibring
Université Paris-Sud

Robert Craddock
Smithsonian Institution

Jack Farmer
Arizona State University

Robert Haberle
NASA Ames Research Center

Horton Newsom
University of New Mexico


Scientific Organizing Committee

Abigail Allwood

Jet Propulsion Laboratory


Raymond Arvidson

Washington University in St. Louis


Jeffrey Bada

University of California San Diego


Michael Carr

U.S. Geological Survey


Eric Chassefiére

Université Paris-Sud


Dave Des Marais

NASA Ames Research Center


Bethany Ehlmann

Jet Propulsion Laboratory


Jennifer Eigenbrode

NASA Goddard Space Flight Center


Francois Forget

Université Paris 6


John Grant

Smithsonian Institution


John Grotzinger

California Institute of Technology


Ernst Hauber

DLR Institute of Planetary Research


Alan Howard

University of Virginia


Brian Hynek

University of Colorado


Ralf Jaumann

DLR Institute of Planetary Research


James Kasting

Pennsylvania State University


Gerhard Kminek

European Space Agency, ESTEC


Nicolas Mangold

Université de Nantes


Christopher McKay

NASA Ames Research Center


Alfred McEwen

University of Arizona


Richard Morris

NASA Johnson Space Center


Jack Mustard

Brown University


Marc Norman

Australian National University


Tullis Onstott

Princeton University

Gian Ori

International Research School of
Planetary Sciences


Francois Poulet

Université Paris-Sud


Lisa Pratt

Indiana University


Mark Sephton

Imperial College London


Mark Sephton

Imperial College London


Barb Sherwood-Lollar

University of Toronto


Ken Tanaka

U.S. Geological Survey


Frances Westall

Centre de Biophysique Moléculaire


Kevin Zahnle

NASA Ames Research Center




Photo of Mono Lake used in logo courtesy of Frank Kovalchek; aerial photo of Mono Lake courtesy of Ron Reiring.




Final Announcement — April 2012

Conference Update

Since plans for the Third International Conference on Early Mars were first announced, our goal has been to construct a meeting that will rigorously assess our current understanding of early martian environments, promote the exchange of new ideas, and address some of the most critical and controversial issues in Mars research — reserving approximately 50% of the total program for interdisciplinary discussion and debate.


To achieve these goals, it was necessary to limit the number of oral presentations to about one-third of those requested (although the time allotted for each talk has been increased, ranging from 20 to 30 minutes, with 5 minutes of this time reserved for Q&A). The talks were selected to provide comprehensive reviews of key issues, maximimize the diversity of views presented — while minimizing overlap — and provide a common foundation for further discussion.


Given the high quality of the submitted abstracts and the enormous depth of expertise present within the planetary and terrestrial communities, this selection process proved extraordinarily difficult. As a result, the poster sessions scheduled for Monday and Tuesday evenings have taken on much greater significance and have been combined with evening socials that should greatly enhance the opportunities for interaction with other conference attendees. In addition, posters will remain on display throughout the duration of the meeting (additional details regarding poster preparation are described elsewhere in this announcement).


The resulting program — which consists of a mix of invited and contributed talks, panel discussions, poster presentations, several special sessions, a conference dinner, and an all-day field trip to Mono Lake — represents our best effort to strike a balance between the opportunities for individual participation and general discussion, allowing all conference participants to join in the debate.


The conference will also include a discussion of “Key Questions and Needed Observations,” to be led by Mike Carr and David DesMarais, that will serve as our input into the next revision of the MEPAG Science Goals and Objectives document.

Following the conference, a journal special issue will be organized to capture the scientific output of the conference. Attendance at the meeting is not required to submit a manuscript. The due date for submissions is expected to be around February 1, 2013. Further details will be announced at the conference.


Meeting Location and Date

The Third International Conference on Early Mars: Geologic and Hydrologic Evolution, Physical and Chemical Environments, and the Implications for Life will be held May 21–25, 2012, at the Hyatt Regency Lake Tahoe, 111 Country Club Drive, Incline Village NV 89451. This location was chosen due to its proximity to Mono Lake (and other locations of interest), which will be the focus of the mid-conference field trip on Wednesday, May 23.

Purpose and Scope

The influx of new data received from recent spacecraft missions to Mars, the study of the SNC meteorites, recent progress in early climate modeling, the growing evidence of the role of water in the planet's evolution, and the rapid pace of new discoveries about the origin and diversity of life on Earth have reinvigorated interest in both the conditions that prevailed on Mars during its first billion years of geologic history and their implications for the development of life.


These issues were first addressed at the first Early Mars conference, which was held in Houston, Texas, in April 1997 and then again at the second Early Mars conference, which was held in Jackson Hole, Wyoming, in October 2004.


Like its predecessors, the third Early Mars conference will place a strong emphasis on interdisciplinary discussion and debate, bringing together scientists from fields as diverse as planetary geology, atmospheres, climate, meteoritics, microbiology, and molecular biochemistry, to focus on the conditions that prevailed on the Earth and Mars during their first billion years of geologic history. Indeed, the study of Mars may also provide critical insight into understanding the nature of the early Earth — for as much as 40% of the martian surface is believed to date back to a period from which little survives in the Earth's geologic record (K. Tanaka, 1986, JGR, 91, E139–E158, 1986).


The purpose of the conference is twofold:

  • to consider how impacts, volcanism, the presence of abundant water, and the nature of the early terrestrial and martian climates affected the physical and chemical environments that existed on both planets >3.7 Ga — especially with regard to the geologic and mineralogical evolution of their surfaces, their hydrologic cycles, the development of life, and the preservation of its signature in the geologic record; and
  • to discuss the investigations that might be conducted by present and future missions to test the hypotheses arising from (1).


Some of the specific issues and questions that will be addressed at the meeting include the key questions identified at the second conference (Beaty et al., 2005,

1. What was the nature of the early martian environment?

  • How did the formation, initial composition, and differentiation of early Mars affect the evolution of its crust, mantle, and core?
  • What was the cratering rate on early Mars, and how did it evolve with time?
  • What were the principal resurfacing processes and rates on early Mars, and why did they later decline with time?

2. How did the early martian atmosphere and hydrosphere form, and what role did they play in the geologic and mineralogic evolution of the planet's surface?

  • Was Mars volatile-rich at the time of its formation, especially with regard to the initial abundance of water and CO2?
  • What were the principal mechanisms (and associated magnitudes) of volatile loss on early Mars?
  • Did oceans or large seas exist on early Mars, and, if so, what was their significance and ultimate fate?
  • What was the nature of the early martian atmosphere and climate, and how did they evolve with time?
  • What conditions and processes gave rise to the valley networks, and what were their discharge rates, durations, and continuity of flow?
  • How was the chemistry and mineralogy of the early martian crust influenced by atmospheric, surface, and subsurface processes?

3. Did life arise on early Mars?

  • Did life develop on early Mars, either through seeding by meteorite transport from Earth, or by an independent genesis?
  • Were habitable environments present on early Mars?
  • If life appeared on Mars, and has subsequently gone extinct, is its record preserved?

Conference Format

Opportunities for Participation —


To maximize the time available for discussion and debate, the opportunities for formal oral presentations will be limited and split equally between invited and contributed talks. However, conference participants will have the opportunity to offer substantive oral comments during the Q&A period following each presentation and panel discussion, and during the many moderated discussion periods identified throughout the program.


Participants in these discussions may prepare a single PowerPoint slide — summarizing any evidence, calculations, or arguments that they wish to present  — on a USB flash drive (the file will be uploaded and displayed on the screen when they are recognized by the session moderator). Participants should be prepared to present and defend their remarks as persuasively and succinctly as possible, and identify the most convincing tests of their principal conclusions. Note that these discussions are not intended to force a consensus, but to help clarify our current understanding of specific issues, identify points of conflict, and stimulate ideas for potential tests on future missions.


Because of the limited opportunities for formal oral presentations, poster presentations will represent a significant and important part of the conference program, and will be featured during the two evening poster sessions/socials scheduled for Monday and Tuesday evenings. These posters will remain accessible to conference participants throughout the meeting.


Program Outline  —


Monday, May 21:

  • Early History of the Inner Solar System (invited talks emphasizing Earth and Mars)
  • The Physical Evolution of the Early Martian Environment I (talks on the geophysical, geological, and hydrological evolution of the early martian environment)
  • Monday Evening Poster Session/Social (first authors A–I, with hors d'ouevres and refreshments)

Tuesday, May 22:

  • The Physical Evolution of the Early Martian Environment II
  • The Geochemical and Mineralogical Evolution of the Early Martian Environment
  • Panel Discussion: Regional and Global Variations in the Stratigraphy and Chronology of Hydrated Minerals on Mars
    Where are the key sections? What successions are present? Did clay formation overlap with sulfate and chloride formation? What are the spatial and temporal ties to geomorphic evidence of surface water? And what does this tell us about synchroneity of mineral formation, transportation, and deposition? Can hydrated minerals be used to build a relative timescale for Mars that is independent of (and therefore could be tested by) crater counts? When did water-altered minerals cease to form on Mars?
  • Panel Discussion: The Nature of the Early Martian Climate
    Was early Mars “warm and wet”? Or “cold and wet”? And how “wet” was wet?
    Did Mars have an early greenhouse climate? If so, was it episodic or continuous? How late did it persist? And what was the cause of its demise? Just how warm and wet did Mars need to be?
  • The Origin, Evolution and Diversity of Life on Earth and Mars I
  • Tuesday Evening Poster Session/Social (first authors J–Z, with hors d'oeuvres and refreshments)

Wednesday, May 23:

  • All-Day Field Trip To Mono Lake (with box lunch)
  • Special Evening Panel Discussion:  Perspectives on the Existence of an Early Martian Ocean

Thursday, May 24:

  • The Origin, Evolution, and Diversity of Life on Earth and Mars II
  • MSL and Gale Crater: Background and Mission Overview
  • Panel Discussion:  Plausible Metabolic Pathways and Niches for Life on Early Mars
  • Moderated Discussion: Key Questions and Needed Observations
  • Conference Dinner
    Dinner Talk:
      Great Pre-20th Century Debates About the Early Earth

Friday, May 25:

  • After MSL: MAVEN
  • Panel Discussion:  New Perspectives
    Selected graduate students and recent post-docs, who will discuss their ideas regarding the key issues raised at the meeting.
  • Panel Discussion: Progress, Outstanding Questions, and Recommendation for Future Investigations
  • Final Review and Revision of Key Questions and Needed Observations
    To be reported to MEPAG

    Meeting Adjourns at 12:20

Program And Abstracts

The program and abstracts are now available. An author index has also been provided so authors can easily determine when their presentation has been scheduled.

To browse through the entire workshop program, view the


Program with Links to Abstracts


To find a particular abstract, or determine where a specific abstract has been scheduled for presentation, view the


Author Index

Information For Presenters

Oral Presentations —


A PC laptop, LCD projector, and speaker remote will be available for presentation of oral presentations during the scientific sessions. In order to facilitate a smooth transition between speakers, all presentations will be preloaded and tested in advance. Speakers are asked to provide their PowerPoint presentations on a CD-ROM or flash drive upon arrival at the workshop.


An IT technician will be on duty on Sunday, May 20, from 5:00 to 7:00 p.m. and each morning from 7:00 to 8:00 a.m. to load and test your presentation. To aid the preloading process, create a folder on your flash drive/CD called “EARLY MARS 2012” and place your PowerPoint presentation in that folder. Please include your last name in the naming of your presentation file.


Hardware and Software Specifications —


The plenary room will be equipped with the following minimum hardware and software:

PC Hardware: PC Software:
One PC laptop with Intel Core 2 i7 2.2 GHz or better Operating System: Windows 7 Professional 64-bit
Memory:  4 GB Microsoft Office 2010 (including PowerPoint 2010)
Video:  1024 x 768 at 24-bit color Internet Explorer 9, Windows Media Player 12, QuickTime 7 Pro, Adobe Acrobat Reader X

Poster Presentations —

Poster location assignment guides will be available in the poster display area and at the conference registration desk. Dedicated poster sessions will be held in the evening on Monday, May 21 (first authors A–I), and Tuesday, May 22 (first authors J–Z). Authors must be present at the appropriate session to discuss their poster.

All posters will be available for viewing throughout the week. Posters must not exceed the maximum size listed below. Due to space limitations, tables, computers, video equipment, etc., cannot be accommodated as a part of a poster display.


Poster Setup:

Sunday, May 20, 2012, from 5:00 to 7:00 p.m.

Poster Removal:

Friday, May 25, 2012, no later than 10:00 a.m.
(any posters remaining after that time will be discarded)

Poster Size (Maximum):

44" x 44" (110 cm x 110 cm)

Materials Provided: Pushpins


For examples of tips on how to best prepare a poster presentation, visit

Poster Presentations: Designing Effective Posters

Poster Presentations: Top Tips

Early Mars Online Reprint Library

To improve the dissemination of research relevant to early Mars, we are establishing an Early Mars Online Reprint Library that will complement the conference abstracts. Any potential participant in the meeting is encouraged to submit one or more relevant reprints (either as a PDF file or a URL to an existing post) to Stephen Clifford ( for potential addition to the library.


Submissions should include the authors, title, journal, and date of publication as well as a PDF file or URL to link to the paper online. Only published, peer-reviewed papers (i.e., no abstracts) will be considered for inclusion in the online library.

The library will be updated with new submissions every two weeks.

Field Trip

Mono LakeA guided, full-day mid-conference field trip to sites in and around Mono Lake, California, has been organized for Wednesday, May 23. The tour buses will leave the hotel at approximately 9:00 a.m. and return by 5:00 p.m. A boxed lunch will be provided for all participants.


Important Note:  No other conference activities are scheduled during the day of this trip and the cost is included in the registration fee. The tour may be modified or canceled in the event of inclement weather. Please bring a light jacket, hat, sunscreen, and appropriate walking shoes. A field guide will be distributed later.




Through April 20, 2012

April 21–May 7, 2012










Guests $195.00 $245.00 $295.00


Participants are encouraged to register early. Onsite registration will be available, but must be paid by credit card or check. No cash will be accepted.


Guests must be an accompanying person for a fully paid registrant. The guest fee includes two poster sessions with receptions, the field trip with boxed lunch, and the conference dinner.


Credit card registrations:  Participants registering by credit card MUST use the secure electronic registration form.


Other methods of payment:  Those registering using any other method of payment (check, money order, traveler's check, or wire transfer) must contact the USRA Meeting Registrar for detailed instructions.


Note:  We now have a third-party payment page available. Participants required to register using a third party (e.g., SATERN for NASA civil servants) may still register in advance using the electronic registration form. The confirmation e-mail you receive after registering will include payment instructions to submit to the third party. Please be aware, however, that your registration will not be considered complete until the funds have been received.


Cancellations:  Requests for cancellation with a fee refund (less a $25.00 processing fee) will only be accepted through May 7, 2012. Those who fail to attend and do not notify the LPI prior to the May 7 deadline will forfeit their full fee.


The Hyatt Regency Lake Tahoe is located at 111 Country Club Drive, Incline Village NV 89451. The workshop organizers have secured a limited block of rooms. Participants may reserve hotel lodging by using the appropriate online reservation form (see below), or by contacting the hotel via phone at 888-421-1442 for reservation help.


Participants should specify the “Early Mars Workshop” group code to receive the special workshop rates:

Room Rates:  $114.00 (single), $134.00 (double)


Room rates are quoted exclusive of applicable state and local taxes (currently 13%) and a resort fee of $7.50 per room, per night. The rates listed include a catered continental breakfast each day. Rates are only valid May 20–25, 2012, and do not apply to pre- or post-conference stays.


The cutoff date for this special rate is April 20, 2012, at 5:00 p.m. U.S. Central Time. Reservation requests received after the cutoff date OR after the room block is full will be accepted at the hotel's prevailing rate based on availability. Please secure your hotel reservations EARLY!


Online Reservation Links —

Attendees of the conference can reserve a guest room using the following link:



For information regarding the format and scientific objectives of the meeting:


Stephen Clifford
Lunar and Planetary Institute
Phone:  281-486-2146

For information regarding meeting logistics and announcements:


Gail Pacetti
Universities Space Research Association/
Lunar and Planetary Institute
Phone:  281-244-2016

For information regarding registration:


Linda Tanner
Universities Space Research Association/
Lunar and Planetary Institute
Phone:  281-486-2142


Deadline for registration at reduced rate April 20, 2012
Deadline for hotel reservations at group rate April 20, 2012
Third Conference on Early Mars in Lake Tahoe, Nevada May 21–25, 2012