Finding ET: The Search for Life in the Universe at County Museum

People love ETs. In stories and movies, aliens from other places in the universe are more popular than dinosaurs. The real situation is rather different, as Jere Lipps will discuss in a guest lecture at the San Bernardino County Museum on Wednesday evening, September 26. The lecture, “Finding ET: The Search for Life in the Universe,” is offered free to the public and starts at 7:30 p.m.

“Life may exist or have existed on Mars or on the icy moons of the outer planets, particularly Europa, and of course it exists on Earth. Earth thus provides a model, but its geologic history is quite different from any of the other bodies in the Solar System, where the development and evolution of life may have been restricted,” said Lipps. “Mars had water, a critical ingredient for life, in its past and perhaps today in its subsurface and ice deposits, but life has not been detected yet. I will discuss the just-landed Curiosity Rover that is searching for new clues to life on Mars right now. Europa and the other icy moons of Jupiter and Saturn may possess huge oceans of briny water where life might have evolved. Finally, I will answer the question: Are there ETs anywhere in the Universe?”

Jere Lipps works in the fields of paleontology, geology, marine biology, and astrobiology. Trained in Geology and Zoology at UCLA (BA, PhD), his primary interest is in the history of life on Earth or elsewhere in the Solar System. Using principles and theory from paleontology, geology, and biology, he studies the history of single-celled organisms, the origin of animals, the paleobiology of reefs, and matches the paleontological record with molecular sequence data to understand the evolutionary histories of these groups. Since 1999, he has done the same kind of work in the search for life on Mars and Jupiter’s icy moon Europa. Comparing the geologic histories of Earth and Mars provided a guideline for expectations of life on Mars. Having worked on the Ross Ice Shelf Project in Antarctica where his aim was to figure out how life might live under ice shelves, he subsequently applied that research to the search for life on ice-covered Europa. If life evolved on Europa, he laid out a search strategy that could be applied at the surface of that moon to detect life in many possible habitats in or below the ice.

Lipps was Professor of Geology at UC Davis and both Professor of Integrative Biology and Curator of Paleontology in the Museum of Paleontology, UC Berkeley. He has served NASA in many ways, and is now a member of the Planetary Protection Committee. After retiring from Berkeley, he was appointed Director of the new John D. Cooper Archaeology and Paleontology Center, a partnership between Orange County and California State University Fullerton, in January 2012. The Center curates and manages the County’s huge collection for use in research, outreach, K-12 education, and exhibits.

The San Bernardino County Museum is at the California Street exit from Interstate 10 in Redlands. The monthly guest lecture series is offered free to the public. Parking is free. For more information, visit The museum is accessible to persons with disabilities. If assistive listening devices or other auxiliary aids are needed in order to participate in museum exhibits or programs, requests should be made through Museum Visitor Services at least three business days prior to your visit. Visitor Services’ telephone number is 909-307-2669 ext. 229 or (TDD) 909-792-1462.