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Barbara Cavalazzi

Professor in Geobiology and Astrobiology at the Dept. Biological, Geological, and Environmental Sciences-BiGeA of the University of Bologna, Italy, and visiting lecturer at Dept. of Geology of the University of Johannesburg, South Africa, Università di Bologna

Barbara Cavalazzi is currently Professor at the University of Bologna, Italy and visiting senior lecturer at the Department of Geology, University of Johannesburg, South Africa. Her research on the Danakil depression is developed in the frame of EUROPLANET RI H2020.

In 2005, she obtained her PhD in Paleontology from the University of Modena and Reggio Emilia, Italy, and continued her learning and research as post-doc and associate researcher at the University of Bologna, University of Western Australia, Portland State University, Centre de Biophysique Moléculaire-CNRS (France), and at the Dept. of Geology of the University of Johannesburg where she is appointed since 2012 as Visiting Lecturer. In 2016, she has been also appointed as Associate Researcher at the International Research School of Planetary Sciences-IRSPS, Universita d'Annunzio, Italy.

Over these years, she has conducted research in different areas of geobiology and astrobiology searching for (modern and fossil) biosignatures, minerals-microbes interactions in extreme environments especially vent systems, and microbial paleontology, and she is now an experienced academic researcher with proven skills in these research fields. Despite her wide experience in lab activities (from samples collection and processing to nano-scale/high resolution analyses), as geologist and geobiologist she had chance to be involved and organise several field trips/works in Africa, North and South America, and Australia.

In Africa, as an expert field geobiologist she had conducted campaigns on paleo-hydrothermal/- hydrocarbon systems in Morocco, early life in Barberton Greenstone Belt in South Africa, and more recently in Danakil Depression and Dallol volcanic area in Ethiopia.

She has been invited during the past years, to give seminars to specialists and generic public on her research topics.

To date she is Editorial Board Member of the journal Astrobiology (US) and Assistant Editor of journal Bollettino della Società Paleotologica Italiana (IT). Recently, she has been invited by Springer Ed. to be guest-Editor for a volume on Biosignatures in Astrobiology. In 2006, she received the Exploration Fund of the Explorers Club (NY-USA) Special Found Award: Diversa Corporation Award for microbial science, and in 2008, the prestigious NASA Astrobiology Institute and The American Philosophical Society/NAI and Lewis and Clarck Found for Exploration and Field Research in Astrobiology Award.

More recently, she received a South African NRF Grant to investigate Precambrian African Paleoseeps, and a Marie Curie FP7-PEOPLE- 2013-CIG Grant to investigate Inorganic Nanoparticles in Archaean Carbonaceous Matter (INACMa). Since 2013, she is the Italian Representative for European Astrobiology Network Association-EANA, and since 2016 she on the committee of the prestigious Institute of the Advances Studies of the University of Bologna. From 2016-2019, as an expert Danakil Depression field geobiologist she has been involved in the field activities of the Europlanet H2020 Research Infrastructure  (Europlanet RI).

Current research

The main focus of my research is to understand to understand how microorganisms living in surface and sub-
surface (modern and ancient) extreme environments, can adapt to these extremes, and leave trace in the rock record, and how they impact on the geochemistry and mineralogy of their environment. My research in BIOSIGNSATURES integrates field geology and geomicrobiology with advanced analytical techniques in mineralogy lying at the interface between geology, mineralogy, biology and geochemistry.

All projects I’m involved in include field and lab. work. I am expert in scanning electron microscopy and microanalyses (SEM/ESEM/FEGSEM/EDX) and Raman analytical technics. In my career, I had also chance to work and plot data obtained from many different analytical instruments (and related samples and standard preparation) commonly used in geology and in nanotechnology such as CLSM, XRD, XRF, EMPA, DB-FIB, TEM and HR-TEM/STEM/EELS, ToF- and Nano-SIMS, Na Ion-Probe.

Web links

• Personal web-page:

• University of Bologna -

• Europlanet H2020 Research Infrastructure  (Europlanet RI) - ri/planetary-field- analogue-sites).


  • –present
    Professor in Geobiology and Astrobiology at the Biological, Geological, and Environmental Sciences-BiGeA of the University of Bologna, Italy, and visiting lecturer at University of Johannesburg, South Africa., University of Bologna