a hydrothermal vent deep in the ocean, highlighted by an ethereal greenish-blue glow. The vent's structure is complex, with layered mineral deposits forming intricate textures and patterns. Steam or fluid appears to be emanating from the top of the vent, where a white, cloud-like emission contrasts with the dark surroundings. The overall effect is otherworldly, showcasing nature's ability to create unique and extreme environments on Earth.

Sarah Treadwell

2023 Seed Grant Awardee

Project Description

Searching for Origins of Life: The Lost City and Icy Worlds

This image is a graphical announcement related to the Seed Grant award titled "LOST CITY ICY WORLDS". The title is prominent at the top, under the NASA SCoPE (Connecting SMEs and SCIACT) logo. On the right side, there's a photograph of a hydrothermal vent. A large white stamp reads "FUNDED" diagonally across the center. Below, there is a portrait of Sarah Treadwell, identified as a PhD candidate at the University of North Dakota, involved in the research for origins of life through the Lost City and Icy Worlds project. Logos for OpenSpace and Arizona State University's School of Earth and Space Exploration are at the bottom, along with a note explaining that the project is a collaboration with NASA SciAct Team and OpenSpace, and more information can be found at a provided ASU website link.

The Lost City Hydrothermal Field is a unique vent field located in the Atlantic Ocean along the Mid-Atlantic Ridge. This vent system is the only one discovered so far on Earth to have been created through a process called “serpentinization”, a chemical and geological interaction between Earth’s mantle and seawater. Hydrogen is produced here as a by-product of the reaction, which fuels the generation of compounds that are considered the precursors of DNA and could possibly give clues as to how life began on Earth.

Astrobiologists also believe that vent fields similar to the Lost City could be on Europa or Enceladus, icy moons of Jupiter and Saturn. This project, titled “Searching for Origins of Life” will partner with OpenSpace to design the Lost City vents into their software. It will also design some of the crucial research vessels that made discovering and researching it possible, such as the JOIDES Resolution. The project then will script a planetarium show to make the connection of the Lost City and of its importance in relation to astrobiology to be used in outreach efforts both at the American Museum of Natural History and to the community of Rockford, IL.

Target Audience Age


NASA Division


Grant Status

Learning Context

digital learning enabled

Digital Learning

Home and family enabled

Neighborhood /

Informal /
Out of School

Home and Families disabled

Home / Family

citizen science disabled

Citizen Science

Formal Education


Sarah Treadwell Bio photo

Historically, the [Earth and Space] sciences have stayed largely separated. I hope this project will showcase the importance of collaboration within the sciences for astrobiology, educate audiences on what astrobiology is, and spark more interest in the pursuit of answering really the great big questions: how did we get here and are we alone?

Sarah Treadwell The Lost City and Icy Worlds PI

Sarah Treadwell

Searching for Origins of Life: The Lost City and Icy Worlds PI
Graduate Student
University of North Dakota

Sarah is a professional communicator of science, with a passion for astrobiology. She is a student at the University of North Dakota’s studying for her PhD in communications. She holds a Masters of Science in Communication and holds a Bachelors of the Arts in English and Writing.

In April 2023, she sailed onboard the JOIDES Resolution as an outreach officer for Expedition 399 to the Lost City Hydrothermal Fields on an origin of life research mission. The expedition also broke science records, reaching mantle rock and pulling up a staggering 1,267 meters of it.

She is the Principal Science Writer for Blue Marble Space Institute of Science and there also serves as the Senior Production Assistant for “Ask an Astrobiologist”, a monthly show presented by NASA Astrobiology department. Sarah also volunteers as a Solar System Ambassador for NASA/JPL and conducts outreach to the public on current and upcoming missions through frequent presentations and sidewalk astronomy.

SciAct Team

OpenSpace Description

Funded in part by NASA, OpenSpace brings the latest techniques from data visualization research to the general public. OpenSpace supports interactive presentation of dynamic data from observations, simulations, and space mission planning and operations. OpenSpace works on multiple operating systems, with an extensible architecture powering high resolution tiled displays and planetarium domes, and makes use of the latest graphic card technologies for rapid data throughput. In addition, OpenSpace enables simultaneous connections across the globe, creating opportunity for shared experiences among audiences worldwide.

Rosamond Kinzler sits for a headshot. She wears a sleeveless black shirt.

This project supports our SciAct project by allowing us to partner with a SME to bring data into OpenSpace for an environment (submarine) that we have not yet been able to visualize beyond sea floor topography. It extends OpenSpace capability for engaging audiences with programming about searching for life beyond Earth.

Rosamond Kinzler OpenSpace PI