Luke's PhD project aims to study Archean hot spring systems, to better direct the design of pre-biotic experiments. Funded by an ARC Discovery grant, this project has two main objectives:

1) to develop a better understanding of Archean hot springs, through conducting in-depth B isotope analysis on sea-water/rock interactions. This will result in a model of sea-water characteristics that were altering the rocks below, and then feeding up into, the 3.5 billion year old Dresser hot spring system. As these ancient hot springs host one of the oldest evidence of life on Earth, the Dresser Stromatolites, understanding the hot spring development is vital to our understanding of how life formed and evolved on Earth.

2) to use this new-found understanding of Archean hot spring environments to “ground-proof” previously conducted pre-biotic experiments. Many pre-biotic experiments are conducted in clean glassware, with distilled water and no-minerals present, which is unrealistic when compared to the complex (messy) early Earth environments in which life formed. Through repeating previous experiments, and designing new ones, with the environmental context in mind, this project will test if realistic Archean environments help, or hinder, the origin of life on Earth.


Steller, Luke H., et al. "Boron Isotopes in the Puga Geothermal System, India, and Their Implications for the Habitat of Early Life." Astrobiology 19.12 (2019): 1459-1473.

Van Kranendonk et al., “Elements for the origin of life on land: A deep-time perspective from the Pilbara Craton of Western Australia”. Astrobiology (2021).

Van Kranendonk, M.J., Djokic, T., Poole, G., Tadbiri, S., Steller, L., Baumgartner, R. (2018). Depositional setting of the fossiliferous, c. 3480 Ma Dresser Formation, Pilbara Craton: A review. In: Van Kranendonk, M.J., Bennett, V., Hoffmann, E., Earth’s Oldest Rocks, 2nd Edition. Elsevier, Amsterdam.

Djokic T., Van Kranendonk M.J., Johnson C.M., Satkoski A.M., Steller L.S., Garbe F., Salvemini F. Shrub-like, Shrub-like, Fe-rich microbialites in ~3.5 Ga terrestrial hot springs: Morphology, nanostructure, Fe isotopes and potential metabolic constraint. Geobiology (in prep, 2021)

Steller, L., et al. "Astrobiology and Community-Led Science Education in Ladakh." Australasian Astrobiology Meeting Poster (2018).

Pandey, S., et al. "Ladakh: Diverse, high-altitude extreme environments for off-earth analogue
Conferences and Workshops Attended

Australasian Astrobiology Meeting, Sydney (online), September 2020 – (Organising Committee)

Emergence of Life CRC Workshop, Brixen Italy, February 2020

Dresser Core Workshop, UNSW Australia, December 2019 – (Organising Committee)

GESS Symposium, UNSW Australia, November 2019 – (Organising Committee)

AbGradCon, Utah USA, August 2019

AbSciCon, Seattle USA, June 2019

Australasian Astrobiology Meeting, Rotorua NZ, June 2018

Scholarships and Awards

UNSW Belonging and Transition Mentor, January 2020 - $750

UNSW Travel Mobility Grant (New Zealand field work), December 2019 - $1,000

AbGradCon Travel Grant, August 2019 - $1,000

RTP PhD Scholarship (Australian Government), February 2019 - $96,000

ACA PhD Top Up Scholarship, February 2019 - $40,000

AINSE Honours Scholarship, February 2016 - $5,000

UNSW Science Summer Internship, July 2014 - $2,000

Bio-Neptune Innovation Scholarship, February 2014 - $12,000