Lisa Pratt

Lisa M. Pratt

Provost Professor of Geological Sciences
Associate Executive Dean, College of Arts and Sciences

Office:   MSBII 416
Phone:   812-855-9203

Educational Background

  • Ph.D., 1982, Geology, Princeton University
  • M.S., 1978, Geology, University of North Carolina
  • M.S., 1974, Botany, University of Illinois
  • B.A., 1972, Botany, University of North Carolina

Research Interests

Geomicrobiology of sulfate-reducing microorganisms

Biotic and abiotic fractionation of sulfur isotopes in modern and ancient oceans and lakes

Influence of wildfire on carbon isotopic excursions during the Cretaceous

Fate of complex organic molecules on the surface of Mars

Research Philosophy

The tradition in my research group is for students to learn through field and laboratory experiences involving ever-increasing levels of independence. My research group includes undergraduates, graduate students, and post-doctoral researchers who work closely together to ensure the maintenance and calibration of instruments including gas chromatographs, ion chromatographs, and mass spectrometers. I am fortunate to be assisted by Ruth Droppo in graphic design, Jon Fong in analytical chemistry, and Ben Underwoodin stable isotope mass spectrometry. These students and staff are the foundation of my scientific reputation. Every paper that I publish and every grant that I submit are a reflection of the people at Indiana University who work with me.

Recent Research Projects

NATIONAL AERONAUTICS AND SPACE ADMINISTRATION Shallow-Borehole Array for Measuring Greenland Emission of Trace Gases as an Analogue for Methane on Mars (GETGAMM) 2011-2016. GETGAMM website

Previous funding from the National Science Foundation and the NASA Astrobiology Institute support our studies of sulfur isotopic compositions of sulfide and sulfate in water samples collected at depths of 1 to 4 kilometers below the surface from gold mines in South Africa and the Canadian Arctic. Isotopic data are used to determine rates of microbial sulfate reduction and microbial sulfide oxidation in the deep subsurface. Combined with genomic data from collaborating microbiologists, sulfur isotopic data are evidence of an active deep-Earth microbial community. Pratt is Director of the NASA Astrobiology Lead Team entitled Biosustainable Energy and Nutrient Cycles in the Deep Subsurface of Earth and Mars.

With previous funding from the David and Lucille Packard Foundation, my research group has studied alkaline- and salt-tolerant bacteria and archaea in shallow lakes on the Oregon Basalt Plateau. Pratt (Geological Sciences) and Bauer (Biochemistry) collaborate on a project entitled Life at the Edge of Hydration. Results of field and laboratory experiments are used to assess dessication limits for microbial life on Earth and to evaluate the pathways for origination of life on a planetary body like Mars with severe water limitation.

Graduate Student Projects

Sarah Cadieux Ph.D. 9/2015. "Spatial and Seasonal Variation in Aquatic Chemistry and Biogeochemical Cycling of Methane within Adjacent Closed-Basin Lakes on the Southwest Margin of Greenland."

Cindy Elbaz Ph.D. 2015. "Microbial cycling of sulfur in a mesothermal spring on the Oregon Basalt Plateau."

Humberto Carvajal-Ortiz Ph.D. 2013. "Stable isotopes of carbon, hydrogen, and sulfur in clathrates containing methane and hydrogen sulfide as potential biosignatures on icy planetary bodies" Document URL

Walter Gray M.S., 2012. "Refined stratigraphic interpretation of the St. Louis Limestone, south-central Indiana, USA, using sulfur isotopic curves for carbonate-associated sulfate" Document URL

Undergraduate Student Projects

Jonathan Bell "Ferrous/ferric iron ratios in pore water from coal refuse associated with acid mine drainage in Indiana"

Dalton Hardisty "Seasonal variation in budget and chemistry of pore water in a coal refuse deposit in southwestern Indiana"

Awards and Honors

Provost Professorship, October 2009
Phi Beta Kappa Visiting Scholar, 2009-2010
Indiana University College of Arts and Sciences Alumni, Distinguished Faculty Member, 2003
American Association Petroleum Geologists, Eastern Section, Outstanding Educator, 2002


Chair, Department of Geological Sciences (2012-2016)
Member NASA Science Advisory Group on Science Priorities for Mars Sample Return (2007-2016).
Member NASA Science Advisory Group for Mars Strategic Science for the Decade (2007-2012).
Member NASA Planetary Science Subcommittee of Advisory Board (2008-2011)

Canadian Research Chairs Program College of Reviews, 2004-2005