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Heather Graham


  • Fellow
  • Earth 4D: Subsurface Science & Exploration




Heather Graham is an organic geochemist with a profound curiosity about the natural world, the history of life, the vast connections between biotic and abiotic systems, and what evolution can tell us about our future.

Graham’s research focuses on the fundamental scientific development of tools and techniques that can help us identify “agnostic biosignatures” – evidence of living systems that may not share common biochemistry with life on Earth. Life detection methods that do not presuppose a common heritage with life on Earth are becoming more important as we travel farther out in the solar system and may even help us understand novel life deep in the earth where potential ecosystems have been out of communication with the surface of the planet for billions of years. With a diverse background in biology, analytical chemistry, paleontology, and statistical modeling, Graham combines her expertise in the expression and preservation of chemical biosignatures with an understanding of the constraints of space flight instrumentation.


  • NASA Postdoctoral Program Fellowship
  • Committee on Institutional Cooperation Fellowship
  • NSF Graduate STEM Fellows in GK12 Education
  • Smithsonian Tropical Research Institute Research Fellowship

Relevant Publications

  • Graham, H.V., Wing, S.W., Jaramillo, C.A., Herrera, F., & Freeman, K.H. (2019). Canopy structure in late cretaceous and paleocene forests as reconstructed from carbon isotope analyses of fossil leaves. Geology, 47(10), 977-98.
  • Johnson, S.S., Graham, H.V., Des Marais, D.J. & Hazen, R.M. (2019). Detecting life on Earth and the limits of analogy. In V.L. Meadows (Ed.), Planetary Astrobiology. Space Sciences Series. Arizona: University of Arizona Press.
  • Johnson, S.S., Anslyn, E., Graham, H.V., Mahaffy, P., & Ellington, A. (2018). Fingerprinting nonterran biosignatures. Astrobiology, 18(7), 915-922.
  • Hays, L.E., Graham, H.V., Des Marais, D.J., Hausrath, E.M., et al. (2017). Biosignature preservation and detection in Mars analog environments. Astrobiology, 17(4), 363-400.
  • Graham, H.V., Patzkowsky, M.E., Wing, S.W., Parker, G.G., et al. (2014). Isotopic characteristics of canopies in simulated leaf assemblages. Geochimica et Cosmochimica Acta, 144, 82-95.

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CIFAR is a registered charitable organization supported by the governments of Canada, Alberta and Quebec, as well as foundations, individuals, corporations and Canadian and international partner organizations.

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