Dawn Sumner

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
Dawn Y. Sumner
Dawn Y Sumner in Pearse Valley, Antarctica.jpg
Dawn Sumner in Pearse Valley, Dry Valleys, Antarctica
Alma materCaltech; MIT
Known forMicrobial life in extreme environments
ancient microbial life
AwardsFellow of the Geological Society of America
Career Award for Outstanding Contributions in Geosciences, Geobiology and Microbiology from the Geological Society of America
Scientific career
InstitutionsUniversity of California, Davis

Dawn Yvonne Sumner is an American geologist, planetary scientist, and astrobiologist. She is a professor at the University of California, Davis. Sumner's research includes evaluating microbial communities in Antarctic lakes, exploration of Mars via the Curiosity rover, and characterization of microbial communities in the lab and from ancient geologic samples. She is an investigator on the NASA Mars Science Laboratory (MSL) and was Chair of the UC Davis Department of Earth & Planetary Sciences[1] from 2014-2016.[2] She is Fellow of the Geological Society of America.[3]

Early life and education[edit]

Sumner was born near Seattle, Washington, and spent part of her childhood on the Yakama Indian Reservation in the Pacific Northwest.[4] From there, she earned a B.S. with Honors in geology from the California Institute of Technology (Caltech), then attended the Massachusetts Institute of Technology for her Ph.D. which she completed in 1995. Sumner then returned Caltech for postdoctoral research, supported by an O.K. Earl Postdoctoral Fellowship.[5]


  • Ancient Microbial Communities is part of Sumner's research which includes understanding microbial evolution and ecology and Earth history through microbial signatures in the rock record. Her publications feature new developments in how to interpret ancient biological responses to environmental factors, tracing oxygenation[6] and the impact on carbonate microbial biological signatures.[7] Sumner has also studied carbon isotopes of specific carbonates in order to find evidence of life.[8]
  • Antarctic Lakes Sumner's research utilizes Antarctic lakes as a model system for understanding microbial processes, early oxygenic photosynthesis, and life on other planets. This work includes the discovery of pinnacles of microbial growth under ice-covered lakes[9] and describes multiple microbial communities involved in the development of these features. Similar features in another Antarctic lake appear to record changes in the lake environment, including sea level, through time.[10]
  • Exploration of Mars and its Environments Professor Sumner's research with the Mars Science Laboratory has generated over three dozen collaborative publications and helped uncover evidence of ancient lakes on Mars.[11] Sumner's research has established that parts of ancient Mars could have hosted life as we know it on Earth,[12] and contributed to the discovery of organic molecules on Mars.[13] As a geologist, Sumner applies many of the same principles that would be used on earth, such as stratigraphy and geochemistry, to the Martian environment.[14] Sumner is a MSL “long term planner”,[15] one of several lead geoscientists amongst more than five hundred scientists not directly employed by NASA on this project. Sumner was involved in the creation of a geological map of Gale crater, and selecting the landing site of Curiosity.[16] Sumner was partially responsible for the assignment of daily operations to fit the long-term missions goals.[17] and also involved in future planning for additional Mars exploration, including a mission in 2020.[18]
  • Neoarchean Geological Time Period is a part of Professor Sumner's research that has been accumulated in South Africa. Sumner has studied the precipitation of multiple elements including carbonate and aragonite. This research has led Sumner to develop new understandings of the oceans pH in Neoarchean time period which can lead to discoveries in the changes of the oceans pH through time.[19] Sumner's conducted this research using methods of stratigraphy and petrography.[20]

Awards and honors[edit]

Sumner was elected a Fellow of the Geological Society of America in 2014.[21] Also in 2014, she was selected to deliver the honorary Carl Sagan Lecture at the American Geophysical Union.[22] In 2016, Sumner was awarded the Career Award for Outstanding Contributions in Geosciences, Geobiology and Microbiology from the Geological Society of America.[23] Sumner also received the distinguished career award from the University of California, Davis 2016: for extensive research in microbiology, geochemistry, and research in the exploration of mars over her career.[24] More recently, Sumner's was one of 14 selected to become a fellow of the California Academy of Sciences for her contributions to the study of microbial sciences.[25]

Equality and sexual harassment in science[edit]

Sumner is the author of a widely used anti-harassment statement that she made public so that other universities and institutes could use it as a model.[26] A leader in helping institutions develop anti-harassment plans, Sumner presented to a workshop at the 2016 American Geophysical Union on “Addressing harassment and improving workplace climate.”[27] She was also an invited presenter for Association of Polar Early Career Scientists webinar on sexual harassment during fieldwork.[28] Sumner is presently Chair of Advisory Board for The Feminist Research Institute at the UC, Davis[29] In June 2020 she became the leader of the Anti-Racism Action Committee in her department (Earth and Planetary Science) at UC Davis. Sumner also wrote four letters concerning racism and its effects on the science community between late May and early June 2020[30]

Selected publications[edit]

Title of Article Author(s)/ Publication year Topic(s) Source
Were kinetics of Archean calcium carbonate precipitation related to oxygen concentration? Dawn Y. and John P. Grotzinger, 1996. Geology Geology, v. 24, p. 119-122. DOI: 10.1130/0091-7613
Late Archean calcite-microbe interactions: Two morphologically distinct microbial communities that affected calcite nucleation differently Dawn Y. Sumner, 1997. Microbiology Palaios, v. 12, p. 300-316. DOI: 10.2307/3515333
Late Archean Aragonite Precipitation: Petrography, Facies Associations, and Environmental Significance Dawn Y. Sumner & John P. Grotzinger, 2000. Geology Late Archean aragonite precipitation: Petrography, facies associations, and environmental significance
Renalcids as fossilized biofilm clusters. Dawn Y. Sumner & Nat P.Stephens, 2002. Microbiology,

Geology, Paleontology

Palaios, v. 17, p. 225-236. DOI:10.1669/0883-1351(2002)017<0225:RAFBC>2.0.CO;2
Poor preservational potential of organics in Meridiani Planum hematite-bearing sedimentary rocks Dawn Y. Sumner, 2004. Geology, Mars Journal of Geophysical Research, Planets, v. 109, E12007. DOI:10.1029/2004JE002321
Cracks and fins in sulfate sand: Evidence for recent mineral-atmospheric water cycling in Meridiani Planum outcrops? Gregory V. Chavdarian & Dawn Y. Sumner, 2006. Geology, Mars Geology, v. 34, p. 229-232. DOI: 10.1130/G22101.1
Isotopic fingerprints of microbial respiration in aragonite from Bahamian stromatolites. Miriam S. Andres, R. Pamela Reid, Dawn Y. Sumner, & Peter Swart. Microbiology Geology, v. 34, p. 973-976. DOI 10.1130/G22859A.1
Undirected motility of filamentous cyanobacteria produces reticulate mats. R N Shepard & Dawn Y. Sumner Microbiology, Geology Geobiology, v. 8, p. 179-190. DOI: 10.1111/j.1472-4669.2010.00235.x
Discovery of large conical stromatolites in Lake Untersee, Antarctica Andersen, Dale T., Sumner, Dawn Y., et al., 2011 Microbiology Geobiology, v.9. 280–293. DOI: 10.1111/j.1472-4669.2011.00279.x.
Origins of Microbial Microstructures In the Neoproterozoic Beck Spring Dolomite: Variations In Microbial Community and Timing of Lithification Harwood, Cara L., and Sumner, Dawn Y., 2012 Geology, Microbiology Journal of Sedimentary Research, v. 82, p. 709-722, DOI: 10.2110/jsr.2012.65
Antarctic microbial mats: A modern analog for Archean lacustrine oxygen oases Sumner, Dawn Y., Hawes, Ian, et al., 2015 Geochemistry, Geology Geology, v. 43, p. 887-890. DOI: 10.1130/G36966.1
Growth of elaborate microbial pinnacles in Lake Vanda, Antarctica. Geobiology Sumner, Dawn Y., Anne D. Jungblut, et al., 2016 Microbiology

Geobiology, v. 14, p. 556-574. doi:10.1111/gbi.12188

A habitable fluvio-lacustrine environment at Yellowknife Bay, Gale Crater, Mars. Science Grotzinger, J.P., D.Y. Sumner, et al., 2014 (online 2013) Environmental Science

Science, v. 343, 1242777. doi:10.1126/science.1242777


Sumner has presented lectures to public and school groups, and she has participated in videos and films on exploring Mars. These have included presentations at Sierra College,[31] a Northern California Rotary Club,[32] and Sacramento State University's Science in the River City.[33] She appeared in several videos on Mars exploration, including ones hosted by UC Davis[34] and in the Finnish documentary film “The Other Side of Mars”.[35]

Dawn Sumner's research has been covered in local and national media outlets, including Popular Science,[36] Wired Magazine,[37] KPCC public radio,[38] the television series Take Part,[39] and the BBC.[40]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ "Department of Geology, UC Davis". Retrieved October 12, 2018.
  2. ^ "UC Davis Earth and Planetary Science department; Chair's letter by Dawn Sumner" (PDF). Retrieved October 12, 2018.
  3. ^ "GSA Fellow". Retrieved October 12, 2018.
  4. ^ Leibrock, Rachel (6 April 2015). "Mars needs this woman". newsreview.com. Retrieved October 12, 2018.
  5. ^ "California Institute of Technology: The O.K. Earl Postdoctoral Fellowship and the Texaco Postdoctoral Fellowship - GradFund". GradFund. Retrieved 2018-10-03.
  6. ^ Sumner, Dawn Y.; Grotzinger, John P. (1996). "Were kinetics of Archean calcium carbonate precipitation related to oxygen concentration?". Geology. 24 (2): 119–22. doi:10.1130/0091-7613(1996)024<0119:WKOACC>2.3.CO;2. ISSN 0091-7613. PMID 11539494.
  7. ^ Sumner, Dawn Y. (1997-05-01). "Carbonate precipitation and oxygen stratification in late Archean seawater as deduced from facies and stratigraphy of the Gamohaan and Frisco formations, Transvaal Supergroup, South Africa". American Journal of Science. 297 (5): 455–487. doi:10.2475/ajs.297.5.455. ISSN 0002-9599.
  8. ^ Sumner, Dawn Y. (March 2001). "Microbial Influences on Local Carbon Isotopic Ratios and Their Preservation in Carbonate". Astrobiology. 1 (1): 57–70. doi:10.1089/153110701750137431. ISSN 1531-1074. PMID 12448995.
  9. ^ Sumner, D. Y.; Jungblut, A. D.; Hawes, I.; Andersen, D. T.; Mackey, T. J.; Wall, K. (2016-07-29). "Growth of elaborate microbial pinnacles in Lake Vanda, Antarctica". Geobiology. 14 (6): 556–574. doi:10.1111/gbi.12188. ISSN 1472-4677. PMID 27474373. S2CID 11742826.
  10. ^ Mackey, T. J.; Sumner, D. Y.; Hawes, I.; Leidman, S. Z.; Andersen, D. T.; Jungblut, A. D. (2017-11-24). "Stromatolite records of environmental change in perennially ice-covered Lake Joyce, McMurdo Dry Valleys, Antarctica" (PDF). Biogeochemistry. 137 (1–2): 73–92. doi:10.1007/s10533-017-0402-1. hdl:1721.1/115135. ISSN 0168-2563. S2CID 133907598.
  11. ^ Science-2013-Grotzinger.pdf (iu.edu)
  12. ^ Grotzinger, J. P.; Sumner, D. Y.; Kah, L. C.; Stack, K.; Gupta, S.; Edgar, L.; Rubin, D.; Lewis, K.; Schieber, J. (2013-12-09). "A Habitable Fluvio-Lacustrine Environment at Yellowknife Bay, Gale Crater, Mars". Science. 343 (6169): 1242777. CiteSeerX doi:10.1126/science.1242777. ISSN 0036-8075. PMID 24324272. S2CID 52836398.
  13. ^ Eigenbrode, Jennifer L.; Summons, Roger E.; Steele, Andrew; Freissinet, Caroline; Millan, Maëva; Navarro-González, Rafael; Sutter, Brad; McAdam, Amy C.; Franz, Heather B.; Glavin, Daniel P.; Archer Jr., Paul D.; Mahaffy, Paul R.; Conrad, Pamela G.; Hurowitz, Joel A.; Grotzinger, John P.; Gupta, Sanjeev; Ming, Doug W.; Sumner, Dawn Y.; Szopa, Cyril; Malespin, Charles; Buch, Arnaud; Coll, Patrice (2018-06-08). "Organic matter preserved in 3-billion-year-old mudstones at Gale crater, Mars" (PDF). Science. 360 (6393): 1096–1101. doi:10.1126/science.aas9185. ISSN 0036-8075. PMID 29880683. S2CID 46983230.
  14. ^ Franco, Jose (2018-06-22). "Dawn Sumner". Microbiome Special Research Program. Retrieved 2021-02-11.
  15. ^ "UC Davis scientist prepares for Mars rover landing". Davis Enterprise. 2012-08-04. Retrieved 2018-10-09.
  16. ^ "Curious About Life: Interview with Dawn Sumner". Astrobiology Magazine. 2013-02-28. Retrieved 2020-10-02.
  17. ^ "Planning the Mars Rover Landing". YouTube. Archived from the original on 2020-11-04.
  18. ^ Witze, Alexandra (May 5, 2014). "NASA plans mars sample-return rover". Nature. 509 (7500): 272. doi:10.1038/509272a. PMID 24828172.
  19. ^ Sumner, Dawn Y.; Grotzinger, John P. (2004). "Implications for Neoarchaean ocean chemistry from primary carbonate mineralogy of the Campbellrand-Malmani Platform, South Africa". Sedimentology. 51 (6): 1273–1299. doi:10.1111/j.1365-3091.2004.00670.x. ISSN 1365-3091. S2CID 56028342.
  20. ^ Sumner, Dawn Y.; Grotzinger, J. P. (2004-12-01). "Implications for Neoarchaean ocean chemistry from primary carbonate mineralogy of the Campbellrand-Malmani Platform, South Africa". Sedimentology. 51 (6): 1273–1299. doi:10.1111/j.1365-3091.2004.00670.x. ISSN 0037-0746. S2CID 56028342.
  21. ^ "Dawn Sumner GSA Fellow". Retrieved October 12, 2018.
  22. ^ "AGU Honors; Carl Sagan Lecture; Past Recipients; Dawn Sumner". Retrieved October 12, 2018.
  23. ^ Martindale, Rowan (2016-09-19). "GSA Geobiology and Geomicrobiology: 2016 Division Awards for outstanding research". GSA Geobiology and Geomicrobiology. Retrieved 2018-10-04.
  24. ^ Rowanmartindale (2016-09-19). "GSA Geobiology and Geomicrobiology: 2016 Division Awards for outstanding research". GSA Geobiology and Geomicrobiology. Retrieved 2020-10-02.
  25. ^ "LAURELS: Montañez, Sumner Are New Fellows of California Academy of Sciences". UC Davis. 2020-11-09. Retrieved 2021-02-08.
  26. ^ "Sumner white paper on anti-harassment". Retrieved October 12, 2018.
  27. ^ "Sumner presentation at AGU to department head and chairs on harassment". Retrieved October 12, 2018.
  28. ^ "Sumner presentation to polar scientists on harassment during fieldwork". Retrieved October 12, 2018.
  29. ^ "Highlighting Women in Geobiology: Dr. Dawn Sumner PhD '95 | MIT Department of Earth, Atmospheric and Planetary Sciences". eapsweb.mit.edu. Retrieved 2020-10-02.
  30. ^ "Equity – Dawn Y. Sumner". Retrieved 2020-10-02.
  31. ^ "NASA scientist to discuss Mars at Rocklin event". Rocklin's Placer Herald. Retrieved 2018-10-08.
  32. ^ "Your Weekly Get Up & Go has been Updated!". Davis Sunrise Rotary Club. Retrieved 2018-10-09.
  33. ^ "Science in River City". Facebook. November 14, 2017. Retrieved October 12, 2018.
  34. ^ University of California (2013-02-26), The Rover Curiosity, retrieved 2018-10-09
  35. ^ "The Other Side of Mars | Finnish Film Catalogue 2018". catalogue.ses.fi. Retrieved 2018-10-09.
  36. ^ Griggs, Mary Beth (June 7, 2018). "Is there life on Mars? TBD. But scientists found ancient organic matter in the Red Planet's rocks". Retrieved October 12, 2018.
  37. ^ Witze, Alexandra (April 14, 2011). "Antarctic Lake Hides Bizarre Ecosystem". WIRED. Retrieved 2018-10-04.
  38. ^ Radio, Southern California Public (2013-10-10). "Shutdown puts scientists' Antarctica research on ice". Southern California Public Radio. Retrieved 2018-10-04.
  39. ^ "'Girls With Toys' Hashtag Challenges Idea That Science Is a Playground for Guys". TakePart. Retrieved 2018-10-04.
  40. ^ "Mars rover's powerful lab kit". BBC News. August 3, 2012. Retrieved 2018-10-04.

External links[edit]