roger in Alvin

Roger on his first dive in the submersible Alvin, 2008.

Roger Summons
Department of Earth, Atmospheric and Planetary Sciences, MIT
E25-633, 45 Carleton Street
Cambridge, MA 02139
phone 617.452.2791


Complete List of Publications

Research Interests
I am interested in biogeochemistry and geobiology with the following themes:

  • lipid chemistry of geologically significant microbes and microbially dominated ecosystems
  • organic and isotopic indicators of climate change, biotic evolution and mass extinction
  • age- and environment-diagnostic biomarkers in sediments and petroleum
  • Archean, Proterozoic and extraterrestrial biogeochemical fossils
    I've been lucky enough to work with some great people, and have a hand in all the research going on in the MIT Geobiology lab.

Professional Preparation, Appointments and Activities
professional preparation
  • Australian National Univ. Chemistry Postdoctoral Fellow 1973-1975
  • Stanford University Genetics Fellow in Genetics 1972-1973
  • University of NSW (Wollongong University College) Chemistry PhD 1972
  • University of NSW (Wollongong University College) Chemistry BSc Honours Class 1 1969

  • Professor of Geobiology, MIT (2001-present)
  • Fellow of the Royal Society (2008)
  • Alexander von Humboldt Foundation Research Award (2008)
  • Fellow, Hanse Wissenschafts Kolleg, Delmenhorst, Germany (2008)
  • Fellow, American Geophysical Union (2006)
  • Halpern Medal, University of Wollongong (2005)
  • Treibs Award of the Geochemical Society (2003)
  • Fellow, Australian Academy of Science (1998)
  • Petroleum Explorationists Society of Australia, Australian Lecturer (1998)
  • Principal to Chief Research Scientist, Geoscience Australia (1987-2001)
  • Senior Research Scientist, Baas Becking Geobiological Laboratory (1983-1987)
  • Australian National Univ. RSBS Research Officer (1977-1983)
  • Australian National Univ. RSC Research Fellow (1975-1977)


  • Associate Editor Geochim. Cosmichim. Acta (1995-2006).
  • Member of Editorial Boards of Astrobiology, Geobiology & Paleoworld since inception;
  • Guest Investigator and Adjunct Scientist, WHOI (1999-2001)
  • Adjunct Professor, Applied Chemistry, Curtin University of Technology, Australia (2007-pres.)
  • Adjunct Professor, Earth Sciences, Macquarie University, Australia (1999-present)
  • Teach and develop courses for undergraduates and postgraduates in geobiology and organic geochemistry; Instruct and mentor graduate students and postdoctoral fellows
  • NSF Working group on Biogeosciences (2003)
  • NRC Committee on Origin and Evolution of Life (COEL 2003-6)
  • NRC Committee on Limits of Organic Life in Planetary Systems (LIMITS; 2005-7)
  • NRC Committee on Mars Astrobiology (2006-7)
  • NASA Astrobiology Institute Harvard-MIT-WHOI (1998-2003), NASA Astrobiology Institute
  • NASA Astrobiology Institute Ames Research Center (1998-present)
  • NASA Astrobiology Institute MIT (2007-2012)
born Sydney, Australia. 11 june year (note: password required to access this information)
family married to Elizabeth and proud father of Justine, Alice and Rebecca

... and i came here from australia?? what was i thinking...


all published papers
the whole shebang, right here

A selection of papers, in chronological order

Summons R.E. & Powell T.G. (1986) Chlorobiaceae in Palaeozoic seas - Combined evidence from biological markers, isotopes and geology. Nature 319: 763-65.

Jackson M.J., Powell T.G., Summons R.E. & Sweet I.P. (1986) Hydrocarbon shows and petroleum source rocks in sediments as old as 1.7x10-9 years. Nature 322: 727-29.

Summons R.E. & Powell T.G. (1987) Identification of aryl isoprenoids in source rocks and crude oils : Biological markers for the green sulphur bacteria. Geochim. Cosmochim. Acta 51: 557-66.

Summons R.E., Volkman J.K. & Boreham C.J. (1987) Dinosterane and other steroidal hydrocarbons of dinoflagellate origin in sediments and petroleum. Geochim. Cosmochim. Acta 51: 3075-82.

Summons R.E., Brassell S.C., Eglinton G., Evans E., Horodyski R.J., Robinson N. & Ward D.M. (1988) Distinctive hydrocarbon biomarkers from fossiliferous sediment of the late Proterozoic Walcott Member, Chuar Grp, Grand Canyon, Arizona. Geochim. Cosmochim. Acta 52: 2625-37.

Summons R.E. & Capon R.J.(1988) Fossil steranes with unprecedented methylation in ring-A. Geochim. Cosmochim. Acta 52: 2733-6.

Summons R.E. & Jahnke L.L. (1990) Identification of the methylhopanes in sediments & petroleum. Geochim. Cosmochim. Acta 54: 247-51.

Summons R.E. & Walter M.R. (1990) Molecular fossils and microfossils of prokaryotes and protists from Proterozoic sediments. Am. J. Science 290-A: 212-44.

Summons R.E. & Jahnke L.L. (1992) Hopenes and hopanes methylated in ring-A: correlation of the hopanoids of extant methylotrophic bacteria with their fossil analogues. In: Biomarkers in Sediments and Petroleum (eds. Moldowan J.M. , Albrecht P. & Philp R. P.), Prentice Hall, NJ, pp.182-200.

Summons R.E., Thomas J., Maxwell J.R. & Boreham C.J. (1992) Secular and environmental constraints on the distribution of dinosterane in sediments. Geochim. Cosmochim. Acta 56: 2437-44.

Logan G.A., Hayes J.M., Hieshima G.B. and Summons R.E. (1995) Terminal Proterozoic reorganisation of biogeochemical cycles. Nature 376: 53-56.

Logan G.A., Summons R.E., & Hayes J.M. (1997) An isotopic biogeochemical study of Neoproterozoic and Early Cambrian sediments from the Centralian Superbasin. Geochim. Cosmochim. Acta 61: 5391-5409.

Foster C.B., Logan G.A. & Summons R.E. (1998) The Permian-Triassic boundary in Australia: where is it and how is it expressed. Proc. Roy. Soc. Victoria 110: 247-66.

Jahnke L.L., Summons R.E., Hope J.M. & Des Marais D.J. (1999) Carbon isotopic fractionation in lipids from methanotrophic bacteria II: The effects of physiology and environmental parameters on the biosynthesis and isotopic signatures of biomarkers. Geochim. Cosmochim. Acta 63: 79-93.

Logan G.A., Calver C.R, Gorjan P., Summons R.E., Hayes J.M. & Walter M.R. (1999) Terminal Proterozoic mid-shelf benthic microbial mats in the Centralian Superbasin and their environmental significance. Geochim.Cosmochim. Acta 63: 1345-58.

Summons R.E., Jahnke L.L., Logan G.A. & Hope J.M. (1999) 2-Methylhopanoids as biomarkers for cyanobacterial oxygenic photosynthesis. Nature 398: 554-57.

Brocks J.J., Logan G.A., Buick R. & Summons R.E. (1999) Archean molecular fossils and the early rise of Eukaryotes, Science 285: 1033-36.

Hinrichs K.-U., Summons R.E., Orphan V., Sylva S.P. and Hayes J.M. (2001) Molecular and isotopic analysis of anaerobic methane-oxidising communities in marine sediments. In Yalcin M.N. and Inan S. (eds) Advances in Organic Geochemistry 1999, Org. Geochem. 31: 1685-1701.

Brocks J.J., Love G.D., Snape C.E., Logan G.A., Summons R.E. and Buick R. (2003) Release of bound aromatic hydrocarbons from late Archean and Mesoproterozoic kerogens via hydropyrolysis. Geochim. Cosmochim. Acta 67: 1521-30 .

Brocks J.J., Summons R.E., Logan G.A. and Buick R. (2003) Molecular Fossils in Archean rocks II: Composition, thermal maturity and integrity of hydrocarbons extracted from sedimentary rocks of the 2.78 - 2.45 billion years old Mount Bruce Supergroup, Pilbara Craton, Western Australia. Geochim. Cosmochim. Acta 67: 4289-4319.

Brocks J.J., Buick R., Summons R.E. and Logan G.A. (2003) A reconstruction of Archean biological diversity based on molecular fossils from the 2.78 - 2.45 billion year old Mount Bruce Supergroup, Hamersley Basin, Western Australia. Geochim. Cosmochim. Acta 67: 4321-35.

Brocks J. J., Summons R. E., Buick R., and Logan G. A. (2003) Origin and significance of aromatic hydrocarbons in giant iron ore deposits of the late Archean Hamersley Basin in Western Australia. Org. Geochem. 34: 1161-75.

Rothman D. H., Hayes J. M., and Summons R. E. (2003) Dynamics of the Neoproterozoic carbon cycle. Proc. Natl. Acad. Sci. (USA) 100: 8124-29.

Brocks J.J. and Summons R.E., 2003. Sedimentary hydrocarbons, biomarkers for early life. In Treatise in Geochemistry (Eds. Holland H.D. and Turekian K.). Ch. 8.03, pp. 65-115.

Jahnke L.L., Embaye T., Hope J.M., Turk K.A., van Zuillen M.,  Des Marais D.J., Farmer J.D. and Summons R.E., 2004. Lipid Biomarker and Carbon Isotopic Signatures for Stromatolite-Forming, Microbial Mat Communities and Phormidium cultures from Yellowstone National Park. Geobiology 2, 31-47.

Sessions A.L., Sylva S.P., Summons R.E. and Hayes J.M., 2004. Isotopic exchange of carbon-bound hydrogen over geological timescales. Geochimica et Cosmochimica Acta 68, 1545-1559.

Jahn U., Summons R., Sturt H., Grosjean E. and Huber H., 2004. Composition and source of the lipids of Nanoarchaeum equitans and their origin in the cytoplasmic membrane of its host Ignicoccus sp. KIN4/I. Archives of Microbiology 182, 404-413.

Grice K., Cao C., B?ttcher M.E., Twitchett R.J., Grosjean E., Summons R.E., Turgeon S.C, Dunning W. and Jin Y., 2005. Photic Zone Euxinia During the Permian-Triassic Superanoxic Event. Science 307, 706-709.

Summons R.E., Bradley A.S., Jahnke L.L. and Waldbauer J.R., 2006. Steroids, Triterpenoids and Molecular Oxygen.  Philosphical Transactions of the Royal Society B 361, 951-968.

Summons R.E., Albrecht P., McDonald G. and Moldowan J.M., 2007, Molecular Biosignatures: Generic Qualities of Organic Compounds that Betray Biological Origins. Space Science Reviews 135, 133-157.

Peterson K.J., Summons R.E. and Donoghue P.C.J., 2007, Molecular Palaeobiology. Palaeontology 50, 775-809.

Hays L., Beatty T., Henderson C.M., Love G.D. and Summons R.E., 2007. Evidence for photic zone euxinia through the end-Permian mass extinction in the Panthalassic Ocean (Peace River Basin, Western Canada), Palaeoworld 16, 39-50.

Sherman L.S., Waldbauer J.R. and Summons R.E., 2007. Improved methods for isolating and validating indigenous biomarkers in Precambrian rocks. Organic Geochemistry 38, 1987–2000.

Talbot H.M., Summons R.E., Jahnke L.L., Cockell C.S., Rohmer M. and Farrimond P., 2008. Cyanobacterial bacteriohopanepolyol signatures from cultures and natural environmental settings. Organic Geochemistry 39, 232-263.

Londry K.L., Dawson K.G., Grover H.D., Summons R.E. and. Bradley A.S., 2008. Stable carbon isotope fractionation between four substrates of Methanosarcina barkeri and its products. Organic Geochemistry 39, 608-621.

Cao C., Wang W., Liu L., Shen S., Summons R.E., 2008. Two phases of δ13C anomalies in the latest Permian: Evidence from the terrestrial sequences in northern Xinjiang, China. Earth and Planetary Science Letters 270, 251-257.

Kodner R.B., Knoll A.H., Summons R.E., Pearson A. and King N., 2008. Sterols in a Unicellular Relative of the Metazoans Proceedings of the National Academy of Science (USA) 105, 9897-9902.

Eigenbrode J., Summons R.E. and Freeman K.H., 2008. Methylhopanes in Archean Sediments.  Earth and Planetary Science Letters 273, 323–331.

Cao C., Hays L.E., Love G.D., Bowring S.A., Wang W., Shen S. and Summons R.E., 2008. Biogeochemical Evidence for a Euxinic Ocean and Ecological Disturbance Presaging the end-Permian Mass Extinction Event. Earth and Planetary Science Letters (Submitted).

Grosjean E., Love G. D.,  Stalvies C., Fike D.A. and Summons R.E., 2008. Origin of petroleum in the Neoproterozoic-Cambrian South Oman Salt Basin. Organic Geochemistry (In Press).

 Love G.D., Grosjean E., Stalvies C., Fike D.A., Bradley A.S., Bhatia M., Meredith W., Snape C.E., Bowring S.A., Condon D.J., Grotzinger J.P. and Summons R.E., 2008. Molecular fossil evidence for the appearance of Demosponges during the Cryogenian Period. Nature (Accepted).