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An astrobiological study of an alkaline-saline hydrothermal environment, relevant to understanding the habitability of Mars

Davis, LE; (2012) An astrobiological study of an alkaline-saline hydrothermal environment, relevant to understanding the habitability of Mars. Doctoral thesis, UCL (University College London). Green open access

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Abstract

The on going exploration of planets such as Mars is producing a wealth of data which is being used to shape a better understanding of potentially habitable environments beyond the Earth. On Mars, the relatively recent identification of minerals which indicate the presence of neutral/alkaline aqueous activity has increased the number of potentially habitable environments which require characterisation and exploration. The study of terrestrial analogue environments enables us to develop a better understanding of where life can exist, what types of organisms can exist and what evidence of that life may be preserved. The study of analogue environments is necessary not only in relation to the possibility of identifying extinct/extant indigenous life on Mars, but also for understanding the potential for contamination. As well as gaining an insight into the habitability of an environment, it is also essential to understand how to identify such environments using the instruments available to missions to Mars. It is important to be aware of instrument limitations to ensure that evidence of a particular environment is not overlooked. This work focuses upon studying the bacterial and archaeal diversity of Lake Magadi, a hypersaline and alkaline soda lake, and its associated hydrothermal springs. Culture dependent and culture independent analytical methods have been used and have led to the identification of potentially novel isolates. In addition, the effects of simulated Martian conditions such as desiccation and UVC radiation upon single strains isolated from this environment, and the effects upon a complex soil community have been assessed. Results have also provided an indication of what issues may arise with identifying minerals associated with these environments using the equipment such as the ExoMars PanCam. It is hoped that this work has contributed to our understanding of the possible habitability of Mars.

Type:Thesis (Doctoral)
Title:An astrobiological study of an alkaline-saline hydrothermal environment, relevant to understanding the habitability of Mars
Open access status:An open access version is available from UCL Discovery
Language:English
Additional information:Copyright restricted material has been removed from the e-thesis
Keywords:Astrobiology, alkaline environments
UCL classification:UCL > School of BEAMS > Faculty of Maths and Physical Sciences > Earth Sciences

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