Martian Analogue Sites in the Canadian High Arctic for Exobiology Investigations
Sep 26, 2005
2:45PM to 3:45PM
Date(s) - 26/09/2005
2:45 pm - 3:45 pm
Title: Martian Analogue Sites in the Canadian High Arctic for Exobiology Investigations
Speaker: Dr. Dr. Lyle Whyte
Institute: Department of Natural Resource Sciences, McGill University. Canada Research Chair in Environmental Microbiology
The primary short to mid-term targets for exobiology investigations of other solar system bodies are Mars and Europa, respectively. As both targets are characterized by extremely cold temperatures, the best terrestrial analogues may be the polar regions. In this respect, the Canadian high Arctic offers a number of unique environments that resemble in some respects environments and conditions that are known or suspected to exist on Mars. This presentation will review several of our microbial investigations of these unique environments and their utility as extraterrestrial analogs.
The perennial springs on Axel Heiberg Island, Nunavut, are among the most poleward springs known. This low-temperature setting provides an example of hydrothermal systems that might have existed on Mars such as the gully-like features that occur primarily at high latitudes. Our results indicate the presence of novel bacterial strains (cold adapted, salt tolerant sulfur oxidizers), novel methanogenic Archaea 16S rRNA phylotypes, and in situ methanogenic activity within the spring sediments. The description of microbial ecosystems in permafrost and ground ice is poorly understood; ground ice is considered a primary Martian analogue site because of the recent evidence of massive amounts of shallow ground ice near Martian surfaces. As part of an on-going collaboration to develop an automated, lightweight, low-power drill capable of acquiring aseptic core samples from below the surface of Mars, we have developed methodologies to ensure non-contamination in pristine permafrost and ground ice drill core samples.