Nevada NASA EPSCoR Highlight
Desert Brine Microorganisms and Abiotic Oxidants:
New Analog Research Capacity for Nevada
Science PI: Duane Moser (Desert Research Institute)
Co-I: Glenn Miller (University of Nevada, Reno)
NASA Collaborator: Kasthuri Venkateswaran (Jet Propulsion Laboratory)
Our goal is to evaluate rare natural brines for their potential utility as analogs to explore the physiological limits for life. This highlight focuses on recent field activities at Bristol Dry Lake near Amboy, California. Waters from this site contain among the highest calcium concentrations of any natural environment on Earth. Our assessment of this site will provide insights concerning the limits of habitability and guide NASA’s ongoing evaluation of the potential for life in the cosmos.
Infrastructure developed includes a new academic/industry relationship between the Nevada System of Higher Education and Standard Lithium Ltd. Further contributions include enhanced methods for life detection in terrestrial materials with properties likely to be encountered off the Earth. The work affects multiple disciplines by combining industrial concerns with biology, chemistry, and hydrology. The human resource impacts include the training of workers for space science (two graduate students [both first-generation college and one a disabled veteran], two undergraduates, and a female young investigator). Physical resources include the validation of methods for culturing of extremophilic microorganisms and application of environmental chemistry to Mars-analog samples.
Return on Investment (ROI) To Date
Students impacted, research experience and expertise: 4
New industry collaboration: 1
NASA Content and Resources Used:
This research was funded by a Nevada NASA EPSCoR Research Infrastructure Development Seed Grant sub-award # NNX15AK48A.
Brine channel at Bristol Dry Lake, CA
Project students sampling a deep well at Bristol Dry Lake: (left) Joshua Sackett and (right and below) Daniel Walsh.