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2005 Annual Science Report

NASA Ames Research Center Reporting  |  JUL 2004 – JUN 2005

Interplanetary Pioneers

4 Institutions
3 Teams
0 Publications
0 Field Sites
Field Sites

Project Progress

Year 7 focused on three activities.

  1. Field work to new sites in extreme environments. This consisted of field trips to the Bolivian Andes as part of the SETI NAI team led by Nathalie Cabrol of the SETI Institute. The idea was that at the altitudes where we sampled (near about 15,000 feet), the ozone column was substantially reduced, resulting in high levels of UV radiation flux. Additionally, many lagoons exist in the Altiplano with unusual chemistries. As we suspected, organisms new to science, and possibly highly radiation resistant, appear to grow there. The work on one of the lagoons, Laguna Colorado, was presented at the annual NAI meeting in Boulder. The second field site was a radioactive hotspring, Paralana Springs, in the Flinders Ranges in central Australia. Currently collaborator Anitori is working on getting samples into culture and identifying the organisms through DNA sequencing prior to testing for radiation resistance.
  2. Development of high-throughput assays to detect DNA damage. Previously our lab used an HPLC method that while accurate, required highly purified DNA and was expensive and slow. Through work conducted by Erin Lashnits, formerly an undergraduate and now a graduate student at Stanford, a quicker, high throughput method for detection of direct and indirect DNA damage is available in our lab.
  3. Survival of microbes in meteorites. Collaborator Consolmagno obtained breccia that functions as an analog of meteorites, and is determining crack dimensions in collaboration with the Natural History Museum, London. In our lab, Technician Rogoff has begun to test whether we can easily get microbes in and out of the breccia. This work is being conducted in preparation for tests of radiation resistance of the organisms once inside meteorites, and to have enough data to request actual meteorite samples.