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2006 Annual Science Report

University of California, Berkeley Reporting  |  JUL 2005 – JUN 2006

Executive Summary

The objective of the UC Berkeley-led BioMARS team is to integrate information about aspects of the coupled hydrologic, geomorphic and tectonic evolution of Mars and its mineralogic and geochemical composition with geomicrobiological data from Earth analog ecosystems to support the scientific framework for the search for evidence of past or current life on Mars.

The thermal history of a planet’s interior affects the hydrosphere and the release of volatile elements to the atmosphere. We are developing numerical models for hydrothermal circulation near magma intrusions in order to determine the volume and rate at which liquid water can be released at volcanic centers. Previous studies of the Martian interior have highlighted the difficulty in maintaining plumes throughout the history of the planet and predict a very brief existence of a magnetic field. We have created a series of models to explain the history of crustal thickness ... Continue reading.

Field Sites
17 Institutions
10 Project Reports
0 Publications
0 Field Sites

Project Reports

  • Earthbound Microbial and Geological Robotic Based Observations for Mars

    After experimenting with robot modules (developed in the previous reporting period), the University of Pennsylvania team has developed new modules better suited to the terrain microbiologists and geologists traversed at the Box Canyon Idaho 2004 field trip. Primarily this involves adding rotational leg modules which allow the traversal of larger obstacles while still allowing access to cluttered environments such as between rocks or weeds

    ROADMAP OBJECTIVES: 2.1 2.2 5.1 5.3
  • Adaptation to Salinity in Microbial Communities

    Lake Tyrrell, Australia, has been identified as a site with considerable potential as a Mars analog (Benison and Laclair, Astrobiology, 2003). This periodically dry, pink, hypersaline lake (Figure 1) is located in northwestern Victoria, Australia

    ROADMAP OBJECTIVES: 2.1 4.1 5.1 5.2 5.3 6.1
  • Climate, Habitability, and the Atmosphere on Early Mars
    ROADMAP OBJECTIVES: 1.1 1.2 2.1 4.1 7.1
  • Early Oceans on Mars

    The idea that standing bodies of water might once have existed on Mars’ surface is supported by several lines of evidence, including geologic and topographic features near the margins of the northern lowlands that have been interpreted as shorelines formed by ancient oceans

    ROADMAP OBJECTIVES: 1.1 4.1 7.1 7.2
  • Evolution of the Interior and Its Consequences for Water on Mars

    This large-scale volcanism early in martian history is estimated to have released enough water to produce a 120-m-thick global layer and enough CO2 to produce a 1.5 bar atmosphere (Phillips et al., 2001). The release of volatiles would have had a major effect on climate and habitability. (Objective 1.1 in the Roadmap)

  • Isotopic Fingerprints of Past Life and Surface Conditions on Mars

    We have advanced the research on five fronts. (1) Our work in collaboration with the Dietrich group reached fruition as high-quality He-3 exposure ages were determined for the Box Canyon basalts of south central Idaho.

    ROADMAP OBJECTIVES: 1.1 2.1 7.1
  • Iron and Sulfur-Based Biospheres and Their Biosignatures

    A core focus for the research within the BioMars project has centered on the topic of microbial communities sustained by iron and sulfur cycling, as these elements are abundant at the Mars surface and exist in multiple redox states, as would be required if they play a metabolic role. Our team has investigated a number of potential Earth analog systems, with a view to understanding their geochemistry, microbiology, and potential biosignatures.

    ROADMAP OBJECTIVES: 4.1 7.1 7.2
  • Interaction Between the Atmosphere and Water on Mars
  • The History of Evolution of Surface Water on Mars

    Our original premise was that the channels on Mars identified as formed by seepage would be excellent sites to explore for signs of life because of the combined effects of sustained water (to cause erosion) and the subsurface nature of the flow (away from harmful UV radiation).

  • Relationship Between Hydrogeology and Microbiology at Active Springs

    We are currently investigating a sulfur spring system in a zone of high deformation in the central coast range of California. This system presents opportunities to study multiple, sustained groundwater discharge sites with environmental gradients affecting extant microbial communities.

    ROADMAP OBJECTIVES: 1.1 2.1 4.2 5.2 7.1