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2010 Annual Science Report

VPL at University of Washington Reporting  |  SEP 2009 – AUG 2010

Stromatolites in the Desert: Analogs to Other Worlds

Project Summary

In this task biologists go to field sites in Mexico to better understand the environmental effects on growth rates for freshwater stromatolites. Stromatolites are microbial mat communities that have the ability to calcify under certain conditions. They are believed to be an ancient form of life, that may have dominated the planet’s biosphere more than 2 billion years ago. Our work focuses on understanding these communities as a means of characterizing their metabolisms and gas outputs, for use in planetary models of ancient environments.

4 Institutions
3 Teams
3 Publications
1 Field Site
Field Sites

Project Progress

In September, Siefert and team were in the field at Cuatro Cienegas Mexico for two weeks conducting experiments. The experiments included simple mesocosms devised to 1) determine the rates of organism calcification and 2) to test recipes for artificial Cuatro Cienegas water for lab experiments. All the experiments were conducted on Rios Mesquites stromatolites. Additionally, stromatolites were collected and flown back to the States to be used in the Director’s Discretionary Fund grant research. They are in aquariums and being allowed to naturalize to the artificial water tested on site at Cuatro Cienegas. Plans for construction of more advanced mesocosms involving CO2 addition are underway and are based on Fangue et al.

    Janet Siefert Janet Siefert
    Project Investigator
    Eric Boyd

    Objective 4.1
    Earth's early biosphere.

    Objective 4.2
    Production of complex life.

    Objective 5.2
    Co-evolution of microbial communities

    Objective 5.3
    Biochemical adaptation to extreme environments

    Objective 6.1
    Effects of environmental changes on microbial ecosystems

    Objective 6.2
    Adaptation and evolution of life beyond Earth