2010 Annual Science Report
VPL at University of Washington Reporting | SEP 2009 – AUG 2010
Stromatolites in the Desert: Analogs to Other Worlds
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.
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.
Cerritos, R., Eguiarte, L. E., Avitia, M., Siefert, J., Travisano, M., Rodríguez-Verdugo, A., & Souza, V. (2010). Diversity of culturable thermo-resistant aquatic bacteria along an environmental gradient in Cuatro Ciénegas, Coahuila, México. Antonie van Leeuwenhoek, 99(2), 303–318. doi:10.1007/s10482-010-9490-9
- Seifert, J. & Souza, V. (2010). Symposium and press conference in Saltillo, Mexico on September 22, 2010, with Valeria Souza to discuss the research and preservation work of Cuatro Cienegas.
- Souza, V., Breitbart, M., Hollander, D., Elser, J., Meadows, V. & Siefert, J. (2010). Cuatro Ciénegas, a Desert Oasis with Active Stromatolites: An Astrobiological Project.
PROJECT INVESTIGATORS:Janet Siefert
PROJECT MEMBERS:Eric Boyd
RELATED OBJECTIVES:Objective 4.1
Earth's early biosphere.
Production of complex life.
Co-evolution of microbial communities
Biochemical adaptation to extreme environments
Effects of environmental changes on microbial ecosystems
Adaptation and evolution of life beyond Earth