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2012 Annual Science Report

University of Wisconsin Reporting  |  SEP 2011 – AUG 2012

EPO Activity: Project 10: NASA Planetary Geology and Geophysics Undergraduate Research Program and Caltech Summer Undergraduate Research Fellowship Students

Project Progress

Dr. Max Coleman hosted a Caltech summer undergraduate research fellowship student, Stephanie Tan, who worked on separating lipid fractions from fauna collected at the world’s deepest hydrothermal vent system in the Caribbean (5 km deep). This is being used as an analog for Europa, the icy moon of Jupiter, in order to estimate potential biomass that could be found at the bottom of the Europa Ocean. This site was chosen because of its depth and therefore minimal input from photosynthetically produced organic matter. We are estimating the likely contribution to biomass in the hydrothermal vent system, which is based on chemosynthetic bacterial primary producers. She also made a comparison also you with a relatively shallow hydrothermal system only 60 miles away at a depth of 2.3 km. She analyzed the lipid fraction using a gas chromatograph to quantify the proportions of those specific lipids that characterize either photosynthetic or chemo synthetic origins.