Start date:
Early October 2009
End date:
Late December 2009
Lake Vanda, Lake Joyce
Principle Investigator:
Dale Andersen
SETI Institute, Center for the Study of Life in the Universe
New York
G441: Lake Joyce Microbialites Resubmittal
This project, part of NASA's Exobiology Program, will support a robust, interdisciplinary scientific effort that will investigate the benthic microbial ecosystem in Lake Joyce, a perennially ice-covered lake in the McMurdo Dry Valleys. In 1997 while conducting exploratory dives in Lake Joyce, researchers discovered carbonate structures (microbialites) forming at the 20m depth contour of the lake. Researcher's main objective is to understand why those structures are forming so deep, and to determine the mechanism of their formation. The microbialites resemble communities of microorgansims that were abundant between 3 and 2.5 billion years ago. Researchers will compare modern communities with what is contained in the fossil record. They will measure basic limnetic properties of the lake, map the location of, and sample the benthic mats and sediments, take light mesurements under the ice. In addition, they will collect extensive in situ (using SCUBA) measurements of the primary production of these mats in Lake Joyce. The results will be extended to investigating the roles of microbial behaviors in shaping mat morphology in quiet-water, low sedimentation environments with low grazing pressure. They will also provide new insights into interpreting microbial community processes from ancient microbialites. Upon arrival at McMurdo Station, field team members will begin preparing for field work. They will attend safety trainings and make checkout dives in McMurdo Sound to ensure that divers, dive gear and science equipment are ready. All heavy/bulky items such as dive gear, hole melter, fuel etc. will be taken to Marble Poin, or other staging areas, on the other side of McMurdo Sound by traverse, then transported to the field site by helicopter. Field team members will be transported to the Dry Valley lakes Vanda and Joyce by helicopter and will establish a field camp. Once their field work is complete, they will be transported back to McMurdo by helicopter.