Start date:
October 2010
End date:
November 2010
Lake Joyce
Principle Investigator:
Dr. Dale Andersen
SETI Institute, Center for the Study of Life in the Universe, Lake Placid, New York
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 20-meter depth contour of the lake. Researchers' 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 microorganisms that were abundant between 2.5 and three 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 locations and sample the benthic mats and sediments, and take light
measurements under the ice. In addition, they will collect extensive in situ (by SCUBA diving) 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, lowsedimentation environments with low grazing pressure. They will also provide new insights into interpreting microbial community processes from ancient microbialites.