Student: Erin Atchison, Undergraduate Student in Geology and Environmental Science, Iowa State University
Research Mentor: Dr. Elizabeth Swanner
Using East and West Okoboji Lake, I.A., as a Model System for Potential Biotic Processes in the Gales Crater on Mars
The existence of water on Mars has been a key point in proving that Mars could support life. The Gale Crater on Mars has been integral to this discussion as it has been discovered that a lake environment was once present in the crater. Organic carbon was found in mudstone, which made up parts of the crater’s walls. Sulfur was found in association with the organic carbon and is thought to have preserved the organic carbon.
As the evidence that Mars was once home to water and biological processes, it is increasingly important that we understand how the deposit on Gale Crater relates to biotic processes found on Earth. East and West Okoboji Lake, located in IA., were chosen as the research site. Hydrogen sulfide was detected in lake bottom pore waters, collected from monitoring sites (n=5) in the summer of 2017. Each of the cores were analyzed for five parameters: grain size, organic carbon, inorganic carbon, acid volatile sulfur, and total sulfur. With these parameters, a sulfur budget of the lakes will be constructed to help better understand the biotic processes that bury sulfur and carbon in sediments in order to determine if the deposits in the lakes are similar to the ones found on Mars.