Are there Martians in Australia? How Acid Saline Lakes Can Serve as a Mars Analog
Humans have wondered about life on Mars since telescopes were first used to view the Martian surface.
Now, with confirmation of the previous presence of water on Mars, this question can be seriously considered. Acidic saline lakes of Australia can serve as possible analogs, with their strikingly similar sedimentary minerals.
Environmental microbiologist Melanie Mormile will discuss research in which lakewater and groundwater were collected from a number of southwestern Australian saline lakes and used for either enrichment cultures or extraction of DNA for subsequent molecular analysis and sequencing.
Diverse microbial populations were discovered in all lakes sampled, including the acidic saline ones. The microbial communities described from these extreme sites in Australia can provide insight into what life could possibly have been like while Mars possessed water on its surface.
Mormile is a professor of biological sciences and the Associate Provost for Faculty Affairs at Missouri University of Science and Technology. Her area of expertise is the study of halophilic bacteria from saline environments that span very acidic (southwest Australian lakes) to alkaline (Soap Lake, Washington) conditions.
Mormile has mentored numerous undergraduate and graduate students in her lab and enjoys watching them go on to “bigger and better things.” She has also developed a reputation for providing thoughtful support and guidance for faculty at Missouri S&T.
Faculty and practitioners discuss their current research and field projects in the Science and Mathematics Colloquium Series, held throughout the academic year at ASU’s Polytechnic campus. All seminars are free and open to the public.