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Mojave Desert microbiology research field trip

Research Achievements

Mojave Desert microbiology research field trip

March 21-26, 2010, twenty-one UW IGERT Astrobiology Program trainees, associates, and faculty took part in a research field trip to study the microbiology and geology of California's Mojave Desert and Death Valley. An important goal was to foster interdisciplinarity by having non-experts (e.g., astronomers and theorists) be exposed to how field research is carried out in these important areas of astrobiology. Many samples were acquired and follow-up analysis is now ongoing to investigate, for example, evidence of 1.7-billion-year-old fossil microbial structures, and to study the percentages of perchlorates and nitrates in the desert soils at different sites and depths, so as to compare with results in other Earth deserts and from Mars. Further, this activity generated considerable local interest (we were the subject of a local newspaper article in the Pahrump Valley Times), and a videographer recorded material to eventually use for educational purposes at the NASA Ames Research Center.