Matching Items (8)

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Modelling Geochemical and Geobiological Consequences of Low-Temperature Continental Serpentinization

Description

The hydrous alteration of ultramafic rocks, known as serpentinization, produces some of the most reduced (H2 >1 mmolal) and alkaline (pH >11) fluids on Earth. Serpentinization can proceed even at

The hydrous alteration of ultramafic rocks, known as serpentinization, produces some of the most reduced (H2 >1 mmolal) and alkaline (pH >11) fluids on Earth. Serpentinization can proceed even at the low-temperature conditions (<50°C) characteristic of most of Earth’s continental aquifers, raising questions on the limits of life deep in the subsurface and the magnitude in the flux of reduced volatiles to the surface. In this work, I explored the compositions and consequences of fluids and volatiles found in three low-temperature serpentinizing environments: (1) active hyperalkaline springs in ophiolites, (2) modern shallow and deep peridotite aquifers, and (3) komatiitic aquifers during the Archean.

Around 140 fluids were sampled from the Oman ophiolite and analyzed for their compositions. Fluid compositions can be accounted for by thermodynamic simulations of reactions accompanying incipient to advanced stages of serpentinization, as well as by simulations of mass transport processes such as fluid mixing and mineral leaching. Thermodynamic calculations were also used to predict compositions of end-member fluids representative of the shallow and deep peridotite aquifers that were ultimately used to quantify energy available to various subsurface chemolithotrophs. Calculations showed that sufficient energy and power supply can be available to support deep-seated methanogens. An additional and a more diverse energy supply can be available when surfacing deep-seated fluids mix with shallow groundwater in discharge zones of the subsurface fluid pathway. Finally, the consequence of the evolving continental composition during the Archean for the global supply of H2 generated through komatiite serpentinization was quantified. Results show that the flux of serpentinization-generated H2 could have been a significant sink for O2 during most of the Archean. This O2 sink diminished greatly towards the end of the Archean as komatiites became less common and helped set the stage for the Great Oxidation Event. Overall, this study provides a framework for exploring the origins of fluid and volatile compositions, including their redox state, that can result from various low-temperature serpentinizing environments in the present and past Earth and in other rocky bodies in the solar system.

Contributors

Agent

Created

Date Created
  • 2020

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Hydrothermal habitats: measurements of bulk microbial elemental composition, and models of hydrothermal influences on the evolution of dwarf planets

Description

Finding habitable worlds is a key driver of solar system exploration. Many solar

system missions seek environments providing liquid water, energy, and nutrients, the three ingredients necessary to sustain life.

Such environments

Finding habitable worlds is a key driver of solar system exploration. Many solar

system missions seek environments providing liquid water, energy, and nutrients, the three ingredients necessary to sustain life.

Such environments include hydrothermal systems, spatially-confined systems where hot aqueous fluid circulates through rock by convection. I sought to characterize hydrothermal microbial communities, collected in hot spring sediments and mats at Yellowstone National Park, USA, by measuring their bulk elemental composition. To do so, one must minimize the contribution of non-biological material to the samples analyzed. I demonstrate that this can be achieved using a separation method that takes advantage of the density contrast between cells and sediment and preserves cellular elemental contents. Using this method, I show that in spite of the tremendous physical, chemical, and taxonomic diversity of Yellowstone hot springs, the composition of microorganisms there is surprisingly ordinary. This suggests the existence of a stoichiometric envelope common to all life as we know it. Thus, future planetary investigations could use elemental fingerprints to assess the astrobiological potential of hydrothermal settings beyond Earth.

Indeed, hydrothermal activity may be widespread in the solar system. Most solar system worlds larger than 200 km in radius are dwarf planets, likely composed of an icy, cometary mantle surrounding a rocky, chondritic core. I enhance a dwarf planet evolution code, including the effects of core fracturing and hydrothermal circulation, to demonstrate that dwarf planets likely have undergone extensive water-rock interaction. This supports observations of aqueous products on their surfaces. I simulate the alteration of chondritic rock by pure water or cometary fluid to show that aqueous alteration feeds back on geophysical evolution: it modifies the fluid antifreeze content, affecting its persistence over geological timescales; and the distribution of radionuclides, whose decay is a chief heat source on dwarf planets. Interaction products can be observed if transported to the surface. I simulate numerically how cryovolcanic transport is enabled by primordial and hydrothermal volatile exsolution. Cryovolcanism seems plausible on dwarf planets in light of images recently returned by spacecrafts. Thus, these coupled geophysical-geochemical models provide a comprehensive picture of dwarf planet evolution, processes, and habitability.

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Agent

Created

Date Created
  • 2015

Photosynthetic Agents of Carbonate Bioerosion in Endolithic Microbiomes

Description

Cyanobacteria and algae living inside carbonate rocks (endoliths) have long been considered major contributors to bioerosion. Some bore into carbonates actively (euendoliths); others simply inhabit pre-existing pore spaces (cryptoendoliths). While

Cyanobacteria and algae living inside carbonate rocks (endoliths) have long been considered major contributors to bioerosion. Some bore into carbonates actively (euendoliths); others simply inhabit pre-existing pore spaces (cryptoendoliths). While naturalistic descriptions based on morphological identification have traditionally driven the field, modern microbial ecology has shown that this approach is insufficient to assess microbial diversity or make functional inferences. I examined endolithic microbiomes using 16S rRNA genes and lipid-soluble photosynthetic pigments as biomarkers, with the goal of reassessing endolith diversity by contrasting traditional and molecular approaches. This led to the unexpected finding that in all 41 littoral carbonate microbiomes investigated around Isla de Mona (Puerto Rico) and Menorca (Spain) populations of anoxygenic phototrophic bacteria (APBs) in the phyla Chloroflexi and Proteobacteria, were abundant, even sometimes dominant over cyanobacteria. This was not only novel, but it suggested that APBs may have been previously misidentified as morphologically similar cyanobacteria, and opened questions about their potential role as euendoliths. To test the euendolithic role of photosynthetic microbes, I set a time-course experiment exposing virgin non-porous carbonate substrate in situ, under the hypothesis that only euendoliths would be able to initially colonize it. This revealed that endolithic microbiomes, similar in biomass to those of mature natural communities, developed within nine months of exposure. And yet, APB populations were still marginal after this period, suggesting that they are secondary colonizers and not euendolithic. However, elucidating colonization dynamics to a sufficiently accurate level of molecular identification among cyanobacteria required the development of a curated cyanobacterial 16S rRNA gene reference database and web tool, Cydrasil. I could then detect that the pioneer euendoliths were in a novel cyanobacterial clade (named UBC), immediately followed by cyanobacteria assignable to known euendoliths. However, as bioerosion proceeded, a diverse set of likely cryptoendolithic cyanobacteria colonized the resulting pore spaces, displacing euendoliths. Endolithic colonization dynamics are thus swift but complex, and involve functionally diverse agents, only some of which are euendoliths. My work contributes a phylogenetically sound, functionally more defined understanding of the carbonate endolithic microbiome, and more specifically, Cydrasil provides a user-friendly framework to routinely move beyond morphology-based cyanobacterial systematics.

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Created

Date Created
  • 2020

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Changes in Microbial Communities and Geochemical Energy Supplies Across the Photosynthetic Fringe of Hot Spring Outflows in Yellowstone National Park

Description

Utilizing both 16S and 18S rRNA sequencing alongside energetic calculations from geochemical measurements offers a bridged perspective of prokaryotic and eukaryotic community diversities and their relationships to geochemical diversity. Yellowstone

Utilizing both 16S and 18S rRNA sequencing alongside energetic calculations from geochemical measurements offers a bridged perspective of prokaryotic and eukaryotic community diversities and their relationships to geochemical diversity. Yellowstone National Park hot spring outflows from varied geochemical compositions, ranging in pH from < 2 to > 9 and in temperature from < 30°C to > 90°C, were sampled across the photosynthetic fringe, a transition in these outflows from exclusively chemosynthetic microbial communities to those that include photosynthesis. Illumina sequencing was performed to document the diversity of both prokaryotes and eukaryotes above, at, and below the photosynthetic fringe of twelve hot spring systems. Additionally, field measurements of dissolved oxygen, ferrous iron, and total sulfide were combined with laboratory analyses of sulfate, nitrate, total ammonium, dissolved inorganic carbon, dissolved methane, dissolved hydrogen, and dissolved carbon monoxide were used to calculate the available energy from 58 potential metabolisms. Results were ranked to identify those that yield the most energy according to the geochemical conditions of each system. Of the 46 samples taken across twelve systems, all showed the greatest energy yields using oxygen as the main electron acceptor, followed by nitrate. On the other hand, ammonium or ammonia, depending on pH, showed the greatest energy yields as an electron donor, followed by H2S or HS-. While some sequenced taxa reflect potential biotic participants in the sulfur cycle of these hot spring systems, many sample locations that yield the most energy from ammonium/ammonia oxidation have low relative abundances of known ammonium/ammonia oxidizers, indicating potentially untapped sources of chemotrophic energy or perhaps poorly understood metabolic capabilities of cultured chemotrophs.

Contributors

Agent

Created

Date Created
  • 2018

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Element use and acquisition strategies in biological soil crusts

Description

Biological soil crusts (BSCs) are critical components of arid and semiarid environments and provide the primary sources of bioavailable macronutrients and increase micronutrient availability to their surrounding ecosystems. BSCs are

Biological soil crusts (BSCs) are critical components of arid and semiarid environments and provide the primary sources of bioavailable macronutrients and increase micronutrient availability to their surrounding ecosystems. BSCs are composed of a variety of microorganisms that perform a wide range of physiological processes requiring a multitude of bioessential micronutrients, such as iron, copper, and molybdenum. This work investigated the effects of BSC activity on soil solution concentrations of bioessential elements and examined the microbial production of organic chelators, called siderophores. I found that aluminum, vanadium, copper, zinc, and molybdenum were solubilized in the action of crusts, while nickel, zinc, arsenic, and zirconium were immobilized by crust activity. Potassium and manganese displayed behavior consistent with biological removal and mobilization, whereas phosphorus and iron solubility were dominated by abiotic processes. The addition of bioavailable nitrogen altered the effects of BSCs on soil element mobilization. In addition, I found that the biogeochemical activites of BSCs were limited by molybdenum, a fact that likely contributes to co-limitation by nitrogen. I confirmed the presence of siderophore producing microbes in BSCs. Siderophores are low-molecular weight organic compounds that are released by bacteria to increase element solubility and facilitate element uptake; siderophore production is likely the mechanism by which BSCs affect the patterns I observed in soil solution element concentrations. Siderophore producers were distributed across a range of bacterial groups and ecological niches within crusts, suggesting that siderophore production influences the availability of a variety of elements for use in many physiological processes. Four putative siderophore compounds were identified using electrospray ionization mass spectrometry; further attempts to characterize the compounds confirmed two true siderophores. Taken together, the results of my work provide information about micronutrient cycling within crusts that can be applied to BSC conservation and management. Fertilization with certain elements, particularly molybdenum, may prove to be a useful technique to promote BSC growth and development which would help prevent arid land degradation. Furthermore, understanding the effects of BSCs on soil element mobility could be used to develop useful biomarkers for the study of the existence and distribution of crust-like communities on ancient Earth, and perhaps other places, like Mars.

Contributors

Agent

Created

Date Created
  • 2012

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Informing Mars sample selection strategies: identifying fossil biosignatures and assessing their preservation potential

Description

The search for life on Mars is a major NASA priority. A Mars Sample Return

(MSR) mission, Mars 2020, will be NASA's next step towards this goal, carrying an instrument suite

The search for life on Mars is a major NASA priority. A Mars Sample Return

(MSR) mission, Mars 2020, will be NASA's next step towards this goal, carrying an instrument suite that can identify samples containing potential biosignatures. Those samples will be later returned to Earth for detailed analysis. This dissertation is intended to inform strategies for fossil biosignature detection in Mars analog samples targeted for their high biosignature preservation potential (BPP) using in situ rover-based instruments. In chapter 2, I assessed the diagenesis and BPP of one relevant analog habitable Martian environment: a playa evaporite sequence within the Verde Formation, Arizona. Coupling outcrop-scale observations with laboratory analyses, results revealed four diagenetic pathways, each with distinct impacts on BPP. When MSR occurs, the sample mass returned will be restricted, highlighting the importance of developing instruments that can select the most promising samples for MSR. Raman spectroscopy is one favored technique for this purpose. Three Raman instruments will be sent onboard two upcoming Mars rover missions for the first time. In chapters 3-4, I investigated the challenges of Raman to identify samples for MSR. I examined two Raman systems, each optimized in a different way to mitigate a major problem commonly suffered by Raman instruments: background fluorescence. In Chapter 3, I focused on visible laser excitation wavelength (532 nm) gated (or time-resolved Raman, TRR) spectroscopy. Results showed occasional improvement over conventional Raman for mitigating fluorescence in samples. It was hypothesized that results were wavelength-dependent and that greater fluorescence reduction was possible with UV laser excitation. In Chapter 4, I tested this hypothesis with a time-resolved UV (266 nm) gated Raman and UV fluorescence spectroscopy capability. I acquired Raman and fluorescence data sets on samples and showed that the UV system enabled identifications of minerals and biosignatures in samples with high confidence. The results obtained in this dissertation may inform approaches for MSR by: (1) refining models for biosignature preservation in habitable Mars environments; (2) improving sample selection and caching strategies, which may increase the success of Earth-based biogenicity studies; and (3) informing the development of Raman instruments for upcoming rover-based missions.

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Agent

Created

Date Created
  • 2016

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Uranium Isotope Variations Across Key Evolutionary Intervals in Geological History

Description

There is a growing body of evidence that the evolving redox structure of the oceans has been an important influence on the evolutionary trajectory of animals. However, current understanding of

There is a growing body of evidence that the evolving redox structure of the oceans has been an important influence on the evolutionary trajectory of animals. However, current understanding of connections between marine redox conditions and marine extinctions and recoveries is hampered by limited detailed knowledge of the timing, duration, and extent of marine redox changes.

The recent development of U isotopes (δ238U) in carbonates as a global ocean redox proxy has provided new insight into this problem. Reliable application and interpretation of the δ238U paleoproxy in geological records requires a thorough understanding of the reliability of δ238U recorded by bulk carbonate sediments. In this dissertation, I evaluate the robustness of δ238U paleoproxy by examining δ238U variations in marine carbonates across Permian-Triassic boundary (PTB) sections from different paleogeographic locations. Close agreement of δ238U profiles from coeval carbonate sections thousands of kilometers apart, in different ocean basins, and with different diagenetic histories, strongly suggests that bulk carbonate sediments can reliably preserve primary marine δ238U signals, validating the carbonate U-isotope proxy for global-ocean redox analysis.

To improve understanding of the role of marine redox in shaping the evolutionary trajectory of animals, high-resolution δ238U records were generated across several key evolutionary periods, including the Ediacaran-to-Early Cambrian Explosion of complex life (635-541 Ma) and the delayed Early Triassic Earth system recovery from the PTB extinction (252-246 Ma). Based on U isotope variations in the Ediacaran-to-the Early Cambrian ocean, the initial diversification of the Ediacara biota immediately postdates an episode of pervasive ocean oxygenation across the Shuram event. The subsequent decline and extinction of the Ediacara biota is coincident with an episode of extensive anoxic conditions during the latest Ediacaran Period. These findings suggest that global marine redox changes drove the rise and fall of the Ediacara biota. Based on U isotope variations, the Early Triassic ocean was characterized by multiple episodes of extensive marine anoxia. By comparing the high-resolution δ238U record with the sub-stage ammonoid extinction rate curve, it appears that multiple oscillations in marine anoxia modulated the recovery of marine ecosystems following the latest Permian mass extinction.

Contributors

Agent

Created

Date Created
  • 2018

How cyanobacteria bore

Description

Some cyanobacteria, referred to as boring or euendolithic, are capable of excavating tunnels into calcareous substrates, both mineral and biogenic. The erosive activity of these cyanobacteria results in the destruction

Some cyanobacteria, referred to as boring or euendolithic, are capable of excavating tunnels into calcareous substrates, both mineral and biogenic. The erosive activity of these cyanobacteria results in the destruction of coastal limestones and dead corals, the reworking of carbonate sands, and the cementation of microbialites. They thus link the biological and mineral parts of the global carbon cycle directly. They are also relevant for marine aquaculture as pests of mollusk populations. In spite of their importance, the mechanism by which these cyanobacteria bore remains unknown. In fact, boring by phototrophs is geochemically paradoxical, in that they should promote precipitation of carbonates, not dissolution. To approach this paradox experimentally, I developed an empirical model based on a newly isolated euendolith, which I characterized physiologically, ultrastructurally and phylogenetically (Mastigocoleus testarum BC008); it bores on pure calcite in the laboratory under controlled conditions. Mechanistic hypotheses suggesting the aid of accompanying heterotrophic bacteria, or the spatial/temporal separation of photosynthesis and boring could be readily rejected. Real-time Ca2+ mapping by laser scanning confocal microscopy of boring BC008 cells showed that boring resulted in undersaturation at the boring front and supersaturation in and around boreholes. This is consistent with a process of uptake of Ca2+ from the boring front, trans-cellular mobilization, and extrusion at the distal end of the filaments (borehole entrance). Ca2+ disequilibrium could be inhibited by ceasing illumination, preventing ATP generation, and, more specifically, by blocking P-type Ca2+ ATPase transporters. This demonstrates that BC008 bores by promoting calcite dissolution locally at the boring front through Ca2+ uptake, an unprecedented capacity among living organisms. Parallel studies using mixed microbial assemblages of euendoliths boring into Caribbean, Mediterranean, North and South Pacific marine carbonates, demonstrate that the mechanism operating in BC008 is widespread, but perhaps not universal.

Contributors

Agent

Created

Date Created
  • 2010