Ian S. Foster

Date of Award


Degree Type


Degree Name

Master of Science


Gordon Southam


Based on geological evidence at Meridian! Planum, the loss of liquid water on Mars would have produced magnesium sulfate rich brines. The Basque Lakes of British Columbia, Canada, are an excellent terrestrial analogue for this site, as they possess highly concentrated brines fed by ground water springs, abundant sulfate salts, and are inhabited by halophilic organisms. All Basque Lake salt samples analyzed with a modified protein assay were found to contain biomass, while confocal/light microscopy revealed both cells and diffuse organic material within fluid inclusions, and in void spaces between intergrown crystals. It is here shown that reflectance IR is capable of detecting biosignatures within a sulfate matrix, the most sensitive of which are the 1550 ± 20 cm'1, C-N, N-H, -COOH absorptions and the 1040 ±10 cm'1C-OH, C-N, PO43' bond features. Due to its sensitivity and non-destructive nature reflectance IR can be regarded as a valuable tool for astrobiological exploration, especially when paired with visualization techniques such as confocal and light microscopy



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