Iceland 2014 - Overview of field work

In 2014, I was very lucky to be a recipient of the Lewis and Clarke Fund for Exploration and Field Research in Astrobiology. The fund is awarded by the NASA Astrobiology Institute and the American Philosophical Society (more info here). My proposal involved sampling six hydrothermal sites (fancy words for 'hot springs') in Iceland, as well as exploring the Heimaey island in the South for the existence of possible hot springs. This blog describes the adventures at each site! But first I wanted to give a bit of background as to why this work was important and interesting.

Iceland is an island located in the mid-Atlantic where the oceanic spreading ridge can be studied at the surface. Additionally sustained by a mantle plume, Iceland is an ideal natural laboratory to study basaltic rocks (a type of volcanic rock) influenced by hydrothermal circulation. The heat of continental hydrothermal systems drives water circulation through the subsurface, enabling sampling of active processes at depth without drilling.

The geology of Iceland allows sampling of diverse hydrothermal waters hosted within dominantly tholeiitic basalts (reduced magmas with high magnesium and low sodium). Alkali basalts (oxidizes magmas rich in iron and high in alkalis) also exist in Iceland at the Westmann Islands and Snæfellsnes peninsula (which I went to, and will show pictures of in upcoming blog posts!).

With a well-developed road infrastructure (albeit many needing 4x4 and come with the occasional river crossings!), springs in Iceland are easily accessed by vehicle and a short to moderate hike, making Iceland ideally suited for efficient and cost-effective sampling of a broad range of basaltic spring and spring types. Six sites were sampled during this 14 day exploratory field research.

Because of the spreading ridge going right through the country, the geology of Iceland is spectacular!

But why did I want to sample the springs in the first place? The answer is Hydrogen.

The reaction of water with rock produces hydrogen (H2) via several processes that are widespread on Earth. Those processes are expected to occur on rocky planetary bodies where liquid water is present. Such reactions can represent a continuous supply of chemical energy for possible types of life that rely on the results of the chemical reaction between volcanic rocks and water for food.

Hydrogen-fueled microbes are of particular interest because they are both widespread and deeply rooted in the phylogenic tree of life, implying they may have emerged extremely early in the evolution of life on Earth, and possibly even at the origin of life. As a result, H2-fueled microbes are strong candidates for the potential of life beyond Earth.

The goal of this work is to assess the variation in continental H2 abundance in hydrothermal springs across basaltic host rocks, in order to assess their potential habitability. The first step to do so is understand what concentrations of H2 can be expected in such systems. This information can then be fed into the bioenergetic computer models that I have been working on to quantitatively assess H2-utilizing metabolic energy yields.

Basalt is the dominant rock type on Mars, and so this study can provide a “living analog” to ancient Mars when such hydrothermal systems existed, as shown by the relic presence of hydrothermal minerals detected on the martian surface (such as the detection of pure silica deposits).

Furthermore, this study would further complement existing datasets and research projects exploring mafic and ultramafic rocks in submarine hydrothermal vents (e.g. the “Lost City” hydrothermal fields) at one end of the spectrum, to hydrothermal systems in more felsic rocks in continental settings, such as found in Yellowstone National Park and Lassen National Park at the other end.

Iceland is easily accessed from the US! Myself and my fieldie, Katie, flew directly to Reykjavik from Seattle. Stay tuned!

Site 1: Seltun

Site 2: Deildartunguhver

Site 3: Landbrotalaug

Intermission - The drive to Geysir

Site 4: Geysir

Site 5: Hveravellir

Site 6: Hveragerdi

Views: 447

Comment

You need to be a member of SAGANet to add comments!

Join SAGANet


Expert
Comment by Sanjoy Som on August 13, 2014 at 3:08pm

That sounds fun Marni!

Comment by Marni Anbar on August 7, 2014 at 9:23am

Stuff like this would make a great "Cielo Scientist Card" profile for you!  If we can figure out a way (and I think we can) it would be cool to have you on a "Skype" with kids in the discovery room to talk about your trip.  

Photos

  • Add Photos
  • View All

Blog Posts

A consortium of representatives of European Research Organisations has taken the initiative to create a virtual institute named the “European Astrobiology Institute” (EAI) with the ambition of enabli…

Posted by Wolf D. Geppert on February 24, 2019 at 1:33am 0 Comments

A consortium of representatives of European Research Organisations has taken the initiative to create a virtual institute named the “European Astrobiology Institute” (EAI) with the ambition of enabling Europe to emerge as a key player in Astrobiology and to…

Continue

AbSciCon session on life in high salt habitats

Posted by Jeff Bowman on December 14, 2018 at 8:12am 0 Comments

Abstract submissions are open for AbSciCon 2019!  You can check out the full selection of sessions here, however, I'd like to draw your attention toward the session Salty Goodness: Understanding life, biosignature…

Continue

vemala Network

Posted by Apit Supriatna on October 7, 2018 at 1:07am 0 Comments

Vemala.com merupakan situs yang membahas seputar gaya hidup, dengan berbagai macam informasi kesehatan, olahraga, Fitness, review, kecantikan, relationship,Lifestile, Tips kehamilan,Fashion dan lain sebagainya.

Important Tips to Writing Good Dissertations

Posted by Anna Roberts on August 3, 2018 at 3:06am 0 Comments

Writing a research paper is a challenging task full of challenges. The process is involving, time-consuming and requires knowledge of several skills. The following tips are, however, essential to help students deliver maximally on their project.

 Consider working in a group: forming a dissertation group may be an important approach to work on a thesis. A research project is an involving and sometimes working on it alone may be discouraging and boring. This may lead to procrastination…

Continue

Videos

  • Add Videos
  • View All

Forum

Ask your questions here!

Started by Gina Riggio in SAGANet Discussions. Last reply by MOHIT Kakkar yesterday. 20 Replies

If you are trying to ask a question live during Ask an Astrobiologist, please do so in the main chatroom at the bottom of the screen! You can also ask on twitter…Continue

Spiritual connection

Started by MOHIT Kakkar in The Cutting-Edge of Astrobiology on Sunday. 0 Replies

Hi pls answer my spiritual questions.Continue

Conference "Impacts and their Role in the Evolution of Life", Tällberg, Siljan crater area, Sweden, 10-13 June 2019

Started by Wolf D. Geppert in Upcoming Conferences / Workshops Mar 12. 0 Replies

We would like to invite you to participate in the conference:Impacts and their Role in the Evolution of LifeTällberg, Siljan crater area, Sweden, 10-13 June 2019Topics covered by the conference will…Continue

Postdoctoral Research in Microbial Nitrogen Cycling at Ames

Started by Melissa Kirven-Brooks in Jobs / Post-docs / Other opportunities Nov 28, 2018. 0 Replies

The Bay Area Environmental Research (BAER) Institute is seeking a full-time postdoctoral researcher to perform measurements of nitrogen cycling in photosynthetic microbial mats at NASA’s Ames…Continue

Tags: cycling, nitrogen, doc, Post

© 2019   Blue Marble Space, a non-profit organization committed to science and science outreach.   Powered by

Badges  |  Report an Issue  |  Terms of Service