The Search For Volatile Biogenic Emissions In Geothermal Areas
A primary discipline of astrobiology is the search for life outside of the earths ecosystem. Detecting biosignatures in outer space is one way this search is conducted. To understand the biosignatures to look for and study in space, it is useful to gain a better understanding of life in diverse environments on earth. This research tested the hypothesis that chemicals characteristic of microbial life can be detected and quantified in air above hot springs with Fourier transform infrared spectroscopy (FTIR). The stated hypothesis was refuted, as no chemicals of uniquely biological origin were detected with FTIR. A discussion of why no uniquely biological chemicals were detected with FTIR is presented. An analysis of chemicals seen in the infrared spectra, such as CO2, is given in the context of their possible biological origin. The results of the CO2 analysis indicate that the naturally occurring biomats are more complex than laboratory cultures and that the observable results of the behaviors of the two groups cannot be directly related. Lastly, other data collected (water chemistry and weather data for the springs) and the results of water analysis (ion chromatography and total organic carbon) are summarized. Acetate, propionate, and formate were present in some springs at low levels, indicating chemically the presence of microbial activity.
Advisor:Dr. Christopher Palmer; Dr. Jesse V. Johnson; Dr. Garon C. Smith
School:The University of Montana
School Location:USA - Montana
Source Type:Master's Thesis
Date of Publication:02/06/2007