Crew 228 Science Report – October 2nd

Lindsay Rutter

Today, Lindsay prepared the ScienceDome to investigate reddish-brown regolith she collected from five locations along the slopes of the Jotunheim structure, an inverted river bed located approximately two kilometers North of the HAB at 38.41712 N, -110.78466 W (NAD27). The regolith were collected from the same geographical feature sampled by Maggiori et al. (2020), who confirmed the presences of microbes from all three kingdoms of life, including extremophiles that could potentially survive the harsh elements of the Martian environment, such as psychrophiles, halophiles, and UV-resistant microorganisms. In the ScienceDome, Lindsay is beginning to extract DNA using a Soil DNA Isolation Plus Kit (Product #64000, Norgen Biotek Corp) and will then prepare the DNA samples into libraries using the Field Sequencing Kit (SQK-LRK001, Oxford Nanopore Technology). She will then use the handheld DNA sequencer MinION to basecall and sequence the libraries and the MinKNOW software to perform metagenomics analyses on the reads from the MinION. Overall, this process will allow Lindsay to identify what organisms, if any, are present in the regolith samples. She aims to validate the findings of Maggiori et al. (2020), only now conducting the complete experimental process from regolith sample collection to metagenomics analysis while undergoing planetary exploration simulation at MDRS, all as a proof-of-concept that metagenomics studies can be completed in-situ in this remote environment.

Jin recorded geographical data at each sampling site of the Jotunheim structure, including GPS coordinates, elevation, and sampling time. Today, he integrated the metadata into his digital GIS map of the area, confirming that the five regolith samples were obtained from relatively evenly-spaced sampling sites along the periphery of the Jotunheim feature. Jin and Lindsay discussed several areas for improvement on how the study could better simulate human operations of life detection experiments on Mars.

Inga is continuing data collection for the last part of her dissertation on group dynamics in extreme environments. She is conducting participant observation and aims to contribute to the sociological studies of groups in space and space-like environments. Her pilot study is also being diligently completed by each crew every night.

References:

Maggiori, C., Stromberg, J., Blanco, Y., Goordial, J., Cloutis, E., Garcı, M., Parro, V., & Whyte, L. (2020). The Limits, Capabilities,
and Potential for Life Detection. Astrobiology, 20(3), 375–394. https://doi.org/10.1089/ast.2018.1964