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Happy Canada Day! This blog rocks!

Posted on July 1st, 2010 by Mary Beth Wilhelm

Hello from Pavilion Lake and happy Canada Day!! My name is Mary Beth and I am one of the more junior members of the PLRP team. I am half way through my undergrad at Cornell University in New York and am an intern at NASA Ames Research Center in California.

I just arrived back to land a half hour ago after being out on the lake for over 6 hours! And while it was a lot of fun to be outside, I had to pull out my jacket that I only use during the winter in New York. It has been a very busy day as the PLRP team conducts a full suite of submersible, autonomous underwater vehicle, and SCUBA dive operations.

I had two major jobs today. The first was keeping a log of all of the science notes that sub pilots called up to the surface while following the sub in a boat that is equipped with walkie-talkies capable of communicating with the pilot while he was underwater. Astronaut Mike Gernhardt was piloting one of the subs today, conducting an extended 5 hour dive around the south basin. It was exciting to listen to all of Mike’s observations and discoveries in real time!

My second job today was taking rock samples for my own summer research project. I am investigating the role of rocks in the formation and morphology of microbialites. We think that microorganisms may prefer to start forming microbialites on solid surface substrates, like rocks, and our team has observed many microbialites throughout the lake that have formed on top of both really big and small rocks. Pilot Margarita imaged rock slides of interests in the DeepWorker subs on Monday, and after reviewing the data with the science team, we decided to revisit a few of these slides with divers to collect rocks to study. So, today I had pro divers Mike D. and Gary take a few rock samples every 10 ft. from a rock slide in the central basin that went from about 80 feet below the surface all the way up to the shore.

After collecting these samples, I will analyze them in our outdoor wet lab, recording basic physical observations and measurements, and looking for trends in the data that will help us understand how factors like size of the rock and depth may affect microbialite growth. Hopefully my observations will help elucidate factors that control microbialite growth on rocks and even give us more clues to how microbialites are first formed.

-MB