History of the Pavilion Lake Research Project

Pavilion Lake Discovered

The presence of strange structures in Pavilion Lake had been known for years by the British Columbia diving community and the local Pavilion residents. However, it was during the mid-1990s that the scientific discovery of Pavilion Lake's unusual microbialites occurred. It was immediately apparent that these microbialites and the lake itself was a scientific gold mine and that many comparisons could be drawn between the lake's microbialites and those that existed on Earth millions of years ago. Drs. Bernard Laval (University of British Columbia), Chris McKay (NASA ARC) and others published their findings in the journal Nature in 2000.

Pavilion Lake Research Project Forms

In early 2004, Dr. Darlene Lim joined NASA Ames Research Center (ARC) as a National Research Council (NRC) post-doctoral fellow, and began to take a closer scientific look at the lake's limnology, and the geochemistry of the microbialites. After her first successful field season at Pavilion Lake in 2004, she established the Pavilion Lake Research Project (PLRP) in partnership with Dr. Laval, in order to address the growing interest from her research colleagues in further exploring this fascinating lake. In 2005, PLRP acquired support from the Canadian Space Agency's (CSA) Canadian Analog Research Network (CARN) program, which has allowed the research program to flourish and evolve. The project also successfully acquired a National Geographic Research and Exploration Grant in 2005, and NASA continues to provide logistics, and education and public outreach (E/PO) support to the PLRP mission.

Donnie Reid (Vancouver Aquarium) joined PLRP in 2004 and established a formal science diver program at Pavilion Lake under the Canadian Association of Underwater Scientists. He continues to act as the project's Dive Safety Officer (DSO), and became Program Manager in 2008. Dr. Greg Slater (McMaster University) joined PLRP in 2005 as a Deputy Principal Investigator of the project, and has helped to grow the scope and depth of geochemical investigations for the lake and the microbialites. Since 2004, the project has grown to include over 120 research and support personnel, and has always maintained a strong graduate student research component.

Expansion and Growth for PLRP

The 2008 summer field season for PLRP was an exciting venture, as the project piloted a research effort in partnership with Nuytco Research to use one-person DeepWorker submersibles to explore and map Pavilion Lake, and to sample its deepest depths (65 m). After this highly successful field season, the PLRP rapidly expanded its exploration research activities with the funding support of the NASA MMAMA and NASA ESMD Analog program. In 2010, PLRP team members were also awarded a CSA Analog Missions program contract in support of the growing DeepWorker Science and Exploration (DSE) program.

The summer of 2011 featured an expanded DeepWorker science program, and in particular, feature a move for the team to a new site - Kelly Lake. This lake is considered by many to be a sister lake to Pavilion Lake as it also supports a vast collection of freshwater microbialites that were discovered by the PLRP in 2004. While the team's Kelly Lake DSE science goals were similar to those for Pavilion Lake, several new science operations tools, technologies and methodologies were implemented in 2011 to create a safe, and highly productive science environment.

The team is now on its third phase of the PLRP program (PLRP-3). Our work involves joint human and robotic underwater activities, which serve to: 1) broaden our understanding of the driving factors behind microbialite morphogenesis in Pavilion Lake, and 2) provide a high-fidelity test-bed for the development of operational concepts and capabilities that will enable scientific productivity during future human planetary exploration.

Future of PLRP

Today, PLRP continues to produce peer-reviewed publications and present our findings at major international conferences. It is driving ahead with a comprehensive, multi-disciplinary research program investigating microbialite morphogenesis in the Pavilion Lake region.

The Pavilion Lake Research Project is focused on Safety, Environmental Stewardship, Advancement of Science and Advancement of Exploration. With these principles in mind, PLRP looks forward to exciting science and exploration in Pavilion Lake, and to making a substantial impact on how humans will conduct scientific exploration on the Moon, Near Earth Objects, Mars and beyond.

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