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Canadian Astrobiology Training Program (CATP)

Masters of Science candidates - To see a picture of the candidate place your cursor on their name

Name Institute Supervisor Research area
Raven Comery
Raven Comery
McGill Univeristy
Dr. Lyle Whyte and Dr. Barbara Sherwood Lollar
I will be examining the sulfur metabolizing capabilities of microorganisms living in cold saline springs of the Canadian High Arctic. Specifically, my research will focus on microbial communities present in Lost Hammer and Gypsum Hill springs, which are the only known cold saline springs in permafrost on Earth. These springs serve as potential Mars-analogue sites due to their saline, cold, anoxic characteristics. My project will involve identifying these microbes’ potential biosignatures through S isotope fractionation, as well as the identification and characterization of key players through isolation and pyrosequencing techniques. I will also be determining the in situ rates of sulfate reduction and sulfur oxidation at Lost Hammer and Gypsum Hill springs.
Melissa Karine Ward
McGill University
McGill Univeristy
Dr. Wayne Pollard
My research takes me to Axel Heiberg Island, Nunavut where I’m studying distinctive landforms resulting from the winter deposition of salt minerals at two groups of hyper-saline springs (Lost Hammer and Stolz Diapir springs). These deposits resemble tufas structurally but unlike true tufas which are composed of carbonate minerals, these landforms are formed mainly of salt. This study hypothesizes that the extreme cold winter air temperatures cools water temperatures triggering rapid precipitation of various salt minerals (mainly hydrohalite, NaCl*2H2O) which subsequently alters the flow hydrology by obstructing summer flow paths. The tufa-like appearance of these salt deposits reflects the interaction between changing water temperature, chemistry and flow. The goal of this research is to characterise processes driving tufa formation in a permafrost environment, a process that has not been described in geomorphic literature.