24 Feb 2022

The Project by ITU Scientists will Shed Light on the Trace of Life on Mars

The project carried out by the Ministry of Environment, Urbanization and Climate Change and scientists from Istanbul Technical University (ITU) to determine the microbial ecology of Lake Salda will trace life on Mars.

News: İTÜ Media and Communication Office

Last year, after NASA’s post about the similarity of Lake Salda to the Jezero crater on Mars, research projects on the similarity of the lake to Mars were started in June last year. The "Research and Development Project for Determining the Microbial Ecology of Lake Salda with Advanced Molecular Methods (Metabarcoding) and Mapping its Geomicrobiological Characteristics", initiated by the cooperation between the General Directorate for Protection of Natural Assets and ITU Faculty of Mines Department of Geological Engineering and Faculty of Civil Engineering Department of Environmental Engineering, has been completed.

Studies on geomicrobiology, geochemistry, stromatolite formation in Lake Salda and the determination of the biotrace potential that will carry the traces of life on Mars were completed under the supervision of ITU Faculty of Mines Geological Engineering Department Head of Geomicrobiology Prof. Dr. Nurgül Balcı whereas studies on the determination of its Microbial Ecology with Advanced Molecular Methods were completed under the supervision of the Head of ITU-BOUN Microbial Ecology Group Prof. Dr. Orhan İnce.

With the project completed by ITU academics, data that will allow the detailing and patenting of Lake Salda species with advanced molecular methods for the first time were produced.

Salda's microbialite susceptibility was mapped

The project, which is the continuation of the joint work carried out in 2019 on Lake Salda by ITU Department of Geological Engineering Faculty Member Prof. Dr. Nurgül Balcı with NASA scientists, aims to investigate the similarity of Salda with the rocks on Mars and to find out new species. In particular, DNA-based analyzes were performed and very important DNA gene sequences were obtained. When the spacecraft Perseverance sent by NASA to Mars returns, it is planned to match the samples from NASA and the results from Lake Salda.

Academics from ITU took part in the DNA-based sampling studies carried out at the bottom of Lake Salda, together with the diving teams of the Ministry. In these studies, important findings were obtained about the sensitive areas of the lake where microbialites are formed, the factors affecting this process, and what protection measures should be taken. With this study, which seeks to answer the question “Is there life on Mars?” which the whole world wonders, it is expected that an important data bank will be obtained on the traces of life on Mars due to Salda's similarity with Mars. In addition, in the light of the data obtained from the lake, it is aimed to compare the results of the samples obtained by ITU academics with the analysis and explanation of the samples from Mars by NASA.

Moreover, with this project, it was confirmed that Lake Salda, which has a very rich microbiological structure and where microorganisms that contain very important microbial clues live, must be absolutely protected.


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