Analysis of Adenosine Triphosphate in Spatially Distributed Planetary Analog Field Samples to Inform Biosignature Detection Missions
Novak, Carlie Marie
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New discoveries of potentially habitable environments elsewhere in our solar system, and at the extremes here on Earth, have reopened the imagination to possibilities for extraterrestrial life. Planetary field analog research enables us to study the impact of similar extreme environmental stressors and the bioactivity of an ecosystem. This thesis research was designed to better understand biosignature detection in extreme environments by exploring distributions and patterns of biosignatures in harsh planetary environments. Adenosine triphosphate (ATP) was used as a proxy of bioactivity due to its ubiquitous role in terrestrial metabolism and can be quantified easily by a bioluminescence assay. Observing variations in concentrations of ATP can provide insight on where bioactivity becomes concentrated, or evenly distributed which is essential in the search for life outside of Earth. A variety of chemical and physical studies of samples from analog locations aids in understanding the limits of life terrestrially, and therefore can help make more informed predictions about the potential habitability on other planetary bodies.