A tremendous body of geochemical and morphological evidence, amassed through Martian ground and orbiter missions, points to the past existence of liquid water on the surface of Mars. A major goal of the Mars Exploration program is to understand the environmental conditions under which water existed on Mars, and whether those environments could have sustained life. Alteration mineralogy, as identified on Mars by in situ and orbital spectrosopic measurements, can often constrain the environment of formation and its properties, including the pH and chemistry of fluids and the fluid/rock ratio. However, the instrument suites available on Mars rover missions are limited, and we can't (yet) return Martian samples to the lab for detailed analysis. Therefore, to fully understand the alteration mineralogy we observe on Mars, it is useful to study analogous materials in terrestrial environments in a known geologic context.
My recent focus has been the study of Hawaiian silica coatings, as an analog for high-silica deposits discovered by the Spirit rover at Home Plate. These coatings form on very young (~30 y.o.) basaltic flows near volcanic vents. I have studied in detail the micro-morphological, chemical, spectral and oxygen isotopic properties of these materials using a variety of analytical techniques. The purpose of this study is to determine the formation mechanism of the coating and to develop a set of characteristic observations for the interpretation of secondary silica on Mars.Abstracts and Publications: