Maritime archeologist Wayne Lusardi of the Thunder Bay National Marine Sanctuary is gliding over an otherworldly lakescape in the bottom of the Middle Island Sinkhole in Lake Huron. Here, under cold temperatures (~9 oC water) and dim sunlight (only ~5% of surface illumination reaches the bottom of the sinkhole at ~25 m), a dynamic mosaic of cyanobacterial (purple) and chemosynthetic (white) mats flourish in ground water containing high-sulfur and low-oxygen. Extreme ecosystems such as these not only contribute to Earth’s biodiversity, but may also add – in yet unknown ways – to the biosphere’s overall physiological potential. Hovering over this “impressionistic” underwater living canvas, Wayne is getting an undisturbed overview of the waterscape below with a GoPro camera – before serious scientific operations commence. Could similarly bizarre microbial mats be awaiting us below the waters of the extraterrestrial lakes of Titan or the oceans of Europa?
—Phil Hartmeyer and Stephanie Gandulla, Thunder Bay National Marine Sanctuary, Office of National Marine Sanctuaries, National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, Alpena, Mich. (https://thunderbay.noaa.gov);
—Ian Stone, Tony Weinke and Bopi Biddanda, Annis Water Resources Institute, Grand Valley State University, Muskegon, Mich. (https://www.gvsu.edu/wri/).
Willem G.M. van der Bilt et al.
Marco A. Giorgetta et al.
Robert E. Kopp et al.