Overview of analogue science activities at the McGill Arctic Research Station, Axel Heiberg Island, Canadian High Arctic

Department of Geography, McGill University, 805 Sherbrooke St. W., Montreal, QC, Canada H3A 2K6; Department of Natural Resource Sciences, McGill University, 21111 Lakeshore Blvd., Ste. Anne de Bellevue, QC, Canada H9X 3V9; Carl Sagan Center for the Study of Life in the Universe, SETI Institute, Mountain View, CA 94043, USA; Jackson School of Geosciences, Department of Geological Sciences, The University of Texas at Austin, 1 University Station, Mail Stop C-1100, Austin, TX 78712-0254, USA; Department of Biomedical Engineering, McGill University, Lyman Duff Medical Building, 3775 University St., Montreal, QC, Canada H3A 2B4; Department of Geography, Trent University, Environmental Sciences Building, Symons Campus, 1600 East Bank Drive, Peterborough, ON, Canada K9J 7B8; Department of Space Science, Canadian Space Agency, 6767 Route de l’Aeroport, Saint Hubert, QC, Canada J3Y 8Y9
Planetary and Space Science (Impact Factor: 2.11). 05/2009; DOI: 10.1016/j.pss.2009.01.008

ABSTRACT The Canadian High Arctic contains several of the highest fidelity Mars analogue sites in the world. Situated at nearly 80° north, Expedition Fjord on Axel Heiberg Island is located within a polar desert climate, with the surrounding landscape and conditions providing an invaluable opportunity to examine terrestrial processes in a cold, dry environment. Through the Canadian Space Agency's Analogue Research Network program, scientific activities based out of the McGill Arctic Research Station (M.A.R.S.) are extremely broad in scope, representing physical, biological, and technological investigations. Some of the most unique hydrogeologic features under investigation near M.A.R.S. are a series of cold saline springs that maintain liquid-state flow year round regardless of air temperature. Previous studies have examined their geomorphic relation to discharge-related formations, water chemistry, temperature monitoring, discharge rates, and combined flow/thermal modeling. Recent investigations have identified microbial communities and characterized biological activity within the springs and within permafrost sections, having direct relevance to astrobiological analogue research goals. Another main thrust of research activities based at M.A.R.S. pertains to the detection, mapping, and quantification of subsurface ice deposits. A long-term study is presently underway examining polygonal terrain, comparing surficial patterns found in the region with those identified on Mars, and using surface morphology to estimate ice wedge volumes through a combination of aerial photography interpretation and ground-based geophysical techniques. Other technological developments include the use of in situ microscopy for the detection of biomarkers and improved permafrost drilling techniques. This paper presents an overview of previous studies undertaken at M.A.R.S. over the past decades and will describe in detail both present and upcoming work.

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