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Stromatolite research in Hamelin Pool

Dr Erica Suosaari (Geologist)
Published 15 Apr 2016 by Dr Erica Suosaari (Geologist)

Hamelin Pool is home to the most extensive and diverse actively accreting Stromatolite development in the world. A better understanding of the modern stromatolites in Hamelin Pool may help us better understand life on early Earth.

In the first two weeks of April Bush Heritage Australia hosted a group of international researchers at Hamelin Station. This interdisciplinary study included Dr. Pam Reid, a carbonate sedimentologist from the University of Miami – Rosenstiel School of Marine and Atmospheric Science and Dr. Jamie Foster, a molecular biologist from the University of Florida – Space Life Sciences Lab along with her PhD student Joany Babilonia.

The team focussed on continuing investigations of stromatolite building microbial mats in Hamelin Pool.

Samples were taken at six hour intervals (6am, noon, 6pm, and midnight) for three days in two different regions of Hamelin Pool for metagenomics analysis. Additionally, wet, thin sections will be prepared from the samples to examine bacterial community structure.

Although the days were long, the group dynamic made for a fantastic field campaign that will result in a better understanding of why stromatolites are growing in Hamelin Pool and hopefully provide more insight into ancient structures.

During April we've also hosted foreign exchange student Weronka Konwent.

Weronika is a student at Claremont McKenna University in Claremont, California. She's visiting Australia with the Study Abroad World Learning Australia program of the School for International Training (SIT) and has been based in Cairns to do their Rainforest Reef and Cultural Ecology module.

During Weronika’s semester in Australia, she's looked at the relationships between humans and their environment. She's focused in particular on coral reefs, the rainforest ecosystems of Far North Queensland and on the differences between Aboriginal and non-Aboriginal views of the land. In this she was guided and instructed by a Dyirbal Elder. Part of the program required Weronika to undertake an independent study, which led her to Hamelin Pool.

Weronika is an Organismal Biology major at Claremont McKenna, but is planning to attend graduate school in Earth Sciences. The stromatolites of Hamelin Pool are a perfect combination of both biology and geology, enabling her to expand her knowledge about how microbial communities have left signatures in the rock record for over 80% of Earth History.

Part of Weronika’s effort at Hamelin has been focused on looking at the different water chemistry parameters around the margins of Hamelin Pool and how these affect stromatolite growth and preservation.

Pam Reid and Joany Babilonia. Pam Reid and Joany Babilonia.
Erica Suosaari and Joany Babilonia. Erica Suosaari and Joany Babilonia.
Weronika Konwent and Erica Suosaari standing outside Hamelin Homestead. Weronika Konwent and Erica Suosaari standing outside Hamelin Homestead.

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