I work with Nick Tosca using chemical experiments to simulate the ground-surface interface of Mars. More than three and a half billion years ago water on Mars was stable as lakes and rivers, but how the atmosphere was substantial enough to support this is a long-standing mystery. Using data from NASA’s rover Curiosity, Nick’s research suggests hydrogen gas was being released within martian lakes and supplementing this early atmosphere — how much of this gas, and how climatically relevant it may have been, are the questions my research addresses.
Over the next three years I’ll be simulating a martian lake in the lab to produce and measure this hydrogen, followed by globally mapping the planet’s lake deposits to estimate how widespread this process might have been.
Summer 2017 update: Currently I’m synthesising my own ‘Mars rock’ in Bernie Wood’s Experimental Petrology lab, since the mineral that controls the hydrogen process is difficult to get hold of naturally, and I look forward to beginning my experiments.
Autumn 2018 update: I am writing my first paper on the results of my experiments thus far. Interestingly, my research has yielded light on the formation of siderite on Mars — or, more critically, its lack thereof. More to come soon.