A hypersaline spring analogue in Manitoba, Canada for potential ancient spring deposits on Mars

Genevieve Berard, Daniel Applin, Edward Cloutis, Jessica Stromberg, Raven Sharma, Paul Mann, Stephen Grasby, Ruth Bezys, Briony Horgan, Kathleen Londry, Melissa Rice, Bill Last, Fawn Last, Pascal Badiou, Gordon Goldsborough, James Bell

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

8 Scopus citations


This study explores the possible applications of a spring complex, East German Creek (EGC), Manitoba, Canada, as a terrestrial analogue for similar environments on Mars. Potential ancient spring deposits have been identified by Allen and Oehler (Allen, C.C., Oehler, D.Z. [2008]. Astrobiology 8, 1093-1112) in Vernal Crater, Arabia Terra, as well as in the intercrater plains of Terra Sirenum by Wray et al. (Wray et al. [2011]. J. Geophys. Res., 116, 1-41). EGC can provide guidance in the search for fossil spring deposits on Mars by using comparative mineralogy to contrast mineral identification from field studies to that available from remote sensing instruments such as the CRISM instrument aboard the Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter. The formation processes of EGC are also useful for finding spring-like environments on Mars. A variety of techniques were employed (X-ray diffractometry, reflectance spectra, water chemistry analysis) to analyze mineralogical changes in spring water precipitates with distance from the main springs at EGC, which were compared with concentrations of dissolved species in outflow water. Biosignatures in outflow stream sediments as well as the effect of surficial Fe oxyhydroxide coatings on the detection of underlying carbonate absorption features have also been spectrally characterized. Halite is the main mineral precipitated at EGC, followed by gypsum, and calcite. The presence of gypsum is readily detected in surficial precipitate spectra while halite does not have a diagnostic spectral signature in the 0.35-2.5. μm region. An absorption feature indicative of chlorophyll a is present in stream sediment spectra from most sampling stations and on outwash plain sediments. Carbonates appear to be spectrally detectable through a coating of ferric minerals, such as goethite by a characteristic absorption band near 2.3. μm. We attempted to detect significant spectral changes over an area of potential spring features in Vernal Crater on Mars using CRISM data over the 1.0-3.92. μm interval, but results were inconclusive. Analysis of the surficial geology, geomorphology, biology, and water chemistry of EGC provides a number of insights into the possible nature of low-temperature spring deposits on Mars, while highlighting the limitations of spectroscopy without the cooperation of X-ray diffractometry.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)399-412
Number of pages14
Issue number2
StatePublished - Jun 2013


  • Astrobiology
  • Mars, Climate
  • Mars, Surface
  • Mineralogy
  • Spectroscopy

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Astronomy and Astrophysics
  • Space and Planetary Science


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