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ECC Member Spotlight: Taylor Plattner

For our ECC Member Spotlight for September, we are highlighting Taylor Plattner from Georgia Tech! She is one of the members of our Early Career Council Leadership Committee who helps to create and guide the activities for all of our early career scientists!

Who I am:

· I’m a 5th year PhD candidate at Georgia Tech working with Dr. Britney Schmidt in the Planetary Habitability and Technology Lab.

What I do:

· I’m interested in the intersections of astrobiology, analog fieldwork, geobiology, and remote sensing. My work is focused on better understanding water-rock interactions that could have occurred in various environments on Mars by studying analog lakes in Western Australia. On Mars, we can only look at relict environments and infer what the pH and salinity could have been like based on the geologic features in the environment. Rover investigations have shown a closer look at dry lake beds and revealed that Mars had a wide range of geochemical conditions in the past. This is why we ended up choosing these lakes in Western Australia as an analog because of the wide range of geochemical conditions covered by the lakes, the age of the bedrock, and the similar diverse mineral assemblages surrounding the lakes. Thus, the Western Australia Transient Lakes (WATL) provide an opportunity to learn more about these water-rock interactions because they are actively going through wet-dry cycles, which can also be a window into understanding whether Mars dried up all at once or whether these cyclic cycles could have occurred on the surface in the past. Much remains to be understood about these geochemical conditions on Mars, but the WATL are an analog that we can study now and understand how these water-rock interactions have influenced the environment, preservation of potential biomarkers, and help us better understand what the environmental parameters (ion composition, water activity, DO, salinity, pH, etc.) could have been like in these environments as they changed over time. My work will provide insight for future missions to Mars by contextualizing habitability and potential biomarkers that might be present in acidic environments that we’ve seen on the surface of Mars.

Why I enjoy doing NfoLD things:

· I enjoy doing NfoLD activities because I like interacting with other early career members that are in the same field as me. I like having a sense of community and knowing people that are also interested in similar research paths. In particular, I really like being able to learn what others in the community might be working on and learning something new that I wouldn’t have known if I didn’t interact with these people. Additionally, I may end up working with these early career members in the future, so I love getting to know everyone and possibly learn what we could collaborate on in the future.

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