Thesis Proposal Presentation by Borchardt on Sept. 13th
Space Studies master’s student, Josh Borchardt, will give his thesis proposal presentation as follows. Please mark your calendars and show your support by attending.
When: Friday, September 13th at 4:00 PM
Where: Ryan Hall, Room 111
Title: ARTIFICIAL SOIL FORMATION AND STABILIZATION OF MATERIAL CYCLES IN CLOSED ECOLOGICAL SYSTEMS FOR MARS
Topic: Scientists are increasingly pressured to investigate novel ways in which to keep Mars's first inhabitants alive for their first mission in the 2030s (a two-three year journey). It is the aim of this thesis to investigate soil formation of NASA JSC Mars Regolith Simulant in an environmentally closed ecosystem, for astronauts will have to grow at least a portion of their food for such a long term mission (specifically on the planetary surface). In particular, the rhizosphere, the area around the plant roots which has the most biogeochemical activity, and its effects on plant growth rate will be the main region of focus. I hypothesize that the amount of rhizosphere activity will determine the rate of stable soil formation adequate to support the agricultural needs of Mars's first human inhabitants. A Brassica rapa ( Wisconsin Fast Plant) will be used for the premier plant species, and reflectance spectroscopy of the plant, elemental analysis of both the plant and the soil, and mineralogical analysis of the soil will be used to identify the biogeochemical factors related to areas inside and out of the rhizosphere, and across various media types. In addition, multiple plant generations will be grown to investigate the increased bioavailability of nutrients within the system, and a preliminary mathematical model will be created in order to predict future conditions and applications under varying resource situations. Overall, this thesis will be aimed to define the story of soil formation from a Mars regolith simulant as induced by plant biota, and eventually will aid in the success of our first human adventurers to another planet.
About the presenter: I received my bachelor’s degree from North Dakota State University in 2012 where I majored in biological sciences. While there, I worked for four years at the Wet Ecosystem Research Lab in biogeochemistry, and was recently published in the International Journal of Phytoremediation from that work. I then accepted an internship at NASA Ames Research Center in 2012 in exobiology, focusing on lunar regolith biogeochemistry, and have since volunteered or held a graduate research assistant at the Space Studies high altitude balloon launches, educational and outreach events, UND observatory, the human spaceflight lab, space life sciences lab, and consulting in STEM policy for the office of Representative Kevin Cramer, the Vice Chairman for the House committee on Science, Space, and Technology.