Thesis Defense by Josh Borchardt April 3rd
Space Studies Master’s student, Josh Borchardt, will defend his thesis as follows. Please show your support by attending.
When: Thursday, April 3rd, 2014 at 4:00 p.m. (Central)
Where: Ryan Hall, Room 11
Title: ARTIFICIAL SOIL FORMATION AND STABILIZATION OF MATERIAL CYCLES IN CLOSED ECOLOGICAL SYSTEMS FOR MARS HABITATS
Scientists are increasingly pressured to investigate novel ways in which to feed astronauts for the first mission to Mars in the 2030s. It is the aim of this thesis to conduct a preliminary investigation for soil formation of NASA JSC Mars Regolith Simulant in an environmentally closed ecosystem to simulate plant growth within these initial habitats, and the prospect of soil formation from a Mars parent material for agricultural purposes. The rhizosphere (the area around the plant roots which has the most biogeochemical activity) and plant stress will be the main regions of research focus. It is hypothesized 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) was grown on several different substrates, and evaluated for plant stress, elemental analysis, soil fertility, and mineralogical analysis to identify the biogeochemical factors related to areas inside and outside of the rhizosphere, which affect soil formation. In addition, multiple plant generations were grown to investigate bioavailability of nutrients within the system, and lay down preliminary approaches for mathematical model development in order to predict & evaluate future conditions and applications under reduced life support resource availability situations. Overall, this thesis is aimed to define the story of soil formation (early phases) from a Mars regolith simulant as induced by plant biota, and to aid in the success of our first human adventurers to the red planet.
Joshua received his bachelor’s degree in Biological Sciences in 2012 from North Dakota State University, and worked as an undergraduate researcher at the Wet Ecosystem Research Group for his entire undergrad career. He has also taught or assisted in 600 hours of science classes in middle and high schools in Fargo, ND through the National Science Foundation, received NDSU's O.A. Steven's Memorial Scholarship Award, and is a previous Robert Noyce STEM Scholar. In 2012 he also received an internship in Microbiology at NASA Ames Research Center, and have since volunteered for high altitude balloon chases and science fair judging, undergraduate mentoring at conferences, working on the Lunar/Mars Habitat Analog, as a wilderness guide, and as a professional scuba diver. In a few weeks Josh will also be the Crew Biologist for Mission 141 at the Mars Desert Research Station (MDRS) in Utah. It is his serious intention for the future to become a researching professor, and maintain a high level of activity investigating planetary and environmental sciences persisting problems.
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