Puna, high Andes Mountains (4100 - 4600 m elevation)
Where we're going, there are no roads.
Prepping materials in Salta before we hit the road.
TJ and I packing up supplies for each spring we will sample.
Beautiful scenic views for miles and miles on the road as we headed to the first spring.
Dotted along the roadside in Argentina are these shrines outfitted with water bottles and old car parts. These are built by locals, inspired by the story of the Maria Antonia Deolina Correa. In 1854, this young mother left San Juan and headed to La Rioja to get treatment for her son with pneumonia. Taking unmarked roads to evade pursuit by a jealous want-to-be boyfriend, she lost her way and died of thirst and exposure in the desert.
Close up! So adorable. My colleagues nearly had to restrain me in order to keep me from petting it.
If there is one thing that can rival my love for animals, it's beautiful geological features. This salt pond had us all in awe.
The salt content is so high, that the high water density pushes your hand up as you try to submerge it.
Beautifully, well-formed halite crystals can be plucked right out of the water. Look at those perfectly square crystal faces! This is what your table salt would look like if you let it grow out of solution slowly and long enough under the right conditions.
In my natural element.
We all find our rhythm at the first few sites, making sure that all samples are collected properly for microbiological and geochemical analysis later on.
Hot spring fringed with red mineral precipitates, such as iron oxides, and microbial mats with special UV protecting pigments.
This little guy couldn't escape my curious enthusiasm for herps, even if I was there to collect spring samples, not frogs.
Communication in the field is key.
Karen Lloyd and Donato Giovannelli filter water for DNA extraction later.
So is taking time to document the exciting field work you're doing!!
Some springs are harder to sample. Karen Lloyd reaches the instrument that collects temperature and salinity as close to the mouth of the deeply-sourced water water as possible with some help from Donato Giovannelli.
We traversed about 200 km on our journey, which meant a lot of time in the truck together. Backseat - TJ Rogers and Gerhard Jessen. Frontseat - Me and Peter Barry.
We occasionally needed to stretch our legs in this marvelous, arid wonderland.
These dessication cracks are a type of sedimentary structure characteristic of a very arid climate.
These pillar-like rocks are called ignimbrites. This rock type is a lithified volcanic tuff, which starts out as volcanic ash prior to cementation and lithification.
View to die for.
Peter Barry takes his drone for a look around.
Mandatory yoga pose.
We reach 4560 meters above sea level. Me with Karen Lloyd.
Several springs we sampled were former spas in different states of disrepair.
Another spring that was a former relaxation spa.
This place was covered in spiders. I was happy to just keep my head down and work.
Some springs needed some help bubbling up from the deep.
Other springs required, lets say, less than scrupulous means to access them because they were on private land set for development.
One spring was on a private land-owners property.
Fili looks into the Devil's hole
Most beautiful view of the salina in the distance.
The land-owner had a dog, and of course, it needed my cuddles!!
This site had the most exquisite calcareous travertine flows.
Multiple days of sampling in the field requires having a hotel home-site. Ours was in Catamarca, NW Argentina.
Sampling the local ice cream with Agostina Chiodi and Maarten DeMoore.
One of the sites we sampled was called El Diablo.
Agostina Chiodi sets up her instrument.
Karen Lloyd sampling fluids.
Setting up sampling at the truck.
The truck also served as a mobile lab.
Donato Giovannelli sets up incubation experiments with labeled carbon substrates to track rates of autotrophy.
Donato Giovannelli sets up the peristaltic pump while Peter Barry holds his sampler fitted with a funnel to collect nobel gases at the source.
After a week on the road, time to pack up and ensure the samples get back to their labs safely.
I am so grateful to have been a part of such an amazing team. From clockwise from left, Dr. Donato Giovanelli, Dr. Peter Barry, Dr. Matt Schrenk, Dr. Maarten DeMoor, Ruben Filipovich, Dr. Karen Lloyd, Carlos Ramirez, Dr. Gerdhard Jessen, Dr. Joy Buongiorno, Dr. Karen Lloyd, Dr. Agostina Chiodi, Emice Bustos.