Date of Award

2013

Degree Type

Thesis

Degree Name

Master of Science in Biological and Environmental Sciences (MSBES)

Specialization

Environmental and Earth Sciences (EVES)

Department

Geosciences

First Advisor

Dawn Cardace

Abstract

Springs sourced in the mantle units of ophiolites serve as windows to the deep biosphere, and thus hold promise in elucidating survival strategies of extremophiles, and may also inform discourse on the origin of life on Earth. Spring locations associated with serpentinites have traditionally been located using a variety of field techniques. The chemical properties of these springs are unique; they reflect a reducing subsurface environment reacting at low temperatures producing high pH, Ca2+-rich formation fluids with high dissolved hydrogen and methane. This study applies GIS site suitability analysis to locate high pH springs in Coast Range Ophiolite serpentinites in Northern California. Available geospatial data (e.g., geologic maps, elevation data, fault locations, known spring locations, etc.) were overlain in a site suitability analysis using ArcGIS software to predict new spring localities. Important variables in the suitability model were: (a) bedrock geology (in particular, serpentinite/peridotite occurrence), (b) fault locations, (c) regional data for the location of groundwater, and (d) slope. The GIS model derived from these data sets predicts the most likely regions for novel and known high pH springs sourced in serpentinite outcrops in California, thus focusing fieldwork. Although preliminary model confirmation in the field was not successful, two subsequent refinements to the model are presented here: the integration of gabbro-serpentinite unit boundaries via neighborhood analysis, and internally consistent aerial image analysis. Strong recommendations can now be made to focus future fieldwork. This thesis highlights a powerful GIS-based technique for accelerating field exploration in this area of ongoing research.

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