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University of Iowa News Release


Sept. 11, 2009

Geologist who seeks life on Mars opens UI Explorers Lecture Series Sept. 17

The University of Iowa Museum of Natural History will kick off its annual UI Explorers Lecture Series at 7 p.m. Thursday, Sept. 17, with a talk by Ingrid Ukstins Peate titled "Life in extreme environments: Studying volcanic lakes in Chile to better understand early Mars."

The talk is free and open to the public and will take place in the Museum of Natural History's Biosphere Discovery Hub gallery.

Ukstins Peate, assistant professor in the UI Department of Geoscience, has been collaborating with NASA to better understand the geologic history of Mars through analogues found on Earth. Her talk will focus on her work with the High Lakes Project, studying the high-altitude lakes of the Andes in Chile. Lakes in this area experience large temperature variation, high levels of UV radiation, and host unique ecosystems. Because these high-altitude lakes may exhibit conditions similar to that of ancient Mars, Ukstins Peate and other researchers are examining the chemistry, biology, geology, and climate of the area to better understand what conditions were like when life may have developed there.

The UI Explorers Lecture Series features UI researchers, professors and students presenting relevant and current research relating to culture and the environment. "We want the museum to help connect the public to the great scientific research going on at the university in various departments," said Museum Education and Outreach Coordinator Sarah Horgen.

The lecture series offers an opportunity for visitors to view the museum's biosphere discovery hub, which explores human interaction with the Iowa landscape throughout history while addressing both local and global environmental issues.

The Museum of Natural History is open 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. Tuesdays, Wednesdays and Fridays; 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Thursdays and Saturdays; and 1 to 5 p.m. Sundays. For more information about museum programs, visit or call 319-335-0606.

STORY SOURCE: University of Iowa News Services, 300 Plaza Centre One, Iowa City, Iowa 52242-2500

MEDIA CONTACTS: Sarah Horgen, Museum of Natural History, 319-335-0606; Steve Parrott, University Relations, 319-384-0037,; Writer: Holly Berg