The interior parts of Western Australia and Victoria, Australia have hundreds of shallow saline lakes. Some are acidic
(as corrosive as Coke or even battery acid), others are neutral (like rainwater or tap water), and a few are basic
(like bleach). Acidic lakes are uncommon on Earth. In Australia, these acidic lakes can occur next to neutral lakes,
but the groundwater is always acidic. The salty and acidic nature of these lakes makes them hostile to most forms of
life. For several years, geologists and microbiologists at the Missouri University of Science and Technology (formerly
University of Missouri-Rolla), Central Michigan University, and Purdue University have been studying 67 of these lakes.
They are using microbial/microfossil life in evaporites (such as halite and gypsum), lake water and sediments and sedimentary
features to better understand processes in modern acid saline environments, as well as to interpret the life, water chemistry,
and climate in ancient, extreme environments. Scientists have been looking for evidence of life on Mars, and these acidic
saline lakes provide a comparison for similar systems that may have existed on that planet. An exhibit of our work is on display
at the St. Louis Science Center.