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Darlene Lim

Researcher aims to determine whether lakes once existed on Mars

When NASA’s Opportunity Rover discovered evidence this past winter that liquid water once existed on Mars, no other Canadian was happier than U of T graduate and paleolimnologist Darlene Lim (MSc 1999, PhD 2004).

While pursuing her PhD in geology at U of T, the 32-year-old researcher spent summers at the NASA Haughton-Mars Project on Canada’s Devon Island, some 1,000 kilometres north of the Arctic Circle. Lim’s work – studying the evolution of lakes – could serve as an analogue to determining whether ancient craters on the red planet may have once been lakes.

Lim also served for two summers at The Flashline Mars Arctic Research Station as one of six crew members in the world’s first Mars simulation base, sleeping and living in a 21-foot-high cylinder and venturing outside in spacesuits. “We got to indulge ourselves in what it would be like to be on a Mars mission,” says Lim. 

Now Lim is stationed at the NASA Ames Research Center in California as a post-doctoral research associate, where she continues her study of polar lakes. She has also become a tireless advocate of human missions to Mars, speaking at schools and to organizations such as the Canadian Space Society.

”The quest to search for life on Mars is part of a much bigger quest that we’ve been involved in since the dawn of human consciousness – to find out if we are alone in the solar system, to define ourselves in that darkness of space,” says Lim.

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