Ranger giving a tour of Wind Cave. (National Park Service photo)

The University of Northern Iowa’s Chemistry and Biochemistry Department has been awarded a $25,000 grant by the Iowa Space Grant Consortium, supported by NASA.

Associate professor, Joshua Seebree says the money will be used to purchase special tools for a research trip to Wind Cave National Park in South Dakota.

“We’re getting a new spectrometer, a lot of sampling apparati, that we don’t have currently so that when the students go they have a much more hands 0n, much more realistic type research experience. It’s not that they’re just going with a couple of the cheap lab tools,” Seebree says.

Students will study the chemical composition of the cave and gather water samples. The water samples will then be taken to NASA’s Jet Propulsion Lab in California.  “The only other place on Earth that really contains this sort of water is found in sub Glacier lakes like Lake Vastok in Antarctica. This water is especially important to understand as NASA is looking to understand the icy moons of Jupiter.”

Seebree says a number of campus departments are collaborating on the project. Communication Arts will be filming the research process, the Music Department will provide a soundtrack for the video and the UNI Museum will display the results.

(By Pat Blank, Iowa Public Radio)