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PSI's Kevin Webster Studies Kartchner Caverns CO2 Levels

Kevin webster in Kartchner 

PSI’s Kevin Webster, right, and Sarah Truebe, the science director at Kartchner Caverns, check out Webster’s CO2 monitor in the cave.


PSI Associate Research Scientist Kevin Webster is monitoring CO2 levels in Southern Arizona’s Kartchner Caverns, studying how the cave breathes, based on CO2 concentrations recorded. CO2 is naturally elevated in caves due to biological processes that are ongoing in the soil.

The CO2 meter is rotated around different locations inside the cave.

“Understanding how caves breathe on Earth may help us look for life on other planetary bodies with caves,” Webster said. “I'm most interested in using cave air to look for extraterrestrial microorganisms. I've noticed that cave air has a different composition than the atmosphere, and for methane and CO2 these differences are caused by biological processes. So measuring the chemical composition of cave air on another planet may be a good way to look for living extraterrestrial microorganisms.”

Sept. 1, 2019
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