Jennifer Macalady '91 Adds Context To Christian Science Monitor Story On Life In Mexican Caves

December 7, 2017
By the Christian Sciernce Monitor

Deep in the dense jungle of Mexico, pools of water that dot the thick vegetation may resemble the shallow ponds found in forests all over the world. But these seemingly boring puddles are actually deep sinkholes, or cenotes as they are known locally, and form portals to another world.

Thomas Iliffe and David Brankovits aren’t hesitant to enter these watery portals. Clad in wet suits and headlamps, and lugging multiple oxygen tanks and sample jars, the two biologists and their colleagues have plunged into the murky cenote waters many times. [...]

“Caves are really beautiful windows into this underground world,” says Jennifer Macalady, a geomicrobiologist at Pennsylvania State University, who was not part of the Ox Bel Ha research team. There are crevices and pore spaces all over the world that probably contain similar biological processes, she explains, but caves are “human-sized voids” where scientists can actually explore and conduct experiments.

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