Published: 
Jan 29, 2010

Halobacteria in the Owens Lake

Halobacteria in Owens Lake, California

 

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Near the shore of the dry Owens Lake. The pink coloration is caused by halobacteria living in a thin layer of brine on the surface of the lake bed. The gleaming white material in the foreground is soda ash (sodium carbonate), once harvested from evaporation ponds by the Pittsburgh Plate Glass factory seen in the distance. The plate glass factory is no longer in operation.

 

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Further out on the surface of Owens Lake, a thin crust of salt is colored pink by halophilic archaeabacteria. The air temperature at the surface of the lake is 100 deg. F and the water just below the salt crust is 130 - 150 degrees F. In the background are white deposits of sodium carbonate and the Inyo Mountains.

 

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Evaporation ponds near the shore of the old Owens Lake. Pink areas are salt-encrusted waters colored by halobacteria. White deposits are sodium carbonate (soda ash). Dark areas are green-colored mud, inhabited by halophilic green algae.

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All photos courtesy Dr. Tony Phillips/Bishopwebworks