Brady O'Connor

McGill University
Ph.D. candidate

Supervisor: Lyle Whyte
Richard Léveillé
Start: 2019-09-01


Detection and characterization of metabolically active microorganisms from ice containing astrobiology analog environments.
One of the most important questions plaguing humanity is are we alone in the Universe? Within our solar system the planet Mars and the moons, Europa and Enceladus of the Jupiter and Saturn systems appear to be places most likely to support microbial life. These planetary bodies contain large deposits of ice and water, a resource required by all life we know of however, to date it is unknown to what extant microorganisms are metabolically active within ice. Thus, I propose to characterize the microbial populations inhabiting glacial and lava tube ice, both analog environments for Mars and our solar systems icy moons. I will determine which microorganisms persist in these environments; what adaptations permit them to remain metabolically active under such extreme conditions and develop a device for deployment on a future space mission which can detect microbial metabolic activity. Not only will this work aid in the search for life on other planets and moons but will have the added benefit of increasing our knowledge of ice microbial communities who will no doubt have a large impact on the environment as ice melts due to global warming.


microbial ecology, Astrobiology, Metabolic Activity, Cryomicrobiology, Arctic


1- Microfluidics Microbial Activity MicroAssay: An Automated In Situ Microbial Metabolic Detection System
Touchette, David, Ianina Altshuler, Isabelle Raymond-Bouchard, Miguel Ángel Fernández-Martínez, Louis-Jacques Bourdages, Brady O'Connor, Antonio J. Ricco, Lyle G. Whyte
2022 Astrobiology

2- Taxonomic Characterization and Microbial Activity Determination of Cold-Adapted Microbial Communities in Lava Tube Ice Caves from Lava Beds National Monument, a High-Fidelity Mars Analogue Environment
O'Connor, Brady R.W., Miguel Ángel Fernández-Martínez, Richard J. Léveillé, Lyle G. Whyte
2021 Astrobiology

3- Mars Extant Life: What's Next? Conference Report
Carrier, B.L., D.W. Beaty, M.A. Meyer, J.G. Blank, L. Chou, S. DasSarma, D.J. Des Marais, J.L. Eigenbrode, N. Grefenstette, N.L. Lanza, A.C. Schuerger, P. Schwendner, H.D. Smith, C.R. Stoker, J.D. Tarnas, K.D. Webster, C. Bakermans, B.K. Baxter, M.S. Bell, S.A. Benner, H.H. Bolivar Torres, P.J. Boston, R. Bruner, B.C. Clark, P. DasSarma, A.E. Engelhart, Z.E. Gallegos, Z.K. Garvin, P.J. Gasda, J.H. Green, R.L. Harris, M.E. Hoffman, T. Kieft, A.H.D. Koeppel, P.A. Lee, X. Li, K.L. Lynch, R. Mackelprang, P.R. Mahaffy, L.H. Matthies, M.A. Nellessen, H.E. Newsom, D.E. Northup, B.R.W. O'Connor, S.M. Perl, R.C. Quinn, L.A. Rowe, B. Sauterey, M.A. Schneegurt, D. Schulze-Makuch, L.A. Scuderi, M.N. Spilde, V. Stamenković, J.A. Torres Celis, D. Viola, B.D. Wade, C.J. Walker, R.C. Wiens, A.J. Williams, J.M. Williams, J. Xu
2020 Astrobiology

4- Draft Genome Sequence of Rheinheimera sp. KL1, Isolated from a Freshwater Lake in Southern Saskatchewan, Canada
O’Connor, Brady R. W., Benjamin J. Perry, Christopher K. Yost
2015 Genome Announcements