Samuel Kounaves

Department of Chemistry
Pearson Chemistry Laboratory
62 Talbot Avenue
Tufts University 
Medford, MA 02155 

Office: P-108B

Office:617-627-3124 Cell:781-526-4137 Fax:617-627-3443


Research Homepage: http://planetary.chem.tufts.edu/

Current Appointments


Professor of Chemistry, Department of Chemistry
Adjunct Professor, Department of Earth and Ocean Sciences
Research Affiliate, NASA-Jet Propulsion Laboratory, Pasadena, CA




Postdoctoral Fellow, 1987-88, Harvard University, Cambridge, MA (James Young)
Postdoctoral Research Associate, 1985-86, S.U.N.Y. at Buffalo, NY (Janet Osteryoung)
Ph.D. (D.Sc.), 1985, Université de Genève, Geneva, Switzerland (Jacques Buffle)
B.A., 1975, M.S., 1978, California State University at San Diego/SDSU, CA (Alberto Zirino)


Research Interests

In-situ Planetary and Extreme Biogeochemical Analysis The Kounaves group research is aimed at unraveling fundamental questions in planetary science using modern in-situ or on-site elctroanalytical systems designed to study the biogeochemistry of extreme environments, where no one has gone before. As Phoenix mission Co-I and Lead Scientist for the Wet Chemistry Lab (WCL), Professor Kounaves and his group performed the first wet chemical analysis of the martian soil. The experiments revealed an alkaline soil containing a variety of soluble minerals, including perchlorate, that has altered the way we view the chemistry of Mars and its potential to support life. The discovery of perchlorate on Mars led the group to investigate the same possibility in the Antarctic Dry Valleys. The study provided the first unambiguous discovery and clear evidence of the ubiquitous natural formation of perchlorate on Earth, with accumulation in arid environments and global atmospheric production. The discovery also suggests that the perchlorate reducing bacteria and arachea may be a remnant of a significant pre-oxygen Earth perchlorate ecosystem. While participating in the upcoming MSL Curiosity science return, his group is also leading the development of the next generation wet chemical analyses for future Mars missions in 2020 or 2022. 


In addition to the current investigations exploring Mars' geochemistry and its potential for supporting past or present microbial life in surface or subsurface environments, their research (funded by NASA and NSF) also includes understanding the geochemical and environmental history as recorded by the chemistry of planetary surface materials, and the geobiochemistry in extreme environments on Earth in places such as the Antarctic Dry Valleys, Death Valley, and mid-Atlantic deep-ocean thermal vents. They are also interested in applying similar techniques to investigate the surface and sub-glacial oceans on other planetary bodies such as Jupiter's moon, Europa.  The group's research in astrobiology is focused on exploring concepts and analytical techniques for unambiguous detection of microbial life in extraterrestrial settings, and the survivability of organics on Mars' surface.


Selected Recent Publications

Identification of the Perchlorate Parent Salts at the Phoenix Mars Landing Site and Possible Implications",
S. P. Kounaves, N. A. Chaniotakis, V. F. Chevrier, B. L. Carrier, K. E. Folds, V. M. Hansen, K. M. McElhoney, G. D. O'Neil, and A. W. Weber, Icarus, 2014, 232, 226-231


Evidence of Martian Perchlorate, Chlorate, and Nitrate in Mars Meteorite EETA79001: Implications for Oxidants and Organics, S. P. Kounaves, B. L. Carrier, G. D. O'Neil, S. T. Stroble, and M. W. Clair, Icarus, 2014, 229, 206-213


Comparison of the Phoenix Mars Lander Wet Chemistry Laboratory Soil Analyses with Antarctic Dry Valley Soils, Mars Meteorite EETA79001 Sawdust, and a Mars Simulant, S. T. Stroble, K. M. McElhoney, and
S. P. Kounaves, Icarus, 2013, 225, 933-939


An Electrochemically Based Total Organic Carbon Analyzer for Planetary and Terrestrial On-Site Applications, S. T. Stroble and S. P. Kounaves, Anal. Chem., 2012, 84, 6271–6276.


Effects of Extreme Cold and Aridity on Soils and Habitability: McMurdo Dry Valleys as an Analog for the Mars Phoenix Landing Site, L. K. Tamppari, R. M. Anderson, P. D. Archer Jr., S. Douglas, S. P. Kounaves, C. P. McKay, D. W. Ming, Q. Moore, J. E. Quinn, P. H. Smith, S. Stroble, A. P. Zent, Antarctic Science, 2012, 24, 211-228.


The Oxidation-Reduction Potential of Aqueous Soil Solutions at the Mars Phoenix Landing Site, R. C. Quinn, J. D. Chittenden, S. P. Kounaves, and M. H. Hecht, Geophys. Res. Lett., 2011, 38, L14202.


Soluble Sulfate in the Martian Soil at the Phoenix Landing Site, S. P. Kounaves, M. H. Hecht, J. Kapit, R. C. Quinn, D. C. Catling, B. C. Clark, D. W. Ming, K. Gospodinova, P. Hredzak, K. McElhoney, and J. Shusterman, Geophys. Res. Lett., 2010, 37, L09201.


Discovery of Natural Perchlorate in the Antarctic Dry Valleys and its Global Implications,
S. P. Kounaves, S. T. Stroble, R. M. Anderson, Q. Moore, D. C. Catling, S. Douglas, C. P. McKay, D. W. Ming, P. H. Smith, L. K. Tamppari, A. P. Zent, Environ. Sci. Technol., 2010, 44, 2360-64.


Wet Chemistry Experiments on the 2007 Phoenix Mars Scout Lander: Data Analysis and Results
S. P. Kounaves, M. H. Hecht, J. Kapit, K. Gospodinova, L. DeFlores, R. C. Quinn, W. V. Boynton, B. C. Clark, D. C. Catling, P. Hredzak, D. W. Ming, Q. Moore, J. Shusterman, S. Stroble, S. J. West, and S. M. Young,. J. Geophys. Res., 2010, 115, E00E10.


Detection of Perchlorate and the Soluble Chemistry of Martian Soil at the Phoenix Lander Site, M. H. Hecht,
S. P. Kounaves, R. C. Quinn, S. J. West, S. M. M. Young, D. W. Ming, D. C. Catling, B. C. Clark, W. V. Boynton, J. Hoffman, L. P. DeFlores, K. Gospodinova, J. Kapit, and P. H. Smith
Science, 2009, 325, 64-67.

Evidence for Calcium Carbonate at the Mars Phoenix Landing Site, W. V. Boynton, D. W. Ming,
S. P. Kounaves, S. M. M. Young, R. E. Arvidson, M. H. Hecht, J. Hoffman, P. B. Niles, D. K. Hamara, R. C. Quinn, P. H. Smith, B. Sutter, D. C. Catling, and R. V. Morris, Science, 2009, 325, 61-64.


H2O at the Phoenix Landing Site, P. H. Smith, L. K. Tamppari, R. E. Arvidson, D. Bass, D. Blaney, W. V. Boynton, A. Carswell, D. C. Catling, B. C. Clark, T. Duck, E. DeJong, D. Fisher, W. Goetz, H. P. Gunnlaugsson, M. H. Hecht, V. Hipkin, J. Hoffman, S. F. Hviid, H. U. Keller, S. P. Kounaves, et al.,
Science, 2009, 325, 58-61



Complete list of publications can be found HERE.

Selected Media & E/PO Links

- AAAS Annual Meeting News "Perchlorate on Mars" February 2013


- The Analytical Scientist "Quantitative Analysis and the Essence of Doing Good Science" January 2013


- NECN TV "Curiosity Rover Lands on Mars" August 2012


- WGBH 7 One Guest Interview May 2009


- NOVA ScienceNOW "Phoenix Lander Wet Chemistry with PBS/Tyson" July 2008


- MSNBC Today Show "Is There Life on Mars" Interview with Ann Curry June 2008



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