Optional Wednesday Excursion, Now Open to Delegates through Registration 

Hot and Cold Water in the Canadian Rockies

We will explore hot and cold, as well as acid, spring systems in Banff National Park and across the Great Divide in Kootenay National Park. Stops include the Cave and Basin, Vermillion Lakes, and the Paint Pots. On the trip, we will discuss the geological history of the areas and why these unique spring outlets form where they do, where the water comes from, how it travels through the ground, and the microbiological processes that affect the water geochemistry along its flow path, along with controls on the unique mineral deposits that form at the outlets. 

Banff is the birthplace of Canada’s National Park system, and was initially established around the Cave and Basin Hot spring site to attract tourists west on the newly built rail line. Now a National Heritage site, it hosts the only endangered animal in the park.

The "Cave" is a travertine mound formed over glacial sediments, that was later hollowed out by acid speleogenesis. Large mats of Thiothrix sp. growing in the outlet provide food for the Banff Springs snail, which evolved over the last 5000 years from cold water cousins. The snails are uniquely adapted to life in the warm anoxic spring waters. Cycles of snow melt can destroy the microbial mats, and lead to mass die off of the snails – an annual trauma for this endangered endemic species.

More stable and cooler springs occur at Vermillion Lake, where beautiful mats of purple sulfur bacteria abound. Here, we can see the geologic controls on the spring systems along with classic scenic views of Mount Rundle.

Moving on, we will drive across Vermillion Pass into British Columbia to the Paint Pots, named for the brilliant red iron oxide deposits that once served as a source of pigment for First Nation peoples and later for paint companies in the early days of Calgary. Here, acid waters discharge along the base of the Cathedral Escarpment, a Cambrian reef margin along which the famous Burgess Shale fauna are also found. In this area, the reef margin focused metal-rich fluids that precipitated as sulfide minerals. Today, water flow through these depots generates natural acid mine drainage and precipitation of iron oxide mounds along with sulfate minerals at the discharge sites and along the flow channels. Interestingly, the candidate phylum WPS-2 was the most dominant in extinct spring mounds, providing a unique opportunity to better characterize this organism.

Trip Details
Delegates will depart early Wednesday morning (after breakfast) at the Banff Park Lodge by chartered bus. This will be an all-day trip, and we will return in time for late afternoon/evening activities. A boxed lunch, water, and snacks will be provided. We will likely be out of cellphone reception for most of the day, as well leave Banff and especially in Kootenay National Park.

Participants should consider their physical fitness when registering for the trip. In the "Cave," we will walk and pass through a narrow tunnel. There will be short staircases to the upper springs. There will also be a 2 km walk along maintained trails to the Paint Pots. Overall, there is a shallow grade and 35-50 m elevation gain. Elevations at the sites will be generally around 1400 m. Regular shoes are fine (but may get turned red at the Paint Pots). A warm jacket and rain gear may be useful given unpredictable fall weather and higher elevations (~1400 m above sea level).

2023 ISEB & ISSM

About us

The International Society for Environmental Biogeochemistry and the International Society for Subsurface Microbiology teamed up in 2005 for their first joint symposium in Jackson Hole, Wyoming. This 2023 gathering of both societies will be the  2nd joint symposium, but separately will be the 25th symposium for ISEB and the 11th symposium for ISSM.