Biological growth on the Alamo

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Gallagher, Casey Amber

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The limestone façade of the Alamo shows several areas of biological growth with black and gray streaks and blotches discoloring the stone. This thesis investigates the identity of the microorganisms on the stone, using two: DNA identification, and lab cultures grown from samples of the biofilm. By using both approaches, a better understanding was gained of the range of organisms present. Through these tests, it was found that the dominant organism on the limestone is cyanobacteria, of the genus Chrooccocus. Lab cultures revealed other organisms, including possibly fungi photobionts and algae. Through analysis and comparison of historic and contemporary photographs, patterns of recolonization are investigated. To further understand the effects of the biocide treatments, cultured samples were treated, and their reactions monitored. To better understand the possible relationship between the Alamo stone and its colonizing organisms, physical properties of the stone were investigated. SEM images, Edax minerology and water absorption were used to characterize the stone. This study is the first of its kind to investigate Native Texas quarried architectural limestone. Although studies have been conducted on historic monuments around the world to identify biological growth, none have focused on Texas limestone. By using both DNA and lab culture identification, this study adds to a wealth of investigations of other conservation professionals, applying it to a subject that has not been studied in this way before. By understanding the colonizing organisms, a sustainable conservation regimen can be determined.