As an astrobiologist at the Blue Marble Space Institute of Science, my research broadly investigates how the rock record can preserve properties of an ancient atmosphere, and how the rocks can create or contribute to an atmosphere; a discipline I like to call "Atmospheric Geology". Atmospheric gases and/or gases released in water-rock reactions are fundamental in metabolic processes, and so I enjoy thinking about the role life has in modulating the concentration of gases (atmospheric or not), and how the concentration of those gases modulate biological "lifestyle" (survival, maintenance, growth).
As examples, I investigate how ancient raindrop craters can record atmospheric density, how gas bubbles trapped as amygdales in ancient lava flows can record atmospheric pressure, and how channel morphology can be an indicator of flow sustainability (the latter in the context of Mars). I'm also very interested in the topographic evolution of Mars.
At Ames, I focus on the latter part of this interest: how rocks can create or contribute to an atmosphere. Specifically, I am investigating the connection between geology, geochemistry, and microbiology in serpentinizing systems, through a combination of field, laboratory and theoretical studies. Deep-sea exploration has been a growing interest of mine, overprinted on the space exploration passion that has fueled my career. To that end, I have been involved with research cruises on-board the R/V Atlantis, and have explored the sea-floor both robotically (ROV Jason), and physically (DSV Alvin).
My engineering work centers around Fruit Fly Lab, a mission lead by NASA Ames to place an orbital fruit fly research facility onboard the International Space Station. I'm the mission's systems engineer.
I do have a private pilot's license (VFR), but haven't had the chance to fly in a few years. I hope to change that in the near future.
Intermission - The drive to Geysir
Geysir, the biggest tourist spot in Iceland, is located about an hour and half drive east of Reykjavik on the highway, but because we were coming from further north in Vesturland, our path took us across roads that made for arguably the most epic drive I have taken (driving Western Australia's Pilbara Craton is a close second). This drive took us on Icelandic "F roads",…Continue
Site 3 - Landbrotalaug, Snaefellsness Peninsula
Our third site was the rather unassuming site of Landbrotalaug. It is located on the Snaefellsness Peninsula, made famous by Jules Verne in his book "Journey to the Center of the Earth". There, the Snaefells volcano, situated near the tip of the peninsula, is actually the entrance!
What is interesting about Snaefells is that the rocks are a bit…Continue
Site 2 - Deildarthunguhver in Vesturland
After the muddy waters of Seltun, I was looking forward to some clearer waters to sample. I got my wish granted at Deidarthunguhver. This hot spring is extraordinary. Water emerges out of the rock bubbling and fountaining furiously at 98C, at the highest flow rate in Europe. 198 liters / second (52 gallons per second)! …Continue
Site 1 - Seltun, Reykjanes Peninsula
After loading our trusty 4x4 Suzuki Jimny with our sampling gear, we headed off heading west from Reykjavik. Leaving the highway to go in the direction of Kruysuvik, the paved road soon ended (I love that about Iceland, the driving is always so much fun!). Thankfully the rain had stopped by the time we got to our destination, which was…Continue