MarsFest 2014 Speaker Bio
Dr. Luther Beegle is the supervisor for the Planetary Chemistry and Astrobiology Group. He is an experimental astrophysicist by training and is currently researching the potential distribution of life in the Solar System, including methodologies for identifying biosignatures. Dr. Beegle has extensive experience developing and designing instrumentation such as organic molecule extract techniques, charged particle optics, ion mobility spectrometers, and cylindrical ion trap mass spectrometers for space and terrestrial applications. Part of his astrobiology-related interest is how robotic sample acquisition techniques physically and chemically alter the components of samples on current and future in situ missions. Dr. Beegle is currently a Surface Sampling Scientist on the Mars Science Laboratory, where he works with the science team to identify suitable high-value scientific samples that will not damage the Sample Acquisition, Sample Processing and Handling (SA/SPAaH) on the MSL rover.
Dr. Rosalba Bonaccorsi is an interdisciplinary scientist working at NASA Ames Research Center. In 2001 she obtained her Ph.D. in Geological, Marine, and Environmental Sciences from the University of Trieste (Italy). Since 2005, she has expanded her interest to the habitability of mineralogical Mars analogs and very dry desert regions worldwide, including the Mojave, Antarctica, Atacama (Chile), and Australia, often as a NASA Spaceward Bound team member. Rosalba joined the SETI Institute in 2008, and is keen to achieve a wide picture of where life and its signatures are most successfully distributed, concentrated, preserved, and detected. Since 2008, Rosalba has been working in Death Valley on the Ubehebe Volcanic Field. In 2012 Rosalba joined the Volunteer Program as Field Researcher in support of the Resources Management’s conservation effort in Death Valley National Park. In collaboration with NASA scientists, she is applying results from this research to Mars Science Laboratory mission objectives. Formerly a teacher, she has been involved with Education and Public Outreach with non-profit organizations since 1989.
Dr. Alfonso F. Davila
Alfonso F. Davila is a research scientist at the SETI Institute and the NASA Ames Research Center in California since 2009, with substantial experience in Earth and Planetary sciences. As an undergraduate in Spain, he studied marine sciences and was trained in marine biology, chemistry, geology, and physics, with a later focus in marine geology and physics for his Masters degree (1996-2001). He obtained a PhD in Germany studying bio-geophysics and the interactions between the Earth's magnetic field and biological systems (2001-2005). His Post-Doc at NASA Ames in California brought him to work on the habitability of Mars through the study of Mars Analog Environments on Earth (2006-2009). This greatly broadened his experience in field geology and biology. Alfonso has been a guest speaker in international conferences and a guest lecturer in universities and research institutes in the US, Canada, South America, and Europe, and has published more than 50 scientific papers and book chapters in these fields. Alfonso's research interests are broad, spanning from planetary habitability, geology, and geochemistry to the origin and evolution of life on Earth. He is particularly interested in the geologic, geochemical, and climatic evolution of Mars, and how this evolution affected the habitability of the planet from its origins up to the present. He is also interested in comparing the evolution of Mars and Earth through field research in Mars Analog Environments such as the Antarctic Dry Valleys, the High Arctic, or the Atacama Desert, combined with laboratory work, numerical modeling, and the analysis of remote sensing data. He is currently working on several international science and engineering projects in the field of planetary sciences.
Dr. Susanne Douglas has a Ph.D. in Geomicrobiology from the University of Guelph in Canada. Her work since then has focused on determining the interrelationships between minerals, microorganisms, and geochemistry in the Earth's extreme environments. She has studied saline alkaline lakes in northern Canada, closed marine basins in the Bahamas, evaporative hot spring pools in Iceland and California, and endolithic microbial communities in various deserts including the Antarctic Dry Valleys. Her main research area at present is Death Valley National Park, where she holds an active research permit and conducts investigations of microbe-mineral interrelationships.
Andrea Jones is an Education and Public Outreach (E/PO) Specialist at the Lunar and Planetary Institute, based out of NASA Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Maryland. She conducts E/PO activities for NASA planetary missions, including the Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter (LRO), the Mars Atmosphere and Volatile EvolutioN (MAVEN) mission, and the Mars Science Laboratory (MSL) Curiosity rover mission as part of the Sample Analysis at Mars (SAM) team. Andrea is the Informal Education Lead for the NASA Earth Science E/PO Forum and Co-Lead for the NASA Planetary Science E/PO Forum Diversity Task Force. She received her undergraduate degree in Geology from the College of William & Mary, and a Master’s degree in Geosciences, with a focus in planetary geology, from the University of Arizona.
Joe likes to swim and ski, and to explore the hot mineral waters produced by Mother Earth. He is married to a neurobiological electron microscopist, Atsuko Kobayashi, and they have two children (Jiseki and Koseki), whose names mean "magnetite" and "gemstone" respectively in Japanese. As a result, the children will probably grow up to be bloodsucking lawyers. And his family still doesn't know if home is in Pasadena or Osaka.
Sarah Marcotte works for Mars Public Engagement at the Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, CA. A museum educator by training, Sarah provides museums with artifacts, spacecraft models, and training on robotics and the planet Mars. She has worked in at the Natural History Museum of LA County, the California Institute of Technology, and Kidspace Children’s Museum on projects as diverse as California archeology, a butterfly house, and exhibit and biologically-inspired engineering.
Dr. Christopher P. McKay is a Planetary Scientist with the Space Science Division of NASA Ames Research Center. Chris’ current research focuses on the evolution of the Solar System and the origin of life. He is also actively involved in planning for future Mars missions including human exploration. Chris has been involved in research in Mars-like environments on Earth, traveling to the Antarctic Dry Valleys, Siberia, the Canadian Arctic, and the Atacama, Namib, and Sahara deserts to study life in these analog environments. He was a co-investigator on the Huygens probe to Saturn’s moon Titan in 2005, the Mars Phoenix lander mission in 2008, and the current Mars Science Laboratory mission.
Dr. Aaron Zent got his Ph. D. in Geology from the University of Hawaii in 1988, and has been at NASA Ames ever since. He has been involved with several Mars missions, most recently the 2008 Phoenix lander. His research focuses on the physical and chemical interactions between planetary atmospheres and their surfaces.