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Scientist Interview - Nathalie Cabrol

Scientist Interview - Nathalie Cabrol

Nathalie Cabrol exploring in the Andes. Image credit: Nathalie Cabrol

Nathalie Cabrol is a planetary scientist, an explorer, and a leader of research projects in astrobiology and extreme terrestrial environments, planetary missions, and robotics. She is a science team member of the NASA Mars Exploration Rover mission and was the main advocate for the selection of Gusev crater as the landing site for the Spirit rover on Mars.

She is the Principal Investigator (PI) and the expedition leader of the High Lakes Project, a NASA Astrobiology Institute-funded project exploring the highest volcanic lakes on Earth at close to 6,000 m elevation (20,000 ft). Their exploration includes extreme scientific scuba and free diving, and has brought new insights into poorly known ecosystems. With her team, Nathalie documents life adaptation to extreme environmental conditions and the effect of rapid climate change on habitability whether here and now on Earth, or in the past on early Mars. She also develops and field tests exploration strategies for rover field experiments. She was the science lead of the NASA-funded Nomad rover (1997) and Life in the Atacama projects (2003-2006).

Currently, she is the PI of the Planetary Lake Lander project that will develop an adaptive probe as well as exploration strategies to explore the lakes of Titan, while monitoring the impact of deglaciation on terrestrial lake habitat and biodiversity in the Chilean Andes. In turn, results from this investigation are expected to provide insights into habitability and life potential on Mars during similar geological periods when glaciers were still present at the surface. She is the Science PI for the Subsurface Life in the Atacama project, (PI, David Wettergreen CMU), which has deployed a rover-mounted drill in the Atacama desert to characterize subsurface life in a Mars analog environment. Both projects are supported by the NASA ASTEP program (2011-2014).

Nathalie created and managed the Planetary Landscape group on Facebook. With daily posts, she celebrates planetary and space sciences, knowledge, and the spirit of human exploration.

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