Research

My interests include the study of geomorphology, surface processes and planetary geology primarily through the use of remote sensing. This includes image acquisition, validation, calibration, exploitation, interpretation, visualization and integration into models. I heavily utilize geographic information systems (GIS) for geospatial analysis and interpretation of planetary surfaces, mainly Earth and Mars. I focused my PhD research on the analysis of multispectral and hyperspectral remote sensing data and thermal emission spectroscopy to address geophysical problems in aeolian systems on Earth.

My research today is focused on terrestrial analogs of planetary surfaces. In particular, I have developed expertise using airborne low-altitude image data mounted on tethered aerosystems (i.e., kites!), small unmanned aerial vehicles (sUAS) and specialized near-surface camera rigging to produce very high spatial resolution digital terrain models (DTMs) using stereophotogrammetry and accurate Global Navigation Satellite System (GNSS) survey equipment. I have participated in numerous field campaigns to study volcanic and aeolian systems in Iceland, the western United States, Hawaii and Argentina.

NASA Goddard Instrument Field Team (GIFT)

New instrument technologies will be integral for robotics and humans to explore planetary surfaces in the solar systems. Field science campaigns allow us to test these technologies and workflows, as well as address fundamental research in geology and astrobiology. I am the team lead for sUAS equipment, field operations and science integration, and I’m participating on several projects related to subsurface ice, lava flow emplacement and the migration of aeolian bedforms. Learn more here (PI Kelsey Young and Amy McAdam, NASA GSFC).

Fluvial Processes on Alba Mons, Mars

Extensive fluvial dissection occurs on the slopes of Alba Mons, a large shield volcano in the Tharsis province of Mars. In the volcano’s long geological history, it has developed a host of other cross-cutting morphologies from extensive faulting, dust deposition and mid-latitude mantling. As a Co-I, I am using hydrological modeling and morphometric analyses to document variations in geomorphology and constrain the relative timing of fluvial activity among these other geological processes. This is being addressed within a broader geologic mapping investigation (PI David Crown, PSI, MDAP).

Fluvial dissection on the flank of Alba Mons. Colorized MOLA data.

Geology of the Southern Rim of Hellas Basin, Mars

Hellas is the deepest depositional basin on Mars. Numerous processes affected the geology of the southern rim from the Noachian to the Amazonian. The highland patera volcanoes located in the circum-Hellas highlands indicate the major role of early Martian volcanism. This investigation will focuses on using high-resolution imaging and topographic datasets to determine the history of volcanism, tectonism, and degradation. As a Co-I, I will mainly focus on topographic analysis and production of DTMs within a broader geologic mapping investigation (PI David Crown, PSI).

Fluvial channels cross-cut by faults and craters. CTX and colorized MOLA data.

Volcanic Planetary Analogs of Gusev Crater, Mars

Gusev crater is located near the southern highland-northern lowland dichotomy boundary. Its geological history is a complex mix of impact, fluvial, volcanic,
hydrothermal, aeolian and possibly lacustrine processes. A wealth of orbital data and robotic in-situ exploration by the MER Spirit rover have shown us a great deal about martian geology. This project will consist of a broader planetary geologic mapping investigation (PI David Crown, PSI, SSW). As I Co-I, I will co-lead a series of terrestrial field analogue studies utilizing sUAS designed to inform geologic interpretations by investigating small-scale morphologic, topographic, and compositional characteristics of volcanic deposits.

Apollinaris (top) and Gusev Crater (middle). Colorized MOLA data.

Dust Devils on Earth and Mars

This field study will produce a comprehensive, unbiased suite of measurements to determine how dust devil initiation, physical characteristics, and development reflect the convective and mesoscale atmospheric environment in which they form. We are looking for empirical relationships between Earth dust devil physical characteristics and conditions within the planetary boundary layer at both the micro- and mesoscale at topographically-distinct field sites (PI Lori Fenton, SETI). As a Co-I, I am utilizing an array of high spatial resolution digital cameras to capture the spatial and temporal evolution of dust devils during our team field campaigns.

Remote, In Situ, and Synchrotron Studies for Science and Exploration 2 (RISE2)

The RISE2 team was selected through NASA’s Solar System Exploration Research Virtual Institute (SSERVI), which brings researchers together to focus on space science and human space exploration (PI Tim Glotch, Stony Brook University). As a Co-I, I will co-lead remote sensing and UAS operations during field campaigns, which will provide high spatial resolution image and DTM data that provide context data for the field portable instruments used by human space exploration scenarios.

UAS-generated digital terrain model of Aden Crater summit in the Potrillo Volcanic Field, New Mexico.

RAVEN: Rover-Aerial Vehicle Exploration Network

RAVEN will utilize unmanned aerial systems (UAS) in planetary exploration mission scenarios. The project will develop new methods of using UAS more effectively and integrating UAS into mission architectures in cooperation with rovers (PI Christopher Hamilton, University of Arizona). As a Co-I, I will assist the team with field operations in Iceland and contribute expertise in the area of stereophotogrammetry, remote sensing and UAS operations.