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Research

desert sand dunes

Our research is anchored in the dialogue between Earth geology and planetary science. On the one hand, we utilize mechanistic models of geological processes that were derived from terrestrial investigations to decipher paleo- and modern environments on other planets from their rocks and landscapes. On the other hand, extraterrestrial landscapes and rocks can in turn teach us about geological processes, or even, about the Earth. Earth was a very different planet before the advent of macroscopic life, and studying ancient Earth is, in many respects, akin to planetary science.

We tackle a broad range of questions – all centered around bettering and using models of geomorphic and sedimentary processes to understand a planetary body’s past or present surface environments, atmosphere, and habitability. Example topics we have worked on in recent years include:

  • the mechanics of bedform formation and evolution in fluvial and eolian environments, with implications to interpret the sedimentary rock records of Earth, Mars, and Titan;
  • the formation, dynamics, and deposits of meandering rivers in unvegetated landscapes, with implications for our understanding of continental environments on pre-Silurian Earth and the surface of early Mars;
  • the erosion of large bedrock canyons by groundwater and overland flows , with applications to paleohydraulic reconstructions on Earth and Mars;
  • the exploration of the modern Martian eolian environment using orbiter- and rover-based instrumentation, bearing new insights into bedform morphodynamics, sediment physical and compositional properties, mineral sorting, surface wind patterns and intensities, etc.
  • new spectroscopic techniques to constrain the mineral composition of planetary surfaces, with applications to a broad range of planetary bodies.

Studying planetary surfaces is inherently a multidisciplinary endeavor. As a result, the tools we employ are varied – from conceptual, experimental, and numerical modeling to analog field work, lab analyses, remote sensing and in situ robotic mission data analysis, and spectroscopy.

For more specific details about our past and ongoing work, please visit our Publications page.