Dr. Jack Holt employs airborne geophysical techniques to study ice-covered regions of Earth and Mars. He has led or co-led seven expeditions to Antarctica since 1998 using a multi-instrumented Twin Otter or turbine-powered DC-3 to map the ice and features buried beneath the ice. In early 2007 Holt was selected as a Participating Scientist on the SHARAD instrument team of Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter and is now a Co-Investigator on SHARAD.

In Antarctica, Holt is using airborne gravity and magnetics in conjunction with subglacial topography from radar sounding to delineate crustal boundaries and characterize active tectonics in the Amundsen Sea Embayment of West Antarctica. The glaciers of this basin appear to be losing more mass as a result of climate change than any others in Antarctica. The basin is also characterized by the highest estimated geothermal flux in Antarctica, so the ice dynamical response to the geological boundary conditions of this region may dictate West Antarctica's contribution to global sea level change.

He is also using airborne geophysics in the Dry Valleys of Antarctica to develop radar analysis techniques for similar environments on Mars. The primary data set for this project was collected using a 60 MHz (5-meter wavelength) radar sounder, a result of the Advanced Technology Radar Sounding (ATRS) project at UTIG. This work contributes to the effort to find subsurface water on Mars, which is the highest priority for NASA and ESA missions with the goal of finding evidence for current or past life on the red planet.

Related to these activities, Dr. Holt is pursuing the use of radar sounding for hydrology in temperate climates; in particular, developing ground-penetrating radar techniques for characterizing conduits and caves in karst environments.

Finally, Holt directs the Paleomagnetism Laboratory at the University of Texas.

Areas of Expertise

Mars ice and paleoclimate, Antarctica, glaciers, airborne and orbital geophysics, hydrogeophysics, paleomagnetism


Research Locations



Group Achievement Award for SHARAD - NASA (2011)

Outstanding Oral Presentation - SCAR Open Science Conference (2010)

Director's Circle of Excellence - UT Institute for Geophysics (2010)

Outstanding Researcher - UT Institute for Geophysics (2010)

Group Achievement Award for SHARAD - NASA (2009)

Outstanding Researcher - Jackson School of Geosciences (2008)

Post-Doctoral Scholar at JPL - Caltech (1997 - 1998)

Technical Achievement Award - NASA (1992)

Koons Field Research Fellowship - California Institute of Technology (1992)

Technical Achievement Award - NASA (1990)

to be entered - National Merit Scholar (1984 - 1988)

President's Honor Roll - Rice University (1984 - 1988)

to be entered, Antarctica's ice bottom exposed, BBC news article (2005)

to be entered, I'm a scientist, get me out of here, Guardian news article (2005)

to be entered, Press Conference, AAA, Washington, D.C. (2005)

Interview, Antarctic Sun Article (2004)

Teaching Exp., Taught science courses to undergraduate students, engaging them in field-based research projects and exposing them to major research facilities (Owens Valley radio Observatory, Jet Propulsion Laboratory, Caltech Paleomagnetics Laboratory), Deep Springs College (2003)

to be entered, Funded Education and Public Outreach Program, NASA (2003 - 2005)

Speaker, Classroom Visit and Talk, Martin Jr. High, Austin, TX (8th grade) (2002)

to be entered, Email dialogue from Antarctica with 8th grade class, Marting Jr. High (2001 - 2002)

Interview, Lake Vostok Survey, Australian National Public Radio (2001)

Project Manager, Managed the acquisition, reduction, and distribution of 97,000 line-km of airborne radar, laser altimetry, gravity, and magnetics data from Antarctica for 15 investegators at 10 institutions. , Support office for Aerogeophysical Research (SOAR), an NSF facility (1998 - 2002)

Member, American Geophysical Union

Member, Geological Society of America (GSA)

Member, Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers

Member, International Airborne Geophysics Safety Association

Graduate Students

Thomas C Brothers, Ph.D., expected 2013
My research focuses on the interpretation of remotely sensed data to investigate the surface geomorphology and subsurface stratigraphic record of planetary bodies. I make extensive use of orbital radar soundings, high resolution satellite imagery, and digital elevation models. My research involves processing, interpreting and integrating observations from multiple types of remotely sensed data in collaboration with other researchers to deduce the evolution of planetary surfaces. Throughout my dissertation, my research has been focused on applying these approaches to the Mar's north pole.

Isaac B Smith, Ph.D., expected 2013

Sarah R Christian, Ph.D., expected 2016

Daniel E Lalich, Ph.D., expected 2017

Mackenzie D Day, Ph.D., expected 2017