Planetary Sciences & Geobiology

Our research program is working to make the Jackson School of Geosciences one of the world's leading centers for planetary research. Scientists in the planetary theme are exploring geology across the solar system, with special emphasis on the Moon, Earth, Mars, asteroids, and icy satellites. JSG researchers combine mission involvement, data analysis, theoretical work, and terrestrial analog field investigations to advance the cutting edge of planetary geosciences, astrobiology, and solar system exploration.

Research in the Planetary Sciences & Geobiology theme focuses on the following subthemes:

Planetary Sciences & Geobiology News

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Faculty

Jaime D Barnes

Jaime D Barnes

Stable isotope geochemistry, metamorphism and volatile transport in subduction zones, fluid-rock interaction and metasomatism, geochemical cycling, stable chlorine isotopes
Christopher J Bell

Christopher J Bell

Vertebrate paleontology and evolutionary morphology, North American Pliocene and Pleistocene small mammal biostratigraphy and biochronology, osteology, anatomy, and systematics of squamate reptiles and turtles, Impacts of climate change on vertebrate communities; history of science
Elizabeth J Catlos

Elizabeth J Catlos

Can also see https://www.catlos.work/ My primary research focus is geochemistry, and how the fundamentals of chemistry (mineral reactions, radiogenic and stable isotopes, major and trace elements) can be and are used to understand what the Earth was like in the past. In this, I have ...
Julia A Clarke

Julia A Clarke

Evolution of morphology, vertebrate paleontology, systematic biology, avian anatomy and the evolution of flight, fossil birds. Dinosaurs.
Timothy A Goudge

Timothy A Goudge

Remote sensing; surface processes; geomorphology; sedimentology; reflectance spectroscopy; martian surface geology; planetary science.
Sean S Gulick

Sean S Gulick

Marine and planetary geophysical imaging at nested resolutions and ground truth through drilling, coring, logging, and sampling.
Tectonic processes, tectonic-climate interactions, and geohazards of convergent margins and transitional tectonic environments.
Role of catastrophism in the geologic record including impact cratering, hurricanes, and tectonic events.
Planetary habitability, impact ...
Marc A Hesse

Marc A Hesse (Theme Lead)

Multiphase flow in porous media, geomechanics, numerical simulation, mathematical, modeling, reactive transport, magma dynamics.
Joel P Johnson

Joel P Johnson

Process geomorphology, feedbacks between channel morphology and hydrology and sediment transport, landscape sensitivity to climate and lithology, bedrock river erosion, flash floods, arroyo erosion, canyon formation, environmental monitoring and sensor networks, laboratory flume experimentation, numerical modeling, tsunami sediment transport and deposition.
Richard A Ketcham

Richard A Ketcham

High-resolution X-ray computed tomography, CT scanning, 3D image analysis, fission-track dating, thermochronology, thermal history inversion, structural geology, tectonics, digital morphology, trabecular bone
John C Lassiter

John C Lassiter

Earth's origin and evolution, isotope and trace element geochemistry, the role of crust and lithospheric mantle recycling in the generation of mantle chemical heterogeneity, the origin and distribution of water and other volatile elements in the Earth's interior, and the thermal and chemical evolution of the Earth's core and core/...
Jung-Fu  Lin

Jung-Fu Lin

Mineral physics, physics and chemistry of planetary materials, solid-Earth geophysics and geochemistry, high-pressure diamond anvil cell, X-ray and laser spectroscopy
Rowan C Martindale

Rowan C Martindale

Triassic and Jurassic reef paleoecology, mass extinctions (Triassic-Jurassic, 201 Ma), carbon cycle perturbation events in deep time, ocean acidification in deep time, Oceanic Anoxic Events, invertebrate paleontology (corals, sponges, algae, microbes), Mesozoic marine communities and ecosystems, exceptional fossil preservation (Lagersttten), paleoecology, carbonate petrography, warm-water and cool-water carbonate (eco)systems, low-temperature ...
Mary F Poteet

Mary F Poteet

karst ecosystems, biotic response and vulnerability to climate change, invasive species
Timothy B Rowe

Timothy B Rowe

Vertebrate paleontology, evolution and development of the vertebrate skeleton, phylogenetic systematics, the early history of mammals and their extinct relatives among Synapsida, the history of birds and their extinct relatives among Dinosauria, the history of other amniotes, high-resolution X-ray computed tomography, CT scanner, DigiMorph, informatics
Chenguang  Sun

Chenguang Sun

Deep volatile cycling; magmatic and metamorphic processes; planetary differentiation and habitability

Lecturers

Nathaniel R Miller

Nathaniel R Miller

Sedimentary geochemistry, isotope geochemistry, Earth system evolution, Q-ICP-MS, microanalytics, GIS, Neoproterozoic climate [link: http://www.jsg.utexas.edu/news/2018/05/new-research-suggests-that-dawn-of-plate-tectonics-could-have-turned-earth-into-snowball/]
Kenneth W Wisian

Kenneth W Wisian

Geothermal Geophysics, SETI, Exoplanets, Space Exploration, Disaster Response, Recovery & Resiliency, Military Technology Applications, International Affairs, Innovation, Curriculum Development

Affiliated Faculty

John W Kappelman

John W Kappelman

Evolutionary history of primates and especially hominoid evolution and hominid origins, paleoecology, functional morphology, stratigraphy, paleomagnetism, and computer imaging
Chris Kirk

Chris Kirk

fossil, primate, Primates, evolution, Eocene, Oligocene, Paleogene, adapid, adapoid, adapiform, omomyoid, omomyid, omomyiform, anthropoid, haplorhine, haplorrhine, tarsier, lemur, strepsirrhine, mammal, synapsid, mammaliaform, mammal, vision, eye, retina, hearing, auditory, cochlea, semicircular canal, nasal cavity, nasal fossa, olfaction, olfactory, turbinal, turbinate, olfactory bulb, Texas, Big Bend, Tornillo Basin, Canoe Formation, Devil's Graveyard ...

Emeritus

Philip C Bennett

Philip C Bennett

Aqueous geochemistry, geomicrobiology, environmental and microbial geochemistry, hydrogeology
Mark A Helper

Mark A Helper

Dr. Helper is a field geologist, a generalist whose interests span igneous and metamorphic petrology, structural geology, tectonics, mineralogy and planetary field geology. His current research explores geochemical and isotopic similarities of Proterozoic and Archean crust in East Antarctica and the southwestern U.S., the Precambrian geology of Texas, and ...
Yosio  Nakamura

Yosio Nakamura

Geophysics, lunar and planetary seismology, ocean-bottom seismometry
James T Sprinkle

James T Sprinkle

Invertebrate paleontology; evolutionary biology; fossil and living echinoderms; echinoderm systematics; Paleozoic marine communities and ecosystems; paleoecology; crinoids; blastoids; rhombiferans; eocrinoids; parablastoids; blastozoans; edrioasteroids; edrioblastoids; starfish; stylophorans; ctenocystoids; helicoplacoids; Cambrian evolutionary fauna; Paleozoic evolutionary fauna; Ordovician radiation; Cambrian explosion; environment & earth science
Clark R Wilson

Clark R Wilson

Geophysics, including gravity, space geodesy, and applied seismology

Postdocs

Tian Y Dong

Tian Y Dong

Fluvial Geomorphology, Surface Processes, Stratigraphy
Christopher Gerekos

Christopher Gerekos

Scattering of electromagnetic waves from rough random surface, mathematical modelling of natural surfaces, computational electromagnetics, Martian and Europan radar science

Research Scientists

Cyril Grima

Kitty L Milliken

Kitty L Milliken

Petrography and geochemistry of siliciclastic rocks; diagenesis; electron microbeam methods: X-ray mapping, cathodoluminescence imaging; micro-scale reservoir characterization
Cornelia  Rasmussen

Cornelia Rasmussen

Paleoecology, geobiology, geochemistry, geochronology, sedimentology
Krista M Soderlund

Krista M Soderlund

Astrobiology, Cryosphere, Geophysical Fluid Dynamics, Magnetohydrodynamics, Planetary Science
Kenneth W Wisian

Kenneth W Wisian

Geothermal Geophysics, SETI, Exoplanets, Space Exploration, Disaster Response, Recovery & Resiliency, Military Technology Applications, International Affairs, Innovation, Curriculum Development
Duncan A Young

Duncan A Young

Polar remote sensing (especially areogeophysics), glaciology and geoscience. Member of the Europa Clipper project science group, a mission to Jupiters ocean world Europa. Lead for the Europa Clipper's radar instrument's (REASON) Science Data System and science requirements validation and verification. Ice-rock physical interactions in an ice ...

Research Staff

Lisa D Boucher

Lisa D Boucher

Paleobotany, Evolutionary Biology, Paleoecology, Biogeography, Plant Anatomy
Matthew W Colbert

Matthew W Colbert

Paleontology, CT data visualization, vertebrate cranial morphology, evolutionary and postnatal ontogenetic variation in the Tapiroidea (Mammalia: Perissodactyla), ontogenetic sequence analysis, digital educational resources
David R Edey

David R Edey

X-Ray computed tomography, X-ray physics, Tomography reconstruction, Digital morphology, CT data visualization, Volumetric data analysis, Digital educational resources
Romy D Hanna

Romy D Hanna

carbonaceous chondrites, planetary geology, remote sensing, VISNIR and TIR spectroscopy, X-ray computed tomography (CT), electron backscatter diffraction (EBSD), 3D image analysis and processing, scientific software development
Nathaniel R Miller

Nathaniel R Miller

Sedimentary geochemistry, isotope geochemistry, Earth system evolution, Q-ICP-MS, microanalytics, GIS, Neoproterozoic climate [link: http://www.jsg.utexas.edu/news/2018/05/new-research-suggests-that-dawn-of-plate-tectonics-could-have-turned-earth-into-snowball/]

Graduate Students

Emily Bamber

I am a PhD student in the Planetary Surface Processes lab My current research addresses the past evolution of impact crater lakes on Mars, Earth, and elsewhere with fieldwork, satellite observations and landscape modelling.

Morgan A Carrington

Scott A Eckley

I am interested in studying the petrogenesis of igneous rocks, especially basaltic meteorites from Mars (shergottites) using a multi-modal analytical approach, from macroscale 3D observations using X-ray computed tomography to high-resolution in-situ geochemical measurements using various microanalytical techniques. I also work full-time at NASA Johnson Space Center managing the X-ray ...
Hector K Garza

Hector K Garza

My research interests encompass a broad range of approaches incorporating geochemistry, geochronology, paleontology, stratigraphy, and sedimentology to understand major geologic and evolutionary events in Earth's history. Currently, I am researching the precise timing of early land colonization during the Ordovician, Silurian, and Devonian periods. I am also investigating the potential ...

Erin M Keenan Early

My research explores the use of geomolecular and biomolecular methodologies to address paleoenvironmental and paleoecological questions. Specifically I am researching the use of proteomics as applied to faunal material as a means of species identification and I am exploring the applications of brGDGTs recovered from various sources to aid in ...

Megan Kerr

Nicholas J Montiel

William  Reyes

William Reyes

Generally, I am interested in the macroevolutionary processes that determine how terrestrial vertebrates have responded to periods of climatic fluctuations in earth's history. My research is focused on increasing our understanding of the endocranial morphology, paleoneurology, and paleoecology of Late Triassic pseudosuchians (crocodilian-relatives), particularly that of aetosaurs from North America. ...
Cole M Speed

Cole M Speed

I am a Ph.D. student with interests in remote sensing, geospatial data analytics, and Earth/planetary surface processes. My current research focuses on quantifying the evolution of modern fluvial landscapes and their preservation in the ancient rock record using high-resolution topography, time-lapse satellite imagery, numerical models, and field data. ...
Michelle Tebolt

Michelle Tebolt

As a planetary scientist, I study sedimentary processes on Mars to better understand the paleoenvironment, or the conditions that once existed on the surface. I am particularly interested in Martian fluvial processes that occurred ~3.8 billion years ago when there was liquid water on the surface and consider the question: How ...
Graduate courses in the Planetary theme area focus on understanding the physical, chemical, and biological processes that shape planetary surfaces, atmospheres, and interiors. A wide variety of courses across several departments are available to graduate students interested in perusing research and training in this multidisciplinary field. No fixed curriculum is required for planetary graduate students, allowing students to work with their advisors to assemble an individualized program of courses to best suit their needs. Courses listed below are offered through the Department of Geological Sciences (GEO), the Department of Astronomy (AST), Chemistry (CH), and Aerospace Engineering (ASE). Not all courses are offered every term. An updated list of GEO courses being offered during Fall 2013 is listed at the end of this page.

Graduate Courses

GEO 391 Meteoritics and Early Solar System Processes
GEO 391 Planetary geology and geophysics
GEO S391 Field Methods in Planetary Geology
GEO 380G Construction and Interpretation of 3-D Stratigraphy
GEO 384C Seismology I
GEO 380C Advanced Structural Geology
GEO 380N Sequence Stratigraphy
GEO 381E Brittle Structure
GEO 381G Geomicrobiology
GEO 380T Geoclimatology
GEO 382G Fluid Physics for Geologists
GEO 383 Clastic Depositional Systems
GEO 383D Numerical Methods I: Computational Methods in Geological Sciences
GEO 383G Geochemistry of Sedimentary Rocks
GEO 383P Potential Field Applications in Geophysics
GEO 384D Physics of Earth
GEO 384M Inverse Theory
GEO 384F Computational Methods for Geophysics
GEO 384R Geophysical Time Series Analysis
GEO 386G GIS and GPS Applications in Earth Sciences
GEO 385Q Mathematical Methods in Geophysics
GEO 387D Climate Dynamics
GEO 387F Dynamics of Atmospheres and Oceans
GEO 387H Physical Climatology
GEO 389P Digital Methods in Morphology
GEO 390M Thermodynamics of Geologic Processes
GEO 191 Proposal Writing
GEO 291 Geomorphology/Glaciology Seminar
GEO 391 Essentials of Flow in Porous Media
GEO 391 Field Stratigraphy: Guadalupe Mountains
GEO 391 Hydrogeophysics
GEO 391 Morphodynamics
GEO 391Q Topics in Quarternary Geology

AST 364 Solar System Astronomy
AST 380E Radiative Processes and Radiative Transfer
AST 381 Planetary Astrophysics
AST309L The Search for Extraterrestrial Life and Intelligence
AST 383 Astroseismology
AST 392J Astronomical Instrumentation

CH391L Astrobiology for Chemists & Biochemists
CH391L Biochemistry and Astrobiology

ASE 382Q Fluid Mechanics.
ASE 387P Flight Mechanics, Guidance, Navigation, and Control.
ASE 388P Celestial Mechanics.
ASE 389P Satellite Applications.

Computational Courses: https://www.ices.utexas.edu/graduate-studies/course-information/

Undergraduate Courses

GEO 303C Introduction to the Solar System
UGS 303 Extraterrestrial Life

Geosciences Courses Currently Scheduled for 2013-2014

GEO 380J MATHEMATICAL METHS IN GEOPHYS
GEO 380C ADVANCED STRUCTURAL GEOLOGY
GEO 381E BRITTLE STRUCTURE
GEO 381G GEOMICROBIOLOGY
GEO 382W HYDROGEOPHYSICS
GEO 383 CLASTIC DEPOSITIONAL SYSTEMS
GEO 383D NUM METH I: COMP METH GEOL SCI
GEO 383M PETROG OF CARBONATE/EVAPORITE
GEO 384C SEISMOLOGY I
GEO 386G GIS & GPS APPLICS IN EARTH SCI
GEO 387H PHYSICAL CLIMATOLOGY
GEO 388T HIGH-TEMPERATURE GEOCHEMISTRY
GEO 371C MORPHODYNAMICS
GEO 271C GEOMORPHOLOGY SEMINAR
GEO 366M MATHEMATICAL METHS IN GEOPHYS

Graduate Student Position in Mineral Physics Lab

Graduate
The mineral physics lab at the Department of Geological Sciences, Jackson School of Geosciences, the University of Texas at Austin invites applications for graduate student positions towards a Master's or Ph.D. degree in mineral physics. The Jackson School of Geosciences has exceptionally well-funded research programs and offers a number of scholarships to support graduate students for an extended period of time. Candidates with strong background and/or interest in physics (solid state physics), math, and geophysics/geochemistry are strongly encouraged to apply. Our mineral physics research programs focuses on high pressure-temperature experimental studies on materials properties using synchrotron X-ray and optical spectroscopies in a diamond anvil cell. Information about the graduate student programs at the Jackson School is available at: http://www.jsg.utexas.edu/. Please contact Dr. Jung-Fu Lin at afu@jsg.utexas.edu for further information.
Posted by: Jung-Fu Lin

PhD/MS opportunities

Graduate
My group welcomes new students with strong motivations on understanding how solid Earth and planets operate and its impacts on shaping habitable surface environments. Prospective students are expected to have a STEM background. If these describe you, feel free to contact me through email for position openings in my group.
Posted by: Chenguang Sun

Center for Planetary Systems Habitability

The Center for Planetary Systems Habitability is an interdisciplinary research center at UT and is the result of a partnership between the Jackson School, the College of Natural Sciences, and the Cockrell School of Engineering. The center advances our ability to search for life on other planets by collaborating on research that helps better understand where habitable zones develop and how they evolve within planetary systems.

Affiliated UT Programs & Centers

Center for Space Research

The University of Texas at Austin, Center for Space Research was established in 1981 under the direction of Dr. Byron D. Tapley. The mission of the Center is to conduct research in orbit determination, space geodesy, the Earth and its environment, exploration of the solar system, as well as expanding the scientific applications of space systems data.

Texas Advanced Computing Center

The Texas Advanced Computing Center (TACC) at The University of Texas at Austin is one of the leading centers of computational excellence in the United States. Located on the J.J. Pickle Research Campus, the center's mission is to enable discoveries that advance science and society through the application of advanced computing technologies.