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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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

Please see
Julia A Clarke

Julia A Clarke

Evolution of anatomical novelty, vertebrate paleontology, systematic biology, avian vocalization 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.
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, sediment transport and deposition by tsunamis, storm surges, and flash floods.
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
Craig  Martin

Craig Martin

Field-based Structural Geology; Paleomagnetism; Plate Reconstruction; U-Pb Zircon Geochronology; Orogenic Systems; Planetary Geology
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, marine ecology, Geoscience Education, educational game design, carbonate petrography, ...
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


Nathaniel R Miller

Nathaniel R Miller

Sedimentary geochemistry, isotope geochemistry, Earth system evolution, Q-ICP-MS, microanalytics, GIS, Neoproterozoic climate [link:]
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

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 ...


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


Tian Y Dong

Tian Y Dong

Fluvial Geomorphology, Surface Processes, Stratigraphy
Perianne  Johnson

Perianne Johnson

Planetary Science, Outer Solar System, Planetary Ices, Geophysics
Rhianna  Moore

Rhianna Moore

planetary science, geochemistry, geomorphology, sedimentology
Gaia  Stucky de Quay

Gaia Stucky de Quay

Planetary Surface Processes; Fluvial Geomorphology; Erosion and Uplift; Land-Climate Interactions; Early Mars; Terrestrial Analogs; Volcanic Islands; Geochronology; Landscape Evolution
Alice R Turner

Alice R Turner

Research Scientists

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
Elizabeth  Spiers

Elizabeth Spiers

Kenneth W Wisian

Kenneth W Wisian

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

Research Staff

Lisa D Boucher

Lisa D Boucher

Paleobotany, Evolutionary Biology, Paleoecology, Biogeography, Plant Anatomy
Dave Edey

Dave 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:]
Lijing  Yao

Lijing Yao

Graduate Students

Emily Bamber

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 satellite observations, landscape modelling, and fieldwork. Specifically, I'm interested in how ...
Morgan A Carrington

Morgan A Carrington

Kristian  Chan

Kristian Chan

Kristian Chan's research centers on the development and application of techniques for multifrequency/bandwidth ice-penetrating radar data to investigate surface/near-surface regolith properties (e.g., layering) on Jupiter's icy moons Europa and Ganymede. His work incorporates the use of radar models and radar data collected over polar terrestrial analogs (e....

Hector K Garza

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

Liam Norris

Liam Norris is a PhD student at the Jackson School of Geosciences. He has a B.S. in Geology with a specialization in biology from Texas A&M University, where he also conducted research on Pennsylvanian seed ferns preserved in coal balls. Liams research interests are based around paleoecology, ...
Medha  Prakash

Medha Prakash

My research interests are primarily in astrobiology and planetary surface processes. I am working Sean Gulick and Cyril Grima to better understand the geology of Schrdinger crater on the Moon using radar data. This site is of interest to upcoming Artemis missions. My previous research includes literature syntheses pertaining ...
William  Reyes

William Reyes

Current research interests include: 1) The macroevolutionary processes that drive vertebrate evolution; 2) The faunal dynamics (i.e., speciation, extinction, geographic range shifts, eco-morphological diversity) in the Late Triassic; 3) The endocranial morphology and paleoneurology of Triassic pseudosuchians; 4) Assessing intraspecific variation in the fossil record and how it influences our phylogenetic hypotheses of ...
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:

Undergraduate Courses

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

Geosciences Courses Currently Scheduled for 2013-2014


Graduate Student Position in Mineral Physics Lab

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: Please contact Dr. Jung-Fu Lin at for further information.
Posted by: Jung-Fu Lin

MSc or PhD Student

Our team is almost always interested in recruiting new graduate students who are interested in paleoecology, marine communities, carbonate sedimentology, and/or geobiology. We currently have teo areas of focus, modern and Pleistocene reef and coastal communities in Jamaica and Early Jurassic marine paleoecology in Morocco
Posted by: Rowan Martindale

PhD/MS opportunities

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

Mantle and Fault System Dynamics Graduate Research

The UT Geodynamics Team is always looking for motivated graduate and undergraduate students. The University of Texas at Austin hosts an exciting and diverse community of researchers at the Jackson School of Geoscience, which includes the UTIG and DGS units with which I am affiliated. At UT, we are colocated and collaborate with a number of others, including at the Texas Advanced Computing Center and the Oden Institute for Computational Engineering and Sciences. We are always looking for motivated students with a keen interest and solid background in the Earth sciences, physics, engineering, or computer science. Please take a look at some of our recent publications to give you an idea of current projects, but I like to work with students who think and work independently and challenge and extend my expertise and interests. Please consider applying for our program should you be interested in pursuing a PhD in my research group, and see the JSG pages for admission procedures. The (important) Fellowship deadline is December 1 each year. If you think this could be a match, please do reach out by email.
Posted by: Thorsten Becker

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.