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Planetary Science Institute
Picture: Sampling clay rip-ups, clay balls, and uraniferous channel sands within the Tesuque Formation, Española Basin, New Mexico.
I’m a petrologist/geochemist participating on two instrument teams for Mars Science Laboratory, which landed on Mars in August 2012. My roles for this mission include Deputy PI for the CheMin combined X-ray diffraction and fluorescence instrument and Co-I on the ChemCam laser-induced breakdown spectroscopy and imaging instrument. Other current research addresses hydrous minerals in space environments, including brine-smectite reactions relevant to Mars. Past studies leading up to these projects include planetary regolith formation, petrology of lunar mare and highland basalts, studies of manned missions and planetary resources, and development of instrumentation for planetary mineralogy and geochemistry.
Terrestrial research projects have included the late Precambrian (‘Pan-African’) terrain of Northern Nigeria, emplacement histories of granitic plutons, Precambrian metamorphosed iron formations in Minnesota and Montana, granite - carbonate interactions in Western Utah, basaltic volcanism of the southeastern Colorado Plateau, and basaltic volcanism of central and southern Nevada. Most recently the emphasis has been on Cenozoic basin-filling sedimentation and volcanism of north-central New Mexico and mineral chemistry of the Jurassic Todilto Formation.
An ongoing interest in mineral chemistry as a guide to water-rock interaction encompasses past studies of alteration-mineral assemblages, including the near-surface hydrous mineralogy of Mars. Terrestrial focus for this interest has included the chemistry of zeolites and clay minerals with their record of groundwater interaction, interactions of minerals with actinide elements in groundwater, and the mineralogy and petrology of soils and springs.