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Dr. Alan Gillespie

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Senior Scientist

Currently resides in WA
agillespie [at]
Areas of Expertise
Targets: Earth, Mars
Disciplines/Techniques: Field Work, Geology, Geomorphology, Mapping, Mass spectrometry, Remote sensing, Spectroscopy
Missions: Mariner 9
Mission Roles: Calibration/Test planning, Data validation, Mission science team
Instruments: Imaging spectrometers, Mass spectrometers, Thermal radiometers

Research Interests

Professional background: Quaternary geology, glacial geology/geomorphology, geochronology (10Be, 39Ar-40Ar)

Spectral remote sensing, thermal infrared spectral imaging, spectral mixture analysis, hyperspectral imaging spectroscopy, image processing

Current research interests:

1) Enormous outburst floods from glacier- and landslide-dammed lakes down rivers in Alaska, the Himalaya, and Siberia.  Some floods from landslide-dammed lakes occurred recently and may occur again. Understanding these “megafloods” is important to public safety, and also to giant floods on Mars in the distant past. 

2) The advance and retreat of mountain glaciers in desert mountain ranges.  Paradoxically, some of the larger advances occurred as the climate warmed, since warm air carries more moisture than cold air.  This study has relevance to understanding how climate has changed over the past thousands of years, and how changes now underway may affect glacier and permafrost behavior regionally. 

3) The creation of giant canyons, or “chasmas,” on Mars.

4) I also continue to serve on NASA/JPL’s ASTER program.  ASTER is a high-resolution multispectral imager carried aboard Terra, an Earth-orbiting satellite.  ASTER is a joint project between Japan and the US.  My role has involved the creation, characterization and maintenance of the Thermal Infrared imaging products, specifically Land Surface Temperature and Land Surface Emissivity.

5) Archeoastronomy and epigraphy, with emphasis on calendrical petroglyphs in the Southwest.


Professional History

2021 - present       Senior Scientist, Plametary Research Institute

2018                     Interim Director, Quaternary Research Center, University of Washington

2017–2018           Associate Director, Quaternary Research Center, University of Washington

2016–2021           Research Scientist, Bearfight Research Institute, Winthrop, WA

2015–present       Research Professor Emeritus, Dept. Earth & Space Sci., University of Washington

1987–2015           Professor and Director, Keck Remote Sensing Lab, Dept. Earth & Space Sci., University of Washington

1999–2000           Interim Executive Director, Division of Earth & Ecological Sci., Desert Research Institute, Reno, NV.

1975–1979           Vice President, GeoImages, Inc., Altadena, CA.

1974–1975           Software Consultant, Rand Corporation, Santa Monica, CA.

1969–1987           Member Technical Staff, Image Processing Lab, Geology Group Jet Propulsion Laboratory, Pasadena, CA.

1965, 1968          Student intern, Georgetown College Observatory, Lowell Observatory

Honors and Awards

            -       Distinguished Career Award, Geological Society of America/Quaternary Geology and Geomorphology Division, 12 October 2021

            -       Mongolian Academy of Science, 29 June 2010, Khubilai Khaan Award for collaborative research

            -       Don J Easterbrook Distinguished Scientist Award, ogical Society of America/Quaternary Geology and Geomorphology Division, 22 May 2008

            -       2009 Caswell Silver Distinguished Lecturer, Earth and Planetary Sciences, University of New Mexico, 10/9/09

            -       2019 William T. Pecora Team Award, NASA Terra team.

            -       NASA Group Achievement Awards: 2000, ASTER Science Team;  1975, ERTS geological analysis & image processing team.

            -       Editor's Citations, excellence in reviews: 1985, Geophysical Research Letters; 1990, Journal of Geophysical Research; 2006, Geosphere (GSA Today)

            -       Distinguished Visiting Scientist, Jet Propulsion Laboratory, 9/1/97-8/30/1999.

            -       Senior Fellow, Geological Society of America, 5/4/08

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