As a planetary scientist I work on Earth and other planets throughout the solar system. My research focuses primarily on three planetary satellites: Saturn's moon Titan, Jupiter's moon Io, and our own Moon.
The Cassini spacecraft is currently orbiting Saturn and its satellites, and with its array of diverse instruments it has discovered many fundamental, new things about the Saturn system. As an Associate Team Member of the Cassini Radar Science Team, I work with scientists to understand the surface processes on Titan that form such features as dunes, mountains, lakes, rivers, and cryovolcanoes.
The Galileo spacecraft spent nearly ten years in orbit around Jupiter, and it brought to light many complex and exciting characteristics of the Jupiter system. My students and I study active volcanoes on Io, specifically the distribution and thermal output of volcanic eruptions from Galileo and Cassini images. We also study the formation and distribution of Io's surface features, such as paterae (volcano-tectonic depressions), hotspots, and tectonic features.
There has been a recent renewed interest in studying the Moon from the ground, from orbit, and from its surface. A group of scientists from BYU is preparing mass spectrometers for study of the lunar environment, and we are linked with a larger group named AEOLUS, which studies the origin and nature of current gas emissions at the lunar surface.
To better understand all of these solar system geological features, my research group travels to unique locations on the Earth that serve as analogues for other planets. We have studied megadunes in the Sahara, Arabia and Namibia and lava lakes and lava flows in Hawaii, Ethiopia and Vanuatu.