My contributions to the study of Mars to date have mostly been through participating in the Mars Exploration Program Advisory Group, which is a group of scientists that helps NASA shape the scientific goals for Mars exploration. I became much more actively involved in Mars research when the rover Opportunity found sedimentary rocks on Mars. These are the types of rocks I study on Earth. I wrote a paper using information from terrestrial rocks to predict the preservation potential of organic compounds in the sedimentary rocks Opportunity has characterized, and one of my students has started a project studying sand dunes that may be similar to those seen by Opportunity. For me, Opportunity knocked, and my experience as an Earth-focused geologist is helping me understand the environments that led to the rocks on Mars!
I am a co-investigator on the MastCam team. The MastCam will be the scientific eyes of the Mars Science Laboratory rover. My main job will be to use my experience looking at rocks on Earth to interpret images of rocks on Mars and use the ideas developed among team members to direct the day-to-day scientific investigations that the rover will execute. This will require recognizing patterns and rapid speculation about what they mean, two things I love to do.
My role as an avid couch potato fan has been immensely fun. Even my dog enjoys keeping up with the latest photos, although it is easier to download them when he is not on my lap!