SETI’s Dr. Janice Bishop Wins Award for Clay Science Research on Mars

SETI Institute researcher Dr. Janice Bishop has been awarded the prestigious Jackson Mid-Career Clay Scientist Award for her work identifying clays on Mars.  She will be giving an invited lecture at the 53rd Annual Clay Minerals Society meeting in Atlanta, GA, June 6th, 2016.

“Clays are important minerals to identify on Mars because they tell us about the climate at the time of their formation,” says Janice.  “The widespread detection of clays in ancient Martian outcrops indicates that liquid water was once present on Mars and that early conditions were much different than the cold and dry environment today.”

Janice investigates clays on the Red Planet using the spectral fingerprints of these minerals collected by the Compact Reconnaissance Imaging Spectrometer for Mars (CRISM) on board the Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter. 

CRISM collects data in the visible and near-infrared wavelength region that includes spectral features due to vibrations of molecules in the mineral structure.  Janice has been analyzing spectra of terrestrial clay minerals in the lab for nearly 30 years in order to document the properties of these indicator minerals by spacecraft sent to Mars and other planets. 

Over the past decade since CRISM has been in orbit at Mars, Janice has been identifying clays and associated aqueous minerals in ancient rock outcrops that provide us information on potentially habitable sites on our neighboring planet.

The Marion L. and Chrystie M. Jackson Mid-Career Clay Scientist Award is presented annually to a member of The Clay Minerals Society for the contribution of new knowledge of clay minerals science as represented by publication of scholarly and original research.