Dr. Lisa Pratt appointed NASA planetary protection officer

Lisa Pratt
Lisa Pratt

Lisa most recently served as the Provost Professor in the Department of Earth and Atmospheric Sciences and Associate Executive Dean of the College of Arts and Sciences at Indiana University Bloomington. Her research has focused on understanding life’s adaptations to extreme environments on Earth and on working with engineers to solve robotic challenges associated with the search for evidence of past or present life on Mars and the icy moons of Jupiter and Saturn.

Lisa’s biogeochemical research on microbial transformation of simple inorganic molecules has been funded for two decades by NASA and the National Science Foundation. She is a specialist on detection of metabolic pathways utilized by complex microbial communities in sulfide- and methane-based ecosystems.

From 2003 to 2008, she was director of a NASA Astrobiology Institute team that investigated biosustaining energy and nutrient cycles in the deep subsurface of Earth and Mars. From 2011 to 2016, she co-directed field campaigns on the western margin of the Greenland ice sheet with Jeff White (School of Public and Environmental Affairs at IU Bloomington), recovering microbial biomass and methane under ice-free and ice-covered conditions in small lakes and then transporting samples back to Indiana where advanced stable-isotopic and genomic analytical methods were used for characterization.

Pratt served as chair of NASA’s Mars Exploration Program Analysis Group from 2013 to 2016, and she is currently a member of the Return Sample Science Board for the Mars 2020 Rover mission, which aims to drill and cache strategically collected samples on Mars with the long-term goal of transporting samples back to Earth for investigation by scientists from around the world.

As a faculty member, she has published more than 100 peer-reviewed journal papers, largely in co-authorship with 12 postdoctoral fellows, 20 PhD students, and 14 MS students for whom she was the primary advisor over a period of 30 years at Indiana University. She has been a distinguished lecturer for the American Association of Petroleum Geologists, a visiting scholar for Phi Beta Kappa, and a recipient of multiple teaching awards.

Lisa has served twice as a member of the NASA Planetary Science Subcommittee, and she has served many times as a chair or member of competitive proposal reviews for NASA and the National Science Foundation. She holds a PhD in geology from Princeton University, an MS in geology from the University of North Carolina, and an MS in botany from the University of Illinois.

Deb Gaylan in the College of Arts and Sciences Office of Communications is the contact person for inquiries.

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