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Alexander Sehlke

Geology, Volcanology
NASA Ames Research Center
PhD (Geological Sciences), University of Missouri - Columbia
Diplom (Geosciences), Leibniz University Hannover, Germany

FINESSE Research Objectives

  • Identify different lava flow morphologies at the Craters of the Moon National Monument and Preserve, Idaho, and measure the physical properties of these rocks to define the rheology of the lavas to better understand the eruption style and lava emplacement mechanisms.
  • Determine thermal properties of lavas erupted at the Craters of the Moon to quantify the required heat needed (or transferred) for crustal contamination during magma ascend in the crust that lead to different isotopic signatures in the rocks, and how easily lava flows retain or lose heat during emplacement in order to evaluate thermo-mechanical erosion potentials and longevity of lava flows.
  • Generate digital elevation models (DEMs) of the various flow morphologies at the Craters of the Moon from meter to centimeter scale and determine surface roughness. Correlate thermo-physical properties of the rocks to flow morphologies in DEMs.


Volcanoes have fascinated Alexander Sehlke since his childhood. He started studying Geosciences at the Leibniz University of Hannover, Germany in 2005. In 2011, Alexander began his doctoral studies at the Department of Geological Sciences at the University of Missouri – Columbia, and received his PhD in 2015. He studied the rheological evolution of terrestrial and planetary basalts during cooling and crystallization, experimentally. His studies on lava flow emplacement and the mechanism of the development of diverse lava surface morphologies were complemented by field investigations on both active and inactive lava flows erupted on the big island of Hawaii, Guatemala and Costa Rica. Field work included sample collection and measurements of the geometry of channelized sections within lava flows and different type of surface morphologies (e.g., pahoehoe, transitional, `a`a). Alexander has taught undergraduate students in the field and the classroom as a teaching assistant in Mineralogy and course instructor during his time at the University of Missouri.


Alexander started his NASA post-doctoral fellowship at NASA Ames in February 2016, and focuses on the lavas erupted at the Craters of the Moon, Idaho. He is particularly interested in the thermo-physical properties of the rocks, and how these properties change within a lava flow that ultimately leads to different flow morphologies, and how these morphologies and rock properties appear in and can be linked to remote sense-based studies. With a combination of these investigations, Alexander aims to contribute to a safer and more successful robotic and human surface exploration on other planetary bodies in the solar system.

Upcoming Activities

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SSERVI / Exploration Science Forum
July 2016
The Exploration Science Forum brings together the Science and Exploration communities to discuss current research regardin the Moon, Near Earth Asteroids, and Phobos & Deimos.
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Third International Conference on the Exploration of Phobos & Deimos
July 2016
The Third International Conference on the Exploration of Phobos and Deimos, subtitled The Science, Robotic Reconnaissance, and Human Exploration of the Two Moons of Mars, will be the third international meeting focused on Phobos and Deimos, and on how their exploration relates to that of other small bodies, Mars, and the rest of the Solar System.

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Craters of the Moon National Monument & Preserve (COTM), Idaho, USA

Prime FINESSE COTM field deployment:
Summer 2016


International Observe the Moon Night (InOMN)

October 8, 2016
InOMN is a world-wide outreach event to encourage people to observe and learn about our nearest celestial neighbor, the Moon. The InOMN website can be found here.
Division of Planetary Sciences
October 16-21, 2016
The Division of Planetary Sciences (DPS) annual meeting will be held in Pasadena, CA.  This meeting brings together researchers studying planetary objects to present and discuss cutting-edge planetary science.
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American Geophysical Union
December 12-16, 2016
The American Geophysical Union (AGU) meeting is one of the most prestigious Earth and space sciences meeting worldwide.  AGU is held each December in San Francisco, CA.

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