Kathryn Steakley

Kathryn Steakley

Professional Biography:

In the fall of 2018, I joined the NASA Mars Climate Modeling Center as a postdoctoral fellow studying the potential climate effects of asteroid impacts on early Mars that may have delivered reducing greenhouse gases. I earned my PhD from New Mexico State University in the summer of 2018 where my dissertation research focused on the potential for impacts on early Mars to induce water cloud greenhouse warming. In addition to my early Mars climate research, I began my PhD investigating pressure signatures of dust devils at the Curiosity landing site on Mars, studied meteor showers as a SETI Institute intern in 2012, and worked with a team to develop a fly-by mission concept to the ringed Centaur Chariklo as a participant in the 2017 Planetary Science Summer Seminar.


Ph.D. Astronomy, New Mexico State University, 2018

M.S. Astronomy, New Mexico State University, 2016

B.S. Double major in Physics, Astronomy, University of Washington, 2012

Research Interests:

My research focuses on investigating whether Mars was ever a habitable planet. Geologic evidence suggests that liquid water carved river valley networks, eroded craters, and altered minerals on the surface of Mars roughly 3.5-3.8 billion years ago. Despite this, the climate modeling community has still not been able to determine how Mars could have supported a warmer, wetter environment in the past. Specifically, we are testing whether comet and asteroid impacts could have jump-started greenhouse warming on early Mars by delivering water and/or reducing greenhouse gases (e.g. H2, CH4). I use the NASA Ames Research Center (ARC) Mars Global Climate Model (MGCM) to simulate post-impact climate scenarios and test this impact heating hypothesis. I worked with the NASA Ames Mars Climate Modeling Center team to develop an early Mars version of the MGCM in order to conduct this research.

I have also studied dust devils on Mars and their potential connection to the background dust opacity. On Mars, dust devils can become incredibly large, growing to be wider than a football field and over a mile high. We want to understand how often dust devils occur, how much dust they lift (if any), and what factors contribute to or inhibit dust lifting. I worked with Dr. Jim Murphy at New Mexico State University to detect and characterize dust devils on Mars using meteorological data collected by the Curiosity rover.

Select Publications:

“Testing the impact heating hypothesis for early Mars with a 3-D global climate model”, Steakley, K., Murphy, J., Kahre, M., Haberle, R., & Kling, A. 2019, Icarus, 330, 169, doi: 10.1016/j.icarus.2019.04.005
“Camilla: A centaur reconnaissance and impact mission concept”, Howell, S. M., Chou, L., Thompson, M., et al., 2018, Planetary and Space Science, 164, 184, doi: 10.1016/j.pss.2018.07.008

“Field Measurements of Terrestrial and Martian Dust Devils”, Murphy, J, Steakley, K., Balme, M., et al. 2016, Space Science Reviews, 203, 39 doi:10.1007/s11214-016-0283-y

“A year of convective vortex activity at Gale Crater”, Steakley, K., Murphy, J. 2016, Icarus, 278, p. 180-193, doi:10.1016/j.icarus.2016.06.010

“Discovery of the February epsilon Virginids (FEV, IAU #506)”, Steakley, K., Jenniskens, P. 2013, WGN, Journal of the International Meteor Organization, 41, 109

Awards and Other:

NASA Postdoctoral Program Fellowship, 2018

NMSU Astronomy Department A. Scott Murrell Award, 2018

Sky Safari Recognition for Outstanding Outreach Participation, 2016, 2017

NASA Advanced STEM Training and Research (ASTAR) Fellowship, 2015

New Mexico Space Grant Consortium Graduate Research Fellowship, 2015

NMSU Outstanding Graduate Assistantship Award, 2014

Chambliss Astronomy Student Achievement Honorable Mention, AAS 221st Meeting, 2013