NASA Ames’ Leslie Prufert-Bebout, Ph.D is a recipient of the 2010 Blue Marble Awards for Environmental and Energy excellence.
The Blue Marble Award program recognizes excellence demonstrated in environmental and energy management in support of NASA’s mission. The award will be presented at the NASA Environment and Energy Conference, June 16, 2010, at the Colorado Convention Center in Denver, Colorado.
Dr. Leslie Prufert-Bebout is an internationally recognized expert on cyanobacteria diversity, ecology, and community structure. Her research focuses on understanding how natural biological communities, composed of many different species, symbiotically interact. This work is critical for developing artificial systems potentially capable of generating diesel fuel, methane, hydrogen, or other commercial products. Her work informs what species should be used, what the community structure should be, and what the optimal conditions for growth are, in order to maximize the production of the desired product. Her work is fundamentally important for many applications, including open pond systems for terrestrial uses and closed bioreactor systems suitable for NASA exploration applications. Leslie is responsible for recognizing this need early on, launching an independent research project, and developing important collaborations with industry, academia, and other government agencies.
Leslie was an early recipient of DOE peer-reviewed grant support for “green” energy research at Ames, studying carbon and nitrogen utilization in microbial communities. She also developed three projects with industry and local government: RoboAlgae, the Sunnyvale Water Pollution Control Plant, and Bodega Photo-bioreactors; these established Ames as a leader in the areas of telemetry monitoring for the algal biomass industry, use of local waste resources for biomass and energy (with reduction of carbon footprint), and development of photo-bioreactor algal resources targeted toward space operations, respectively. She was a co-investigator, along with Dr. Jonathan Trent, on the Google award to Ames to foster awareness of advancement of Green Technologies in Silicon Valley and Beyond.
Leslie has been proactive in making outside entities aware of what ARC and NASA future mission objectives are, and how biological research and technology development on Earth can enhance future space missions.