August 1, 2014.
Earth and Mars share many similar physical features, including canyons, valleys, craters, volcanoes, ice, and gullies. My research focuses on two distinct projects. The first concentrates on the formation of gullies, which are channel networks generally formed on mid-latitude crater walls on Mars. Debated gully-forming processes include the melting of snowpacks, sublimation of accumulated carbon dioxide frost, melting of snow-rich dusty mantle material, and groundwater flows. Using High Resolution Imaging Science Experiment (HiRISE) images of gullies and working with Digital Elevation Models (DEMs) in ENVI, we are able to perform detailed studies of gully morphology, including volume calculations using slope, distance, and elevation. The second topic focuses on determining the mineral composition of Martian rocks. Using Raman spectroscopy, I am testing the mineral composition of igneous rocks and recording spectral peaks for key rock-forming minerals, such as olivine, plagioclase, potassium feldspar, quartz, and pyroxene. Raman spectroscopy is an inelastic light scattering technique that measures the change in energy of a photon. These samples and spectra will be used to help create an automated computer mineral identification algorithm that might be used on future Mars rover missions. Both projects contribute to scientific studies of remote exploration and understanding of the Martian surface.
Geology | Geomorphology | Mineral Physics
Virginia C. Gulick
This material is based upon work supported by the S.D. Bechtel, Jr. Foundation and by the National Science Foundation under Grant No. 0952013. Any opinions, findings, and conclusions or recommendations expressed in this material are those of the authors and do not necessarily reflect the views of the S.D. Bechtel, Jr. Foundation or the National Science Foundation. This project has also been made possible with support of the National Marine Sanctuary Foundation. The STAR program is administered by the Cal Poly Center for Excellence in Science and Mathematics Education (CESaME) on behalf of the California State University (CSU).