Dr. Mariah Baker joined the Center for Earth and Planetary Studies as a post-doctoral fellow in 2019, after receiving her Ph.D. from Johns Hopkins University. Her research focuses on characterizing wind-driven (“aeolian”) activity at the field sites of the Curiosity rover and InSight lander on Mars. A wealth of images returned from spacecraft at Mars have demonstrated that wind has been – and continues to be – a dominant agent in shaping the landscape, despite the thin Martian atmosphere. Robotic exploration has provided an unprecedented opportunity to test our theoretical understanding of wind-driven processes in a planetary regime that is fundamentally different from the one in which these theories were derived on Earth. In situ studies of the morphology and activity of aeolian bedforms on Mars are essential for constraining atmospheric circulation patterns, deciphering the environmental conditions recorded in Martian sandstones, keeping landed instruments safe from wind-blown material, and building predictive models that can be adapted for use on terrestrial bodies throughout our solar system and beyond.
As a member of the Curiosity and InSight science teams, Mariah has a keen interest in Mars exploration, particularly using knowledge gleaned from past and ongoing missions to help propel and guide future human exploration. While pursuing her doctorate, she interned at NASA Headquarters, where she helped address some of the outstanding challenges associated with deep space travel and sending a crewed mission to the Martian surface. Prior to her time at Johns Hopkins University, Mariah received her BS degree in Astrophysics from Haverford College in 2014.