Center for Earth and Planetary Studies Geologist

Dr. Sharon Wilson Purdy is a Research Geologist in the Center for Earth and Planetary Studies who is interested in the landscape evolution of Mars. Her current research aims to investigate the geology and geomorphology of sedimentary deposits and landforms that were formed or modified by surface water, such as alluvial fans, deltas, and valleys. She uses a combination of data from NASA orbiters, landers, rovers, as well as Earth analogues in Australia, Hawaii, and the Atacama Desert in Chile to decipher the climate history and past habitability of Mars. Other research interests include aeolian processes, crater degradation, and Mars landing site selection.

Sharon is a Co-Investigator and science team member on the High Resolution Imaging Science Experiment (HiRISE) camera on the Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter (MRO) and a Participating Scientist and science team member on the Mars Science Laboratory Curiosity rover mission. She was a science team member for the Mars Exploration Rover (MER) mission and the InSight lander’s Geology and the Instrument Site Selection (ISSWG) group. As an active member of the planetary geologic mapping community, she has contributed to several U.S. Geological Survey regional scale maps in the Margaritifer Terra region of Mars.

Originally from Wisconsin, Sharon’s love of math, science, and the outdoors, combined with late night reruns of Star Trek: The Next Generation guided her career into the planetary geology. Sharon received her Bachelor of Arts degree in Geology from Middlebury College where she focused on igneous petrology, and earned a master’s and PhD from the Department of Environmental Sciences at the University of Virginia. Sharon’s research in CEPS was highlighted in the Smithsonian Channel’s “Women in Science Month” (2011) and a JPL press release Some Ancient Mars Lakes Came Long After Others (2016). She was selected for a NASA Early Career Award (2021), and was elected as a Geological Society of America Fellow (2023) in recognition of her sustained record of distinguished contributions to the geosciences and the Geological Society of America. 

Contact Information (202) 633-2489 Related Links Sharon Purdy CV [PDF Download]
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