I am a Planetary Science Graduate Student at the University of Arizona working for Dr. Shane Byrne. My broad area of research involves observations and modeling of geologic processes on terrestrial bodies in the solar system, with a particular focus on Mars. I study processes that occur due to changes in the distribution of volatile elements on the surfaces of solid planets, such as water on Earth, carbon dioxide on Mars, and nitrogen on Neptune's satellite Triton. I am also interested in studying the geologic and climatic history of Mars, through the detailed analysis of the stratigraphy preserved in the polar deposits of the planet.
My main interests are concerned with geomorphic processes related to volatile elements on solid bodies. My goal in most of my projects is to characterize geomorphic features, processes, and/or patterns through the interpretation of spacecraft observations, and attempt to explain their origin or significance by means of mathematical models and tools that simulate the physics that govern the environment around them, or that aid in the interpratation of particular patterns in the geomorphology, as is the case with stratigraphic analysis.
I am currently working on observations and modeling of a series of bright "halos" around pits and depressions on the south polar resiudal cap (SPRC) of Mars. These halos have only recently been discovered by the High Resolution Imaging Science Experiment (HiRISE) aboard the Mars Recconnaissance Orbiter (MRO). The most interesting fact about them is that they only appeared in a particular Mars year, around martian southern summer of "earth year" 2007. I am using HiRISE and Compact Reconnaissance Imaging Spectrometer for Mars (CRISM) observations to investigate the halos' characteristics, and the conditions of the cap when the halos appeared. The SPRC is composed entirely of solid carbon dioxide, and it represents the portion of condensed carbon dioxide that persists through the summer on Mars' surface. Almost all of it sublimates. During the year the halos appeared, there was a large global dust storm on Mars, around mid-southern summer. We therefore believe that these bright halos are the result of a difference in sublimation rates between the sloped walls of depressions, and the flat plains nearby, which would have resulted in less dust from the air to be deposited near the walls of the pits.
I am also working on analyzing the sequences of icy layers preserved in Mars' polar caps, in search of clues that could help us form an idea of what Mars' climate was like when the caps were forming. The main bulk of Mars' polar caps are known as the Polar Layered Deposits (PLD). They are large caps a few kilometers thick, that are composed of many layers of water ice and dust that were deposited and eroded over time as Mars' climate changed due to variations in its orbit and rotation. These deposits have been cut through by large troughs and canyons, which is why the instruments on MRO can observe the layers directly. These layered walls appear similar to the walls of the Grand Canyon in Arizona, and are in fact very similar to the layers seen in ice cores taken from Earth's largest ice sheets, like Antarctica and Greenland. The goal of this project is to characterize certain properties of the layers, such as color and resistance to erosion, and to search for patterns in these properties that repeat over the depth of the cap. Knowing that certain types of layers repeat over depth/time, it is possible to associate these episodes of layer formation with changing Martian climates, and obtain detailed knowledge about how Mars' climate changes affected its surface and overall environment over millions of years. For this analysis I will use high resolution Digital Terrain Models, constructed from HiRISE stereo images. These 1 meter/pixel elevation maps are ideal for evaluating various properties of individual layers or layer packets within the polar stratigraphy. Unfortunately not many DTMs have been made, especially for the South PLD, so a large part of my project includes creating DTMs like the one seen below, using specialized 3D visualization equipment. This can sometimes be quite a long process, but it certainly is fun!
I was born in Lima, Peru on July 5th, 1985. At age 10 i moved to Atlanta, GA, where i lived for 2 years with my family. After that I moved back to Peru, and after 5 unforgettable years of secondary school, where i made the best life-long friends, i went on to study Physics at the Pontificia Universidad Catolica del Peru (PUCP). During my time as an undergrad i had the opportunity to study one semester as an exchange student at the University of Alberta in Edmonton, Alberta, Canada. Here i made some great friends, and learned a lot about astronomy, really cold weather, and life in general. I graduated with a B.S. in physics in 2007, and during the first year after graduation i worked as a research assistant in the Astronomy section of the Peruvian Space Agency. Also during that time i went through the tedious process of applying to graduate school for Planetary Science and was finally accepted at the University of Arizona's Lunar and Planetary Laboratory (LPL) in Tucson, Arizona.
I absolutely love travelling, so in the few months between being accepted and beginning graduate school i took a backpacking trip through Europe. I visited Madrid, Barcelona, Paris, Brussels, Bruge, Amsterdam, Prague, and finally made it to Florence, where i stayed for a month learning Italian. I made the best of my time in Florence by travelling to a different part of Italy every weekend. I even made it down to Greece. It was truly an amazing experience.
On my free time i enjoy SCUBA diving, swimming, and going home to Lima to visit friends and family. I also practice jiu-jitsu and love snowboarding during the winter, although that's hard to do in Tucson most years. I love food (cooking it and eating it) and drinks, especially peruvian food and Pisco, our national drink. I always bring a bottle (or bottles) of Pisco back to Tucson everytime i go home to Lima.
Lunar and Planetary Laboratory
University of Arizona
Kuiper Space Sciences Building
1629 E. University Blvd. Of. 334
Office: 1 (520) 621-1632