PSAS: Book talk – Sociology of Spacecraft Mission Teams


Professor Vertesi specializes in the sociology of science, knowledge, and technology. Her primary research site is with NASA’s robotic spacecraft teams as an ethnographer. Her books, Seeing like a Rover: Images and Interaction on the Mars Exploration Rover Mission (Chicago, 2015) and Shaping Science: Organizations, Decisions, and Culture on NASA’s Teams (Chicago, 2020) draws on her ethnographic studies of missions to Mars, Saturn, and the outer planets to examine how organizations matter to scientific discovery. Vertesi is also a leader in digital sociology, whether studying computational systems in social life, shifting research methods online, or applying social insights to build technologies along different lines. She holds a Master’s degree from Cambridge and a PhD from Cornell, has received several grants from the National Science Foundation, and has been awarded top prizes for her work from the ASA’s Science, Knowledge and Technology Section and Communication, Information Technology and Media Section, and the Society for Social Studies of Science.

Janet Vertesi,
Associate Professor, Department of Sociology at Princeton University

PSAS: Weather on extrasolar worlds


As observations of exoplanet atmospheres have grown in number and fidelity, spanning a larger
wavelength range at ever-higher spectral resolution, they have provided unprecedented constraints
for exoplanet atmospheric models. These datasets allow us to probe their atmospheric properties,
including the composition and spatial distribution of clouds. In this talk I will discuss efforts to
understand the advective, radiative and chemical processes taking place in giant exoplanet
atmospheres via three-dimensional (3D) circulation modeling, and how they serve to inform
comparative exoplanetology studies of transiting giant planets using the Spitzer and Hubble Space
Telescopes (and soon the James Webb Space Telescope). I will also discuss how our efforts to
understand giant planets can be extended to our understanding the climate of potentially habitable
worlds, particularly those transiting M-dwarfs.

Tiffany Kataria,
Scientist, NASA Jet Propulsion Laboratory Exoplanet Discovery and Science

PSAS: A microbe’s-eye view of cryosphere carbonates


The history of life on Earth is dominated by microbial communities, and aspects of their evolving
relationship with surface environments can be preserved by carbonates. In this talk, I focus on lakes
Joyce and Fryxell of the McMurdo Dry Valleys, Antarctica, to assess attributes of cryosphere
environments that influence microbial carbonates: namely ice cover, cold temperatures and
seasonality. Microbial mats in both of these lakes contain abundant carbonates, but differ in redox
chemistry and the degree of apparent biological influence on carbonate precipitation. Though such
cryosphere carbonates do not contribute significantly to the sedimentary record, these rare examples from modern environments provide necessary models for reconstruction of long term paleolake climate records and inform paleoenvironmental interpretations of ancient cryospheres like Snowball Earth episodes.

Tyler Mackey,
Assistant Professor at the University of New Mexico in the Department of Earth and Planetary Sciences