Dr. Scott Perl

Research Scientist, Geobiology & Astrobiology
Jet Propulsion Laboratory

I am a Research Scientist at the NASA Jet Propulsion Laboratory, specializing in life in extreme environments and their preservation within the mineral and rock record. I am also a research affiliate in Mineral Sciences at the Los Angeles Natural History Museum.

I study how microbial life influences the geologic record in selective environments where the relationship between biology and geology are interwoven. Geobiology allows for a fundamental understanding of mineral-microbial interactions to determine how life can persist here on Earth as well as Mars, Europa, and other solar system bodies. My team and I focus on life in hypersaline environments where evaporite mineralogy has recorded ancient and dried lake beds where life may have resided. We also study the preservation of microbial community activity, life detection in the mineral-rock record, and further understanding how to validate biogenic signatures and markers over geologic time on other planets and moons.

At JPL, one of my roles is the Investigation Scientist for the CRISM instrument on board the Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter. I also co-lead the Origins and Habitability Laboratory at JPL (https://origins-habitability.jpl.nasa.gov/)

I earned my B.S. in Geology and B.E. in Material Sciences from the State University of New York at Stony Brook. I used the guidance from my M.S. in Aeronautical & Astronautical Engineering (Systems Engineering & Human Factors focus) to learn how to build an astrobiology-driven mission to Mars from Purdue University. I later received my Ph.D. in Geobiology & Geological Sciences from the University of Southern California. Since 2005, I have been working on various planetary missions including the Mars Exploration Rover (MER, Opportunity) mission, the Mars Science Laboratory (MSL, Curiosity), the Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter mission, and various life detection instrument concepts.

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Start Here for Space: Surviving the Solar System

Originally aired: May 13, 2021