News and Updates


Steven Semken and David Williams, professors in ASU’s School of Earth and Space Exploration, join an elite group of Earth scientists, having been elected this spring as Fellows of the Geological Society of America (GSA).

Semken is an ethnogeologist and geoscience education researcher whose research focuses on ways that place, culture, and affect influence modes of inquiry, teaching, and learning in the Earth system sciences. His research is directed toward enhancing public Earth science literacy and diversity in the geoscience profession, and it is predominantly based in the geologically, ecologically, and culturally diverse American Southwest. He is deputy director of the EarthScope National Office and a Senior Sustainability Scientist in the Julie Ann Wrigley Global Institute of Sustainability, both at ASU.

Williams’ research focuses on volcanology and planetary geology, with an emphasis on understanding the emplacement styles and compositions of extrusive volcanic products on the terrestrial planets and outer planet satellites. He is the director of the Ronald Greeley Center for Planetary Studies, the NASA Regional Planetary Image Facility at ASU. He is also the director of the NASA Planetary Aeolian Laboratory, which operates wind tunnels at ASU and at the Ames Research Center in California.

Semken and Williams join a distinguished line of GSA Fellows at Arizona State University. SESE faculty elected as Fellows also include: Ariel Anbar, Ramon Arrowsmith, Peter Buseck, Don Burt, Phil Christensen, Kip Hodges, Steve Reynolds, Kelin Whipple, Lynda Williams, and Stan Williams.

The Geological Society of America (GSA) is a global professional society with a growing membership of more than 25,000 individuals in 107 countries. Its mission is to advance geoscience research and discovery, service to society, stewardship of Earth, and the geosciences profession.



Astronomers using the Hubble Space Telescope have assembled a very comprehensive picture of the evolving universe – and the most colorful. This study, called the Ultraviolet Coverage of the Hubble Ultra Deep Field (UVUDF) project, provides the missing link in star formation, say researchers.

Prior to this survey, astronomers were in a curious position. They had knowledge of star formation in nearby galaxies from missions such as NASA's GALEX observatory. And, thanks to Hubble's near-infrared capability, they also studied star birth in the most distant galaxies, which appear to us in their most primitive stages thanks to the vast light travel time involved. But for the period in between — a range extending from about 5 billion to 10 billion light-years away — they just didn't have enough data. This is the time when most of the stars in the universe were born.

Ultraviolet light comes from the hottest, most massive, and youngest stars. By observing at these wavelengths, researchers get a direct look at which galaxies are forming stars and, just as importantly, where within those galaxies the stars are forming.
Astronomers have previously studied the Hubble Ultra Deep Field in visible and near infrared light, in a series of exposures taken from 2004 to 2009. Now, with the addition of ultraviolet light, they have combined the full range of colors available to Hubble, stretching all the way from ultraviolet to near-infrared light. The resulting image — made from 841 orbits of telescope viewing time — contains approximately 10,000 galaxies, extending back in time to within a few hundred million years of the big bang.

Studying the ultraviolet images of galaxies in this intermediate time period enables astronomers to understand how galaxies like our Milky Way grew in size from small collections of very hot stars. Because Earth's atmosphere filters most ultraviolet light, this work can only be accomplished with a space-based telescope.

The Hubble Ultra Deep Field 2014 image is a composite of separate exposures taken in 2009 to 2012 with Hubble’s Advanced Camera for Surveys and Wide Field Camera 3.

“It's the deepest panchromatic image of the sky ever made. It reaches the faintness of one firefly as seen from the distance of the Moon,” says Rogier Windhorst, professor at the School of Earth and Space Exploration in Arizona State University’s College of Liberal Arts and Sciences.

"Ultraviolet surveys like this one, using the unique capability of Hubble, are incredibly important in planning for the James Webb Space Telescope," explained Windhorst, a team member. "Hubble provides an invaluable ultraviolet light dataset that researchers will need to combine with infrared data from Webb. This is the first really deep ultraviolet image to show the power of that combination."

When better reductions of these ultraviolet images became available earlier this year, Windhorst made properly weighted stacks of the 13-filter images, and put them together in a final color mosaic. This then was perfected by Zolt Levay at the Space Telescope Science Institute.

ASU students will use images like these to analyze in detail the cosmic star-formation during the last 10 billion years. Such studies have become possible thanks to the unique ultraviolet imaging capability of Hubble's Wide Field Camera 3, the last camera installed into Hubble in May 2009. ASU has had major science involvement in WFC3, since the designing and building of it started in 1998.

For Hubble Ultra Deep Field 2014 images and more information about Hubble, visit:

Image: Hubble’s colorful view of the universe. Credit: NASA, ESA, H. Teplitz and M. Rafelski (IPAC/Caltech), A. Koekemoer (STScI), R. Windhorst (Arizona State University), and Z. Levay (STScI)



Arizona State University Associate Professor Enrique Vivoni has been named a recipient of the 2014 Walter L. Huber Civil Engineering Research Prize by the American Society of Civil Engineers (ASCE). The honor is awarded to recognize notable achievements in research related to civil engineering and is generally given to younger members (under the age of 40).

The ASCE cited Vivoni for his “contributions to the understanding of ecohydrologic processes in semi-arid areas, including the moderating role of vegetation and interactions among water, energy and carbon cycling, and to the development of high-resolution hydrologic models, including the use of parallel computing systems.” The selection committee particularly noted his focus on the impacts of climate change on ecosystems in arid and semi-arid regions.

Vivoni holds a joint appointment in ASU’s School of Earth and Space Exploration in the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences, and the School of Sustainable Engineering and the Built Environment in the Ira A. Fulton Schools of Engineering. He is internationally recognized in the fields of distributed hydrologic modeling; ecohydrology of semiarid regions; North American monsoon studies; and integration of engineering tools for advancing hydrologic science.

In his research contributions to civil and environmental engineering in the hydrology and water resources specialization, Vivoni has distinguished himself in integrating scientific and engineering tools for understanding and forecasting watershed processes and their spatiotemporal distributions.

Over the past year, he has made some significant advances. He has demonstrated the role of terrestrial plants on topographic, radiation and hydrological properties in aspect-delimited ecosystems; developed participatory modeling workshops in Mexico that address infrastructure and climate change impacts on water supply in rural settings; and identified the role of urban irrigation on soil moisture dynamics and its management implications in Phoenix.

“It is truly an honor to receive this particular award since it has been previously bestowed on investigators in hydrology and water resources who transformed the discipline during the 20th century,” says Vivoni. “To follow in the footsteps of Peter Eagleson (1963), Ignacio Rodriguez-Iturbe (1975) and Rafael Bras (1993), among others, is a both an honor and a responsibility which I hope to live up to during my career.”

Instituted in 1949, the prize has been awarded to five individuals per year since 1958. Vivoni will accept the award at the Environmental and Water Resource Institute (EWRI) Congress in Portland, Ore., June 1-5, 2014. He is one of five winners in 2014, but the only one receiving his award at EWRI’s conference.

Photo courtesy of ASU Magazine

(Nikki Cassis)



Adaptive online science course uses rich content and game-like simulations to explore one question: Are we alone?

Smart Sparrow, a platform that lets educators create rich, interactive and adaptive learning experiences, recently announced in collaboration with ASU Online the launch of HabWorlds Beyond, a new type of online course. HabWorlds Beyond teaches students about space exploration, climate science, and the search for life on other planets. Centered on one of the most profound questions in science -- does life exist elsewhere in the Universe? HabWorlds Beyond uses game-like simulations to expose students to the thought processes and practice of science in a fun and engaging way.

HabWorlds Beyond is derived from the fully online class Habitable Worlds (SES 106/GLG 106) – ASU Online’s successful adaptive course that was developed over three years of collaboration between education technology company Smart Sparrow, ASU Online, and Professor Ariel Anbar of ASU’s School of Earth and Space Exploration. Beginning in fall 2014, college professors from any university will be able to teach HabWorlds Beyond in their classrooms, using the Smart Sparrow platform.

“With all the problems facing our planet, we want people to understand the power and limitations of science,” says Anbar. “Large lecture courses can describe scientific results but they can’t teach how science really works. “We wanted to create a new way of teaching science to people who aren’t necessarily science majors, so that they can be smarter voters and decision-makers about the future of our planet.”

Anbar and course designer Lev Horodyskyj hypothesized that the right online course could do more than a large university lecture-lab course in giving students a taste of the scientific process. To that end, HabWorlds Beyond is not a collection of taped lectures, multiple choice questions and PowerPoints. Instead, just like Habitable Worlds, it features game-like simulations, immersive virtual field trips, and a semester-long individualized quest. Students create and destroy stars, hunt for planets, search for signs of life, and travel around the world and back in time, to explore the limits of Earth’s habitability. As of today, 1,500 ASU students have taken the course, and its popularity continues to grow.

For more information please visit:




Jordan Okie, a NASA Astrobiology Institute Postdoctoral Fellow and former Exploration Postdoctoral Fellow in the School of Earth and Space Exploration at ASU, has been awarded the American Naturalist 2014 Student Paper Award for his paper titled “General models for the spectra of surface area scaling strategies of cells and organisms: fractality, geometric dissimilitude, and internalization.”

This annual award was instituted in 2009 by the American Society of Naturalists to honor student work published in the American Naturalist that best represents the goals of the society. To be eligible for the award, the work presented in the paper must have been performed primarily by the first author and primarily while she/he was an undergraduate or graduate student. The editors of the American Naturalist form the committee to consider the papers published in the year before.

Organisms alter the geometric organization and surface area of their metabolic structures in order to circumvent surface-related constraints on large size, adapt to particular environments, and optimize structures for particular functions. Employing the mathematics of fractal geometry and dimensional analysis, Okie’s paper develops general unifying theory that quantitatively elucidates the impact of these adaptations on biological form and function. Synthesizing data compiled from the literature and empirical observations, the paper applies the theory to cells and other levels of biological organization, showing how these geometric adaptations play crucial roles in cell physiology, energetics, and evolution and allowed for the evolution of life’s extraordinary complexity, diversity, and resilience.

In making the award, the editors said:

In extending biological scaling theory to cells and organelles, Dr. Okie is working at a new intersection of theoretical and empirical biology that has exciting implications for ecology, evolution, and physiology. As a broad and novel conceptual contribution on a topic of wide interest, we felt that his paper truly exemplified Am Nat's mission.

(Nikki Cassis)



With two rovers currently operating on Mars, NASA has begun the search for where its next Mars rover will go. And a lot is riding on the site selection because this rover, unlike previous ones, will collect and store samples of rock and soil for eventual return to Earth.

"The next 20 years of Mars exploration hinges on where this rover goes," says Philip Christensen, planetary scientist in Arizona State University's School of Earth and Space Exploration on the Tempe campus. "It has to tell us something fundamental about the broader history of Mars." He was quoted in a story in Nature about the new landing site search.

NASA's goals for the new mission require a landing site that contains an environment where life could have existed. The site must also have a geology that could preserve potential "biosignatures" – unmistakable traces of life. And the site must be trafficable to let the rover land safely and drive to the relevant rocks and soils to collect samples.

The new rover, which will join working rovers Opportunity (which landed in 2004) and Curiosity (2012), has not yet been given a name. Scientists are just calling it Mars 2020, or M2020 for short. The plan is to build a machine nearly identical to Curiosity and equip it with fresh instruments to probe the Martian surface.

To begin the process of sifting through candidate landing sites, more than 100 planetary geologists gathered May 14-16 in Arlington, Virginia. Launch for the new rover is set for July-August 2020, with arrival on Mars in February 2021. The rover's baseline mission will last one Martian year, or 1.9 Earth years.

At the workshop, a total of 27 candidate sites were presented, discussed, and critiqued. At the end of the meeting, the scientists ranked the candidate sites according to their scientific value for reaching the mission goals.

But this ranking won't be the last word by any means. The choice of Gale Crater for the Curiosity rover came only after more than 65 sites had been examined during five workshops held from 2006 to 2011. The next M2020 site workshop will be in summer 2015, but the final site for may not be selected until 2019. Meanwhile, scientists are collecting more data and images on the sites proposed at this meeting. If the past is any guide, at least a few new candidates will emerge by mid-2015.

At this first meeting Christensen, together with several colleagues at other institutions, proposed a landing site in Margaritifer Terra that's rich in salts and clays, both good for preserving biosignatures. Another ASU Mars scientist, Steve Ruff, advocated a return to an already-visited site in Gusev Crater with hot-spring deposits. And ASU postdoc researcher Mark Salvatore presented the case for yet a third site, in Kashira Crater, also clay-rich and located in Margaritifer Terra.

NASA’s plan for bringing back Martian samples is ambitious, involving a trio of missions over many years. M2020 is step one: it will collect and store roughly 30 narrow cylinders of rock and soil, either on board or on the ground. In step two, an unmanned rocket would fly to Mars and deploy a "fetch rover" to get the cached samples and then blast them into orbit. Finally, step three would capture that Mars-orbiting package and fly it back to Earth.

(Robert Burnham)



Steve Semken, a professor in ASU’s School of Earth and Space Exploration, has been selected to receive an American Geophysical Union (AGU) 2013 Editors' Citation for Excellence in Refereeing for Eos, the weekly newspaper of AGU. This award recognizes Semken's contributions in maintaining the highest standard of scientific quality through the peer-review process.

One of the most important services performed for AGU is the conscientious reviewing of submitted papers. Scientific journals rely on members of the scientific community to provide accurate and conscientious reviews of submitted journal manuscripts. Because of the anonymous nature of the reviewing process, this service is also one of the least recognized.

In selecting Semken to receive the 2013 Editors' Citation for Excellence in Refereeing, the publishers of Eos publicly express their gratitude to Semken for consistently providing constructive and thoughtful reviews, which have been particularly valuable in maintaining a high quality standard.

An announcement is planned for publication in a future issue of Eos.



Each semester, the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences selects one outstanding graduate from each of its academic units for the CLAS Dean’s Medal Award. This May, with more than 40 students graduating from ASU with bachelor’s degrees in earth and space exploration or earth and environmental studies, Amanda Orozco will be recognized as the Dean’s Medal recipient for the School of Earth and Space Exploration.

When Orozco began her studies at ASU in fall 2010, she started out as a biology major intending to concentrate on conservation biology. Four years later, the California native (graduate of Leland High School in San Jose, Calif.) has taken her love for nature down the environmental science route.

“I realized the Earth and Environmental Studies program through the School of Earth and Space Exploration was much more interesting to me than my original major, and could prepare me for more careers that I am interested in,” said Orozco, who plans to pursue a career in environmental consulting.

Orozco will graduate with a B.A. in Earth and Environmental Studies and a minor in Sustainability.
“I couldn’t believe how much I loved the geology classes that this major requires. At first I didn’t really understand why I was required to take such intense geology courses but now I am so happy I took them because it does give me a competitive edge compared to environmental science students from other institutions,” says Orozco, who has been accepted to the University of San Francisco for graduate school and will be starting a Master’s of Science in Environmental Management in fall 2014.
According to Orozco, it was her experience in Mexico through a program called UMB-WEST, short for US-Mexico Border Water and Environmental Sustainability Training, which helped her narrow her interests in sustainability to water resources management and environmental policy.

Under the joint mentorship of Professor Enrique Vivoni and several U.S. and Mexican research partners, UMB-WEST participants investigate hydrologic science in the Sonora region. Students collect field hydrologic measurements useful for water resources management, examine local water resources infrastructure, meet with local decision makers, and apply data analysis techniques to hydrologic modeling experiences. Each year, students participate in a two-week field campaign during which they deploy instrumentation, conduct field sampling, visit water infrastructure projects, and interact with local water managers.

Orozco has been supplementing her classroom education and field research experience with an internship offered by the Arizona State Legislature and ASU. She is currently a legislative research intern for the Arizona House of Representatives and works for the Committees on Energy, Environment and Natural Resources and Agriculture and Water.

“Through this internship, I am getting firsthand experience in the field of environmental and other public policy, which I believe is extremely valuable for any career surrounding environmental science,” says Orozco. “ASU has definitely prepared me for what is to come after graduation and I feel well-equipped to be going after a master’s degree and pursuing a career in environmental consulting. The entire SESE faculty has been very supportive of my interests and I am so grateful that I was part of such an awesome department at ASU.”

(Nikki Cassis)



The School of Earth and Space Exploration is proud to have many meritorious faculty and students. While this is an extensive list of honors, there are probably some deserving individuals who are not listed. Congratulations to all who received scholarships, grants and other honors.

Undergraduate awards
• Alumni Scholarship - Crystylynda Fudge
• Arizona Hydrological Society Herman Bouwer Internship - Anthony Ferrell
• CLAS Dean’s Medalist - Amanda Orozco
• Greeley Planetary Geology Scholarship - Miranda Hermann
• Ravi DeFilippo Geology Field Scholarship - Chadlin Ostrander
• Robert Dietz Field Camp Scholarship(s) - Anthony Castaneda, Crystylynda Fudge, Jamie Shaffer
• US Airways Scholarship - Ben Stinnett

Graduate awards
• 2013 Fall AGU Outstanding Student Paper Award - Mingming Li
• 2013 SESE Summer Ph.D. Student Research Award | Arizona State University Graduate College University Block Grant - Sandra Carolina Londono
• 2014 CLAS Graduate Excellence Award: Mingming Li, Gayatri Marliyani, Marc Neveu, Kate Potter
• 2014 NSF East Asia and Pacific Summer Institute for U.S. Graduate Students (Japan) - Emily Kleber
• 51st Annual Clay Minerals Society meeting (2014) Session co-Chair, Symposium on Geology and Health - Sandra Carolina Londono
• 51st Annual Clay Minerals Society meeting Session co-Chair, Symposium on Geology and Health, and travel grant to attend - Keith Morrison
• AAS Roger Doxley Travel Prize January 2014 - Michael Pagano
• Achievement Reward for College Scientists (ARCS) Scholarship for graduate research - Keith Morrison
• Astrobiology Winter School travel grants in January 2014: Luke Probst, Anusha Kalyaan and Prajkta Mane, Amanda Truitt
• Clay Minerals Society and Shell Corp. Student travel grant - Sandra Carolina Londono
• Colciencias #529 Scholarship for Doctoral Programs, Colombian Institute for Science and Technology - Sandra Carolina Londono
• Faculty for the Future Fellowship (Schlumberger Foundation): Ruirui Han, Gayatri Marliyani
• Fall 2013 ASU/NASA Space Grant for outreach and education research project at Camp Tontozona - Andy Darling
• First Place award for his oral presentation at the 49th Annual Clay Minerals Society Meeting: Mineralogical and geochemical variations in an antibacterial clay deposit (2013) - Keith Morrison
• First place award for his oral presentation on “Antibacterial minerals: establishing the mechanism” by the International Medical Geology Association for the 2013 MEDGEO conference where he also received a travel Grant - Keith Morrison
• GPSA travel grant - Marc Neveu
• GPSA travel awards (Spring 2014): Prajkta Mane and Curtis Williams
• GPSA travel awards (Summer/Fall 2013): Prajkta Mane and Curtis Williams
• International Medical Geology Association travel grant for MEDGEO 2013 - Sandra Carolina Londono
• JPL financial assistance to attend the Planetary Science Summer School - Marc Neveu
• LPI Career Development Award - Marc Neveu
• Meteoritical Society Student Travel Awards (Summer 2013): Curtis Williams and Prajkta Mane
• NAI Scholarship to participate in the 2014 Josep Comas i Solà International Summer School in Astrobiology - Marc Neveu
• NASA Earth and Space Science Fellowships 2013-2014: Prajkta Mane, Cameron Mercer, Karen Rieck, Curtis Williams, Nathan Williams
• NSF fellowship - Kim Ward-Duong
• Scholarship and travel grant to attend the 2014 International Summer School of Astrobiology in Spain - Divya Allu Peddinti
• Student stipend to attend the Workshop on The Habitability of Icy Worlds - Marc Neveu
• Ethnoscience and Geology Applied to Water Resources. Graduate and Professional Student Association GPSA. Graduate Research Grant 2013 - Sandra Carolina Londono
• Travel grant to present at the 6th Orogenic Lherzolite Conference in Marrakech, Morocco - Meghan Guild

Teaching awards
The help we receive from all of our excellent teaching assistants is invaluable for SESE’s teaching mission. The school employs about 40 graduate student TAs and about 10 undergraduate TAs each year. We would like to honor our top TAs who were nominated by students and faculty:
• Undergraduate Teaching assistants: Anthony Ferrell and Anthony Brokaw
• Graduate Teaching assistants (100-level): Chelsea Allison and Matthew Kellom
• Graduate Teaching assistant (upper division): Matthew Rossi and Mingming Li


The Student Success Center, a free on-campus tutoring facility for SESE and Physics students, opened recently with the goal of helping students with their academic needs by providing student tutors and group study spaces.

The Student Success Center is located in Physical Science F-wing, room 186 and is open Monday-Friday 9:00 a.m. to 6:00 p.m. SESE majors can use the space for study and meeting after hours and weekends if granted card access.

The Student Success Center offers TA office hours, pre-arranged study and review groups, and open study space. If students need additional support outside of the classroom they can meet with graduate teaching assistants (TAs) or participate in group study sessions.

The center offers free tutoring for a variety of physics courses and also provides students with an environment to engage in group study.
Tutors are available for the following SESE Courses: GLG 101, GLG 102, GLG 103, SES 124 and AST 112.

Tutors are available for the following Physics Courses: PHS 110, PHY 101, 111-114, 121, 122, 131, 132, 150, 151, 241, and 252.

Students will need to go to the center website to access the TA schedule to see when a particular TA is available.

For more information, visit: