The cracked, icey surface of Jupiter's moon Europa.


Christina Coulter
Geological Sciences Graduate Student

My graduate career started at the University of Idaho in January 2007 under Dr. Simon Kattenhorn with a "big bang", so to speak. Within 6 weeks of arriving at UI to start my master's degree in geology, I was writing my own eight-page proposal for funding. My efforts paid off eventually, and I was awarded an EPSCoR Fellowship through NASA's Idaho Space Grant Consortium, which funded both my fall '07 and spring '08 research on Europa, a moon of Jupiter… Thanks ISGC!

My research focuses on quantifying both lateral motion and associated components of contraction or dilation along Europa's ridges, to better determine their formation mechanisms. The images I'm analyzing are from NASA's Galileo mission. These images are downloaded directly from NASA's PDS imaging node and reprojected using ISIS software (developed by the USGS). Understanding the tectonics of Europa's ice shell is important because if future scientific missions want to explore the possibility of life in Europa's subsurface ocean, we need to know where we would be likely to access this ocean from the surface.

Geomechanics research in planetary geology is strengthening my understanding of GIS mapping techniques and image projection skills. I'm also acquiring new strengths in geomechanics and structural geology. Planetary work is very rewarding, in that almost everything you do or find is new (even though it is rather difficult to schedule a field trip to your study area). I feel that my work will be an insightful contribution to the scientific community.