© 2019 J.R. Skok, Ph. D. All rights reserved.

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RESEARCH PROJECTS

My academic and personal interests focus on the exploration of extreme environments. These includes areas that are cold and dry like the polar regions, the absence of light in caves or the harsh environment of Mars and the other planets. Beyond just the environments, my interest is in exploring these places and the techniques required to do so. Most of my academic work has focused on understanding the ancient history of Mars and its volcanic evolution through remote spectral observations. Additionally, I participated with the Mars Exploration Rover Pancam imaging team and in the landing site selection process for the Curiosity Rover. I have research experience in the McMurdo Dry Valleys of Antarctica and the Rio Tinto Mars Analog in Spain. My personal efforts focus on the exploration of cave systems, with mapping experience in Virginia, Hawaii and Southwest China. In the future, I look to work on developing the tools, techniques and instruments required for exploring the extreme environments on this world and beyond both in person and remotely. 

Mars

My main research focus is on the formation and evolution of volcanic processes on Mars.

Pre-Noachain crustal formation Motivated by the recent discovery of extensive alteration throughout the ancient Noachian crust on Mars, we sought to understand the nature of the earlier Pre-Noachian igneous crust. Examination of impact crater central peaks.

 

Hydrothermal Systems Research into the spectroscopic properties of the Syrtis Major volcanic complex lead to the discovery of a volcanically driven hydrothermal system in it's central Nili Patera calera.

 

I was actively involved in the MSL landing site selection. My main focus was developing contextual understanding and potential mission planning for the Northeast Syrtis Landing Site. 

Mars Analogs

Antarctica - The polar desert of the McMurdo Dry Valleys in Antarctica is the best analog to the modern Martian climate. During the 2010 Field season, I engaged in a sample collection of the McMurdo Volcanic Group to test the effects of a Mars analog environment on surface weathering of mafic minerals. 

 

Rio Tinto (above) - The acid mine drainage at the Rio Tinto mine in southern Spain results in blood red Rio Tinto river with its extremely low pH.

 

Iceland - The geology of Iceland makes it an ideal anolog for many of the processes of early Mars. My interest is in using its well developed hydrothermal systems to better understand similar proccesses that would have occured on Mars. 

AstroReality

AstroReality is merging state-of-the-art AR technology with highly detailed planetary globes to tell the stories of the planets. I am working with the company as Science Advisor to determine which datasets and planetary stories should be told. The success of modern science has created so many compelling stories 

Exploration

Before we can understand these environments, we must first explore them. Some efforts are difficult but relatively simple. Cave mapping requires people to navigate the systems and read instruments. While the geologic exploration of Mars requires rockets, robots and sensors to remotely analyze the planets. In all cases, the exploration processes is limited by the human’s ability to endure, innovate and understand the process and data. Developing the tools and techniques to explore extreme environments remotely and in person is the main motivation for my research.

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