University of Washington Astrobiology Program

Spring 2013

The 2013 ESS Research Gala

By Kelly Hillbun
Graduate Student, Earth & Space Sciences

On April 4th and 5th, 2013, the Department of Earth and Space Sciences (ESS) hosted the 4th Annual Research Gala at the University of Washington. The ESS Gala is a research symposium organized by graduate students that provides both undergraduate and graduate students with an opportunity to present original research to a community of peers, academics, and professionals from industry and government. This year’s event was organized by three Astrobiology students; Kelly Hillbun, Tom Tobin, and Matt Tilley.

Forty students (31 graduates and 9 undergraduates) from the ESS Department shared exciting results from their research in the form of posters and oral presentations. Among them were four astrobiology students: Elena Amador and Kelly Hillbun gave oral presentations while Jonathan Bapst and Tom Tobin showcased research posters.

Both posters and talks were evaluated by a diverse panel of faculty judges, and various awards, which all included a cash prize, were given out for research excellence. Of this year’s prize-winning presenters, three were astrobiology graduate students. Congratulations to Elena Amador who won the award for “Best Oral Presentation”, Kelly Hillbun who won the “Best Presenter” award, and Jonathan Bapst who won the award for “Best Poster on Modern Processes”.

For the first time, a geological photo contest was also incorporated into the program. Students submitted original artwork depicting an aspect of their research or a scene from their geological travels. This year, AB student Kelly Hillbun won 1st place in the photo contest for her photograph capturing mud crack formation, and Tom Tobin’s photograph of an Antarctic mountain won 2nd place (both shown above). Congratulations both of you!

The following list of talks, showcasing the diversity of astrobiological research, were given by AB students at the ESS Research Gala:

  • Elena Amador: The Lost City Hydrothermal Field: A Spectroscopic and Astrobiological Martian Analog

  • Jonathan Bapst: Seasonal Release of Water Vapor by Ground Ice on Mars: Implications for Surface Frosts and Atmospheric Water Abundance

  • Kelly Hillbun: Investigating the Late Devonian Mass Extinction: Using Carbon Isotopes as a Chronostratigraphic Tool in Upper Devonian Carbonate Slopes: Canning Basin, Western Australia

  • Kelly Hillbun: Quantitative Characterization of Modern Carbonate Platforms to Improve Geologic Modeling

  • Tom Tobin: Contributions from Deccan Volcanism to the K-Pg Mass Extinction

  • Photos: (Top) Antarctic mountain, taken by Tom Tobin. (Bottom) Mud crack formation, taken by Kelly Hillbun.

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