Elisabeth (Libby) Hausrath

Professor of Geoscience
Expertise: Mars geochemistry, Water-rock interactions, Astrobiology, Snow dynamics


Elisabeth (Libby) Hausrath is an aqueous geochemist and astrobiologist who investigates interactions between water and minerals, and the impacts of life on those interactions. She and her team use a combination of field work, laboratory experiments, and modeling to investigate signatures of aqueous alteration and life, the rates at which water-rock interactions occur, and how they differ on Earth and on other planets such as Mars. Their work helps understand chemical weathering, water chemistry, nutrient release, the formation of soils, and potential signatures of life on Earth and Mars.

Hausrath and her team also explore snow dynamics, particularly the interactions between snow algae, microorganisms, and minerals in the nutrient-poor environment present in snow, which may also be an analog to Mars.

Hausrath serves on NASA's Returned Sample Science Board, which offers scientific input into aspects of the upcoming Mars 2020 rover mission.


  • Dual-Title Ph.D. Program in Geosciences and Astrobiology, Penn State University
  • Sc.B Geology-Chemistry, Brown University

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Elisabeth (Libby) Hausrath In The News

Olhar Digital
There are many factors to consider regarding possible future human exploration on Mars. Unlike robotic equipment, such as a rover , a drone or a probe, a human being needs, just to say the basics, oxygen to breathe and food to eat. Not to mention the effects that such a long and unusual journey into deep space can have on an astronaut's body.
Leena Cycil, geochemist and team member on the Mars 2020 mission, believes that algae may be part of the "secret" to human survival on Mars. Together with Libby Hausrath, she studies extremophile algae and tries to grow them under pressure and luminosity conditions similar to those found on Mars . To date, three promising species have been identified.
While the world is marveling over the first images and data now coming from NASA’s Perseverance rover mission seeking signs of ancient microscopic life on Mars, a team of UNLV scientists is already hard at work on the next step: What if we could one day send humans to the Red Planet?
The Hoops News
UNLV geoscientists Libby Hausrath and Arya Udry dish on latest Perseverance rover data, and provide peek at upcoming research.

Articles Featuring Elisabeth (Libby) Hausrath

An image of rocks snapped by NASA's Mars Perseverance rover
Research | September 26, 2022

UNLV geoscientists Libby Hausrath and Arya Udry dish on latest Perseverance rover data, and provide peek at upcoming research.

people doing research
Research | December 27, 2021

UNLV researchers made international headlines this year with their discoveries. Here's a roundup of some of our top stories of 2021.

D73760_054 Kinney Lab-Chambers Grundy.JPG
Campus News | October 7, 2021

A collection of news stories featuring collaboration and reflection at UNLV.