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

Desert Research Institute
The question of whether Mars ever supported life has captivated the imagination of scientists and the public for decades. Central to the discovery is gaining insight into the past climate of Earth’s neighbor: was the planet warm and wet, with seas and rivers much like those found on our own planet? Or was it frigid and icy, and therefore potentially less prone to supporting life as we know it? A new study finds evidence to support the latter by identifying similarities between soils found on Mars and those of Canada’s Newfoundland, a cold subarctic climate.
Las Vegas Weekly
A lot of the time, when someone mentions the University of Nevada Las Vegas, they’re speaking of its renowned School of Hospitality, its fast-growing medical school or its Jerry Tarkanian-era men’s basketball teams. But UNLV is also one of the nation’s top research universities, awarded an R1 classification (“very high research activity”) from the Carnegie Classification of Institutions of Higher Education. Join the Weekly as we peek into the laboratories where world-changing scientific research is ongoing.
K.L.A.S. T.V. 8 News Now
Exploring Mars might be a dream for students interested in careers in space. For Libby Hausrath, it’s an exciting point on a career path she chose years ago.
Tech Explorist
To find evidence of prehistoric microbial life and to better understand the processes that formed the surface of Mars, scientists wish to analyze Martian samples with high-tech lab equipment on Earth. The majority of the samples will be made up of rock. Still, scientists are also interested in studying regolith, or broken rock and dust, not only for what it can reveal about Mars’ geological processes and environment but also help astronauts prepare for some of the difficulties they will encounter. Regolith is fascinating to scientists and engineers because it can impact everything from solar panels to spacesuits.

Articles Featuring Elisabeth (Libby) Hausrath

Students at Pida Plaza on the first day of classes (Josh Hawkins, UNLV).
Campus News | September 1, 2023

A roundup of prominent news stories highlighting university pride, research, and community collaboration.

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.