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Libby Hausrath


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Mars Geochemistry, Astrobiology, Water-Rock Interaction, Chemical Weathering, Soil-Forming Processes, Geomicrobiology


Weathering plays a key role in many critical processes on Earth, including the formation of soils, the control of atmospheric CO2 concentrations over geological time scales, and water quality. Yet field weathering rates remain difficult to predict even when laboratory rates have been measured, and the effect of factors such as biological interactions, physical erosion, and climate are poorly understood. It is imperative to better understand this "Critical Zone" upon which life depends.

The study of soil-forming processes and water-rock interactions may also yield significant information about the aqueous history of Mars, and the potential for life, past or present, on that planet. Despite extensive evidence for water on the surface of Mars, it is not clear how long water was present as a liquid. Observations of weathering products and the existence of primary minerals may provide some constraints for the presence and duration of liquid water. Therefore an understanding of weathering under Mars-like conditions may help elucidate observations from the surface of Mars.

My research focuses on water-rock interactions, and chemical weathering, to try to better understand these processes both on Earth and on Mars. I use a combination of laboratory experiments, field work, and modeling to try to better understand chemical weathering and water-rock interactions.

Additional Information

SEB Program Group: Soil Science
SEB Lab Location: 4121
SEB Lab Phone Number: 702-774-1455