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photo of Kimberley Waren-Rhodes

Kimberley Warren-Rhodes
Spaceward Bound Namibia 2010

Who I am & My Career Path
I am an ecologist and astrobiologist,, and my research on hypoliths has taken me to the deserts of China (I speak Mandarin Chinese), Chile, Death Valley in the U.S. and Namibia. My career path is unconventional. I graduated from the University of Texas at Austin with degrees in Astronomy and Chinese, but I also took many ecology and environmental classes. This led to my Ph.D. in environmental science and engineering from Stanford University. While at Stanford I became very interested in systems ecology and ecosystem services, which I used to model nutrient, energy and waste flows for anything from factories to cities to microbial communities. To some people, my background might seem crazy, but not for many NASA folks like Chris McKay. Like me, he is a very optimistic person and likes to see how things are connected and to apply principles and lessons from one field to another. That is how I came to study hypoliths in the deserts of China as a National Research Council post-doc with Chris and Imre Friedmann at NASA. I especially like trying to understand the patterns of hypolithic colonization at many scales, but particularly the landscape and larger.

What I Like Most About my Job
Today, my job is as non-traditional as my academic path. I think what I like most is that I am constantly learning new things, and I love to work with scientists and people from all walks of life and expertise. I teach environmental science at the University of San Francisco and conduct research with NASA and several worldwide environmental organizations. As an example of my typical year, you might find me exploring the deserts of Namibia and China, canoeing with villagers in Solomon Islands, helping to tag fish (with my marine biologist husband) and sharks in Micronesia, or relaxing, getting a massage in Bali and spending Christmas Down Under with friends eating hot dogs off the “Barbie.” As a scientist, your life won’t be boring and definitely no 9 to 5!


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Editor: Linda Conrad
NASA Official: Liza Coe
Last Updated: March 2010