Bethany Ehlmann Selected as National Geographic Emerging Explorer

National Geographic Society has named Bethany Ehlmann, assistant professor of planetary science at the California Institute of Technology (Caltech), a 2013 Emerging Explorer. Ehlmann joins 16 other young scientists, educators, artists, and entrepreneurs recognized by National Geographic for making an impact on the world while still in the early stages of their careers.

Ehlmann accepted her award at the Emerging Explorers Symposium in Washington, D.C., on June 12. The symposium was part of the society's 125th anniversary celebration running June 10-14.

None of the 2013 awardees can claim more distant explorations than Ehlmann. As a planetary scientist at Caltech and a Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL) research scientist, she is one of the investigators on NASA's Mars Curiosity mission. From a distance of tens of millions of kilometers, Ehlmann helps direct Curiosity's explorations and zaps Martian rocks and soils with its ChemCam laser spectrometer instrument in order to analyze their mineral and chemical compositions. Ehlmann uses data collected by orbiters and rovers in a search for clues about past Martian environments and whether Mars has ever been hospitable to living organisms.

Back on planet Earth, Ehlmann is a frequent visitor to remote, rocky, and extreme locales—places like the deserts of California and the Middle East or the sides of Icelandic volcanoes—that provide the closest terrestrial counterparts to the surfaces and geologic processes of distant planets.

"I am very honored to have been recognized by National Geographic as an Emerging Explorer," Ehlmann says. "I've long been a follower and avid fan of the society's mission of exploration and discovery and am excited to join its family of explorers. It's an amazing group."

The Emerging Explorers Program "recognizes and supports uniquely gifted and inspiring adventurers, scientists, and innovators who are at the forefront of discovery, adventure, and global problem-solving while still early in their careers," according to a statement issued by the National Geographic Society. Emerging Explorers are profiled in National Geographic magazine and receive a $10,000 award to assist with research and further exploration.


Written by Brian Bell