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Erin Leonard

Photo of Erin Leonard


4800 Oak Grove Drive
M/S 183-301

Pasadena, CA 91109

Member of:

Planetary Geosciences


Erin Leonard is currently a post-doctoral researcher at the Jet Propulsion Laboratory, California Institute of Technology. Her research focuses on geomorphologic mapping of icy satellites, structural analysis of the surface features, and how these surface observations can lead to implications for the subsurface or evolution of the body. Erin is the lead author on the new global geologic map of Europa for the United States Geologic Survey (USGS) that has been accepted and is currently in press. She also has a particular interest in the Ice Giant systems, with an emphasis on detecting and characterizing Ocean Worlds, and actively aids in formulating and advocating for missions to these systems. Inspired by the work she has done for Europa Clipper Project Science, Erin is also interested in the interface between science and engineering, especially as it relates to operations, systems engineering, and management.


  • University of California, Los Angeles - PhD, Planetary Geology, September 2014 - May 2019
  • University of California, Berkeley - BS, Double Major: Astrophysics and Planetary Science, August 2010 – May 2014

Professional Experience

  • 2021 – pres. Europa Lander Pre-Project Science Sampling Task Lead
  • 2019 – pres. JPL Postdoctoral Fellow
  • 2019 – pres. Europa Clipper Project Science Postdoctoral Affiliate
  • 2014 – 2019 Graduate Researcher & Teaching Assistant at UCLA in the Earth, Planetary, and Space Sciences (EPSS) Department
  • 2017 – 2019 Europa Clipper Project Science Graduate Affiliate

Selected Projects:

  • 2020 JPL Strategic Research Development Co-I – Uranian Moons (PI – T. Nordheim)
  • 2020 NASA ROSES ECF Co-I – Geology of Pwyll and Manannan (PI – J. Scully)
  • 2020 NASA ROSES SSW Co-l – Europa Tectonics and Habitability (PI – S. Howell)
  • 2017 NASA Earth and Space Science Fellowship (Planetary Science), 2 years

Selected Professional Activities:

  • 2022 – pres. Member of NASA RCN, Network for Ocean Worlds (NOW)
  • 2021 – pres. Co-Writer of Europa Lander Terrain Specification Document (TSD)
  • 2022 Guest Editor for JGR Special Issue
  • 2020 – pres. Lead Editor of the Europa Clipper Rules of the Road (RoTR) Document
  • 2019 – pres. Co-Organizer of ICE (Icy Collaboration and Exchange) seminar series
  • 2019 – pres. Member of NRSG (New Researchers Support Group)
  • 2018 – pres. Review panelist (and executive secretary) for NASA Grant Proposals.
  • 2020 JPL Internal Reviewer for Pre-Decadal Mission Concept Studies (PCMS)
  • 2020 A-Team Scientist for Small Sat Technology for Ice Giants Study and Icy World Surface Mobility Study
  • 2018 Project Manager of JPL’s Planetary Science Summer Seminar (PSSS), Uranus Orbiter for New Frontiers JPL. Advisors: Charles Budney and Karl Mitchell
  • 2017 Science Expert for JPL A-Team RPS Ocean/Ice Exploration Study, JPL.
  • 2013 – 2014 Planning observations and imaging of Type 1a supernovae

Community Service

  • 2021 Society for Science Regeneron High School Science Talent Search Evaluator
  • 2021 Advisor for MIT 16.83 Enceladus Mission Class
  • 2019 Panelist for Long Beach Comic Con – Women in Planetary Science
  • 2018 Explore Your Universe (EYU) Booth Organizer – Cassini at Enceladus
  • 2017 UCLA Grad Slam Finalist

Selected Awards

  • 2021 JPL Voyager Award for Europa Clipper Rules of the Road
  • 2019 NASA Group Achievement Award - Europa Global Geologic Map
  • 2018 UCLA EPSS Excellence in Academic Performance and Research Potential
  • 2017 Paul M. Furukawa Memorial Fellowship Award
  • 2016, 2017 Excellence in Teaching Award Awarded by UCLA
  • 2016 Planetary Interiors Short Course Scholar and Travel Awardee, International
  • School of Space Science (ISSS)
  • 2016 NSF Graduate Research Fellowship Honorable Mention

Selected Publications

  • E. J. Leonard, D. A. Patthoff, and D. A. Senske (in press). The Europa Global Geologic Map. United States Geologic Survey.
  • E. J. Leonard, Howell, S., Mills, A., Senske, D.A., Patthoff, D.A., Hay, H.C.F.C. and Pappalardo, R.T., 2022. Finding order in chaos: Quantitative predictors of chaos terrain morphology on Europa. Geophysical Research Letters, p.e2021GL097309.
  • Cartwright, Richard J., et al., 2022. A CO2 Cycle on Ariel? Radiolytic Production and Migration to Low-latitude Cold Traps. The Planetary Science Journal, 3(1), p.8.
  • Howell, S., E. J. Leonard (2021, in press). Ocean Worlds: Interior Processes and Physical Environments, Handbook of Space Resources, Springer Publishing.
  • E. J. Leonard, et al., 2021. UMaMI: A New Frontiers-style Mission Concept to Explore the Uranian System. The Planetary Science Journal, 2(5), p.174.
  • Cartwright, Richard J., et al., 2021. The science case for spacecraft exploration of the Uranian satellites: Candidate ocean worlds in an ice giant system. The Planetary Science Journal, 2(3), p.120.
  • Titus, T.N., et al. 2021. A roadmap for planetary caves science and exploration. Nature Astronomy, 5(6), pp.524-525.
  • E. J. Leonard, A. Yin, and R. T. Pappalardo (2021). Past thermal state of Enceladus inferred from ice-shell deformation in the Leading Hemisphere. J. Geophys. Res
  • E. J. Leonard, C. Elder, T. Nordheim, R. Cartwright, D. A. Patthoff, C. Beddingfield, M. Tiscareno, N. Strange, and T. Balint, and 98 cosigners (2020). A New Frontiers Class Mission for the Uranian System that Focuses on Moon, Magnetosphere, and Ring Science. White Paper submitted in Response to the Planetary Science and Astrobiology Decadal Survey 2023–2032.
  • E. J. Leonard, Yin, A., and Pappalardo, R. T. (2020). Ridged Plains on Europa Reveal a Compressive Past. Icarus. p.113709.
  • S. Jarmak, E. J. Leonard, et al. (2020). QUEST: A Mission Concept for a New Frontiers Style Uranus Orbiter. Acta Astronautica, 170, pp.6-26.
  • T. deJaeger, et al. (2019). The Berkeley sample of Type II supernovae: BVRI light curves and spectroscopy of 55 SNe II. MNRAS, 490(2).
  • B. E. Stahl, et al. (2019). Lick Observatory Supernova Search Follow-Up Program: Photometry Data Release of 83 Type Ia Supernovae. MNRA, 490(3), pp.3882-3907.
  • E. J. Leonard, R. T. Pappalardo, and A. Yin (2018). Structural analysis of very-high-resolution Galileo images of Europa: Implications for surface evolution. Icarus, 312, pp.100-120.