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Steven F. Sholes

Photo of Steven Sholes


4800 Oak Grove Drive

Pasadena, CA 91109



Curriculum Vitae:

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Member of:

Planetary Geosciences

Postdoctoral Fellow


Steven is a planetary scientist, astrobiologist, Mars 2020 science team member, and JPL postdoc interested in the habitability of past and present Mars. His research focuses on applying quantitative techniques to understand the distribution, magnitude, and timing of past liquid water on the Martian surface using orbiter data. His background is in assessing the evidence of past oceans on Mars, developing automated landform detection tools, and modeling the habitability potential of Mars' atmosphere over time. Approaches include remote sensing, photochemical modeling, field analog studies, spectroscopy, geological mapping, image analysis, and optimization algorithms.


  • Ph.D., Earth and Planetary Sciences & Astrobiology, University of Washington (2019)
  • B.A., Astronomy, Cornell University (2013)

Professional Experience

  • 2021 - Present: JPL Postdoctoral Scholar
  • 2013 - 2019: Graduate Research Associate, University of Washington
  • 2015 - 2019: Teaching Assistant, University of Washington
  • 2011 - 2013: Research Assistant, Cornell University
  • 2012: Summer Research Assistant, University of Arkansas
  • 2010 – 2012: Collections Assistant, Paleontological Research Institute

Community Service

Journal Reviewer, Science Communication Fellow, Undergraduate Student Mentor, Science Olympiad Volunteer, K-12 Outreach Speaker

Research Interests

Geomorphology, Planetary Surface Processes, Astrobiology, Habitability, Geologic Mapping, Remote Sensing, Photochemistry, Planetary Atmospheric Evolution

Selected Awards

  • 2018 - Goodspeed and Misch Geology Fellowship
  • 2017 - Bassett, Coombs, and Ferrel Geological Endowments
  • 2016 - Goodspeed and Robbins Geology Fellowship
  • 2015 - Pacific Science Center Science Communication Fellowship
  • 2015 - Winglee Graduate Student Support Fund

Selected Publications

  1. 2021. Sholes, S.F., Z.I. Dickeson, D.R. Montgomery, and D.C. Catling. Where are Mars' Hypothesized Ocean Shorelines? Large Lateral and Topographic Offsets Between Different Versions of Paleoshoreline Maps. Journal of Geophysical Research: Planets (in revision) preprint doi:10.1002/essoar.10502868.1
  2. 2019. Sholes, S.F., D.R. Montgomery, and D.C. Catling. Quantitative High-Resolution Re-Examination of a Hypothesized Ocean Shoreline in Cydonia Mensae on Mars. Journal of Geophysical Research: Planets 124: 316-336. doi:10.1029/2018JE005837
  3. 2019. Sholes, S.F., J. Krissansen-Totton, and D.C. Catling. A Maximum Subsurface Biomass on Mars from Untapped Free Energy: CO and H2 as Potential Antibiosignatures. Astrobiology 19(5): 655-668. doi:10.1089/ast.2018.1835
  4. 2017. Sholes, S.F., M.L. Smith, M.W. Claire, K.J. Zahnle, and D.C. Catling. Anoxic Atmospheres on Mars Driven by Volcanism: Implications for Past Environments and Life. Icarus 290: 46-62. doi:10.1016/j.icarus.2017.02.022
  5. 2015. Misra, A., J. Krissansen-Totton, M.C. Koehler, and S. Sholes. Detecting Volcanism on Exoplanets Using Transient Sulfate Aerosols. Astrobiology 15(6): 462-477. doi:10.1089/ast.2014.1204
  6. 2013. Thomas, P.C., W. Calvin, P. Gierasch, R. Haberle, P.B. James, and S. Sholes. Time Scales of Erosion and Deposition Recorded in the Residual South Polar Cap of Mars. Icarus 225(2): 923-932. doi:10.1016/j.icarus.2012.08.038


Mars 2020