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David Catling- Website

Courses Taught

Course #
% Responsible
Spr, 15ESS418433100none
Aut, 15ASTBIO576113100%none
Spr, 15ESS418431100none
Wtr, 15ESS/ASTR490/497314100%none
Aut, 14ASTBIO501417100%none
Spr, 14ESS/ ASTR/ATMS581/ 555315100%none
Autumn, 13ESS/ASTBIO1155113100%none
Spring, 13ESS/ASTR490/497316100%none
Autumn, 12ASTBIO50247100%none
Winter, 11ESS/ASTBIO115545100%none

UW Class Seminars and Lectures

Course #
May 29, 14ESS495JHN 102Guest lecture: "Mars"
May 14 ,13OCEANBiolunch seminarMSBGuest lecture: "Rain, air and volcanoes on the Archean Earth”
April 30, 12ESS205JHNGuest lecture
April 25, 11ESS205JHNGuest lecture

Awards and Honors

Award Name
Date Bestowed
Awarding Body
Brief Description
Top-50 most cited articles2010ElsevierCertificate for top-50 most cited articles in Earth and Planetary Science Letters
NASA Group Achievement Award2009NASA"For outstanding performance in the planning for the execution of the science for the Phoenix Mission" of sending a lander to Mars.

Professional Talks and Presentations

March, 2016UC DavisDepartmental colloquiumITalkThe atmosphere and environment of the early Earth
Feb, 2016ASU/ U. ArizonaNexus for Exoplanet System Science (NExSS) Winter School, Biosphere 2, Oracle, AZILecturesEvolution of Earth's atmosphere
Feb, 2016ASUWorkshop: Upstairs Downstairs: Consequences of Internal Planet Evolution for the Habitability and Detectability of Life on Extrasolar PlanetsITalkWhy O2 is our best biosignature and phantoms of false positives
October, 2015Central Washington UniversityWeekly colloquiumITalkThe environment of a different planet: The early Earth
October, 2015European Southern Observatory HQ, Santiago, ChileConference on Astrobiology and Planetary AtmospheresITalkPlanetary Atmospheres
July, 2015University of Heidelberg/ Max Planck Institute for AstronomySeminarITalkThe Evolution of Atmospheres on Inhabited and Lifeless Planets
June, 2015NASA Goddard Space Flight CenterWeekly seminarITalkDo Pale Blue Dots have unique atmospheric disequilibrium and photometric color? (co-presented with Josh Krissansen-Totton)
May, 2015U. ChicagoDept. colloquiumITalkThe Evolution of Atmospheres on Inhabited and Lifeless Planets
Nov, 2014European Southern Observatory"International Symposium on Life as a Planetary Phenomenon", Santiago, ChileITalkPlanetary Atmospheres
Nov, 2014MITWeekly dept. lecture, Dept. Earth, Atmospheric and Planetary ScienceITalkAtmospheric evolution on the early Earth
Sept, 2014National Observatory, Brazil"First Brazilian Astrobiology Summer School", Rio de JaneiroITalksFour lectures on: "Planetary Atmospheres and Life"
July, 2014International Society for the Study of the Origin and Evolution of Life (ISSOL)"Origins 2014" Conference, Nara, JapanITalkAtmosphere and environment of the early Earth
July, 2014University of TokyoWeekly colloquium, Dept. of Complexity Science and EngineeringITalkAtmospheric evolution on the early Earth
June, 2014Geochemical SocietyGoldschmidt ConferenceCTalkChemical disequilibrium in planetary atmospheres as a way to look for life or its absence
May, 2014Geological Society of LondonFermor Meeting: Comparative PlanetologyITalkPlanetary atmospheres in the Solar System: Their properties and evolution as guides to exoplanet atmospheres
April, 2014Space Telescope Science InstituteHabitable Worlds Across Space and Time WorkshopITalkPlanetary Atmospheres and Evolution of Complex Life
Dec, 2013AGUAGU Fall MeetingITalkWaiting ages for atmospheric oxygen: A titration hourglass and the oxidation of the solid Earth
Sept, 2013European Planetary ScienceEuropean Planetary Science CongressCTalkAtmospheric chemistry of nitrogen on Mars: A link between oxidants in the soil and chlorine cycling?
Aug, 2013Goldschmidt GeochemistryAnnual Goldschmidt ConferenceCTalkA framework for understanding the first and second rises of O2
May 14, 2013AGUChapman Conference, Crossing Boundaries in Planetary Atmospheres: From Earth to ExoplanetsITalkAtmospheric chemistry and radiation in the Solar System as Guides to Exoplanet Atmospheres
Mar 2013LPI44th Lunar & Planet. Sci. Conf.CTalkAn impact stability limit controlling the existence of planetary atmospheres"
Feb 2013UCLAPresent-day Habitability of Mars WorkshopITalkFormation of perchlorate on Mars"
Dec 2012AGUAGU Fall MeetingCTalkA "~0.1 bar tropopause law" in thick atmospheres of planets and large moons: Its identification, explanation, and use in determining exoplanet habitability"
June 2012Geochemical Soc.Golschmidt Geochemistry ConferenceITalkWhat cause the the 2.4 Ga rise of oxygen?" (Keynote)
May 2012LPI3rd Conference on Early MarsCTalkDoes the Vastitas Borealis Formation Contain Oceanic or Volcanic Deposits?"
Dec-2011AGUAGU Fall MeetingITalkAtmospheric Escape, Redox Evolution and Planetary Habitability"
May-2011Geological Society of LondonLife and The Planet Workshop, LondonITalkCauses and Consequences of the Great Oxidation Event"
April-2011International Space Science InstituteWorkshop on Quantifying Martian Geochemical Reservoirs, Bern, SwitzerlandITalkConnections between Mars meteorites and past atmospheres"
March-2011LPILunar and Planetary Science Conf.CTalkA lava sea in the northern plains of Mars: Circumpolar Hesperian oceans reconsidered".

Public and Community Service

Type of Service
Jan-2016National Geographic TVAnswered scientific questions for Robert MacAndrew, Story
Producer for TV series, "One Strange Rock",
celebrating the story of life on Earth
Nov-2015Quanta MagazineTalked to Natalie Wolchover, reporter, and fact-checked about the history of life and association with atmospheric oxygen
Sept-2015NPRTalked to Adam Frank for a story about successes of climate science on other planets
March-2015Seattle WeeklyTalked to Nina Shapiro, reporter, for a feature article about human missions to Mars
Oct-2014Ubookstore Evening EventIn conversation at UW bookstore with Caleb Scharf concerning his new book, 'The Copernicus Complex'
Oct-2014Science Cafe of Olympia, WAGave a talk entitled "Astrobiology: Life in its Cosmic Context" to an audience of ~60
Jan-2014Rotary Club of LynnwoodGave a talk entitled "Astrobiology and Early Earth"
Dec-2013LA TimesTalked to journalist Amina Khan, at length about latest results from NASA’s Curiosity rover.,0,2384378.story
Dec-2013Yoram Bauman book fact-checkFact-checked popular book manuscript by Yoram Bauman about climate change ("Cartoon Introduction to Climate Change").
Sept-2013Forbes MagazineTalked to reporter Bruce Dorminey about the possibility of life on Ceres and also the origin of photosynthesis for articles he wrote
May-2013The VergeTalked to journalist Carl Franzen, about habitability of exoplanets
Mar-2013KUOW/NPRLive interview on "Weekday" Public Radio about life on Mars and astrobiology
Nov-2012Forbes MagazineFeatured in two articles about life on Mars and complex life on exoplanets
May-2012Science MagazineTalked to Dick Kerr to help him write a feature article about methane on Mars
March-12PBS NewshourTalked to PBS about research on raindrop imprints from 2.7 Ga
9-28-11New York TimesTalked to journalist Dennis Overbye about the biosphere and atmosphere on the early Earth
June-2011BBC TVBriefed BBC TV's Ben Wison on the co-evolution of the atmosphere and life for a "Wonders of Life" TV Series

Recent Publications and Manuscripts in the Press

All peer-reviewed:

D. C. Catling and J. F. Kasting, Atmospheric Evolution on Inhabited and Lifeless Worlds, Cambridge University Press, ISBN: 9780521844123, 550 pp., in press, 2016.

J. D. Toner and D. C. Catling, Water activities of NaClO4, Ca(ClO4)2 and Mg(ClO4)2brines from experimental heat capacities: Water activity >0.6 below 200 K, Geochimica Cosmochimca Acta, in press, 2016.

R. M. Haberle, D. C. Catling, M. H. Carr, K. J. Zahnle. Early Mars, in The Atmosphere and Climate of Mars (Eds. R. M. Haberle et al.), Cambridge Univ. Press, in press, 2016.

D. C. Catling, S. Stroud. The greening of Green Mountain, Ascension Island, M. Joachim, M. Silver (eds.) Post-Sustainable: New Directions in Ecological Design, Metropolis Books, New York City, in press, 2016.

J. Krissansen-Totton, D. S. Bergsman, D. C. Catling. On detecting biospheres from chemical disequilibrium in planetary atmospheres, Astrobiology 16, 39-67, 2016.

J. Krissansen-Totton, E. Schwieterman, B. Charnay, G. Arney, T. D. Robinson, V. Meadows, D. C. Catling, Is the Pale Blue Dot unique? Optimized photometric bands for identifying Earth-like planets, Astrophysical J. 817, 31, 2016.

P. Pogge von Strandmann, E. E. Stüeken, T. Elliott, S. W. Poulton, C. M. Dehler, D. E. Canfield, D. C. Catling. Selenium isotope evidence for post-glacial oxygenation trends in the Ediacaran ocean, Nature Comm., 6:10157, doi: 10.1038/ncomes10157, 2015.

J. D. Toner, D. C. Catling, B. Light, A revised Pitzer model for low-temperature soluble salt assemblages at the Phoenix site, Mars, Geochim. Cosmochim. Acta, 166, 327-343, 2015.

J. Krissansen-Totton, R. Buick, D. C. Catling. A statistical analysis of the carbon isotope record from the Archean to Phanerozoic and implications for the rise of oxygen, Amer. J. Sci., 315, 275-316, 2015.

D. C. Catling, Planetary Atmospheres, in G. Schubert (ed.) Treatise on Geophysics, Elsevier, vol. 10, Elsevier, New York, 429-472, 2015.

J. D. Toner, D. C. Catling, B. Light, Modeling salt precipitation from brines on Mars evaporation versus freezing origin for soil salts, Icarus, 250, 451-461, 2015.

E. Pecoits, M. L. Smith, D. C. Catling, P. Philippot, A. Kappler, K. O. Konhauser, Atmospheric hydrogen peroxide and Eoarchean iron formations", Geobiology 13, 1-14, 2015.

K. J. Zahnle & D. C. Catling, Waiting for oxygen, in Special Paper 504: Earth's Early Atmosphere and Surface Environment (Shaw, G. H., ed.), Geological Society of America Conference Proceedings, 37-48, 2014.

D. C. Catling, Mars Atmosphere: History and Surface Interactions. In: T. Spohn, T. V. Johnson, D. Breuer (eds.) Encyclopedia of the Solar System (3rd Ed.), Academic Press, 2014, 343-357.

J. D. Toner, D. C. Catling, B. Light, Reanalysis of Wet Chemistry Laboratory data at the Phoenix Lander site on Mars with implications for the soluble soil salts, Geochim. Cosmochim. Acta, doi:10.1016/j.gca.2014.03.030, 136, 142-168, 2014.

D. C. Catling. The Great Oxidation Event transition, in The Atmosphere -- History, vol. 6, Treatise on Geochemistry (2nd Ed.) (edited by H. D. Holland and K. K. Turekian, Elsevier, Oxford, 177-195, 2014.

T. D. Robinson & D. C. Catling, Common 0.1 bar tropopause in thick atmospheres set by pressure-dependent infrared transparency, Nature Geoscience, 7, 12-15, 2014. doi:10.1038/NGEO2020

M. L. Smith, M. W. Claire, D. C. Catling, K. J. Zahnle, The formation of sulfate, nitrate and perchlorate salts in the martian atmosphere, Icarus, 231, 51-64, 2014.

G. M. Marion, D. C. Catling, J. S. Kargel, J. I. Lunine, Modeling nitrogen-gas, -liquid, -solid chemistries at low temperature (173-298 K), Icarus 236, 1-8, 2014.

P. Pogge von Strandmann, C. D. Coath, D. C. Catling, S. W. Poulton, T. Elliott, Analysis of mass dependent and mass independent selenium isotope variability in black shales, J. Analytical Atomic Spectrometry, 29, 1648-1659, 2014.

D. C. Catling, Astrobiology: A Very Short Introduction, Oxford University Press, 144pp., 2013.
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J. D. Toner, D. C. Catling, B. Light, The formation of supercooled brines, viscous liquids, and low-temperature glasses on Mars, Icarus 233, 36-47, 2013.

K. J. Zahnle, D. C. Catling, M. W. Claire. The rise of oxygen and the hydrogen hourglass, Chemical Geology, 362, 26-34, 2013.

G. M. Marion, D. C. Catling, J. Crowley, J. S. Kargel. Sulfite-sulfide-sulfate- carbonate equilibria with applications to Mars, Icarus, 225, 342-351, 2013

E. E. Stüeken, J. Foriel, B. K. Nelson, R. Buick, D. C. Catling. Selenium isotope analysis of organic-rich shales: Advances in sample preparation and isobaric interference correction, J. Analytical Atomic Spectroscopy, doi:10.1039/C3JA50186H, 2013

S. M. Som, J. W. Hagadorn, W. A. Thelen, A. R. Gillespie, D. C. Catling, R. Buick, Quantitative discrimination between geological materials with low density contrast by high resolution X-ray computer tomography: An example using amygdule size-distribution in ancient lava flows, Computers & Geoscience, 54, 231-238, 2013.

P. B. Niles, D. C. Catling, G. Berger, E. Chassefiere, B. L. Ehlmann, J. Michalski, R, Morris, S. W. Ruff, B. Sutter, Carbonates on Mars, Space Sci. Rev., 174, 301-328, 2013.

B. L. Ehlmann, G. Berger, N. Mangold, J. R. Michalski, D. C. Catling, S. W. Ruff, E. Chassefiere, P. B. Niles, V. Chevrier, F. Poulet. Geochemical consequences of widespread clay mineral formation in Mars' ancient crust, Space Sci. Rev., 174, 329-364, 2013.

E. E. Stüeken, D. C. Catling, R. Buick, Contributions to Late Archaean sulphur cycling by life on land, Nature Geoscience, 5, 722-725, doi:10.1038/ngeo1585, 2012.

T. D. Robinson, D. C. Catling, An analytic radiative-convective model for planetary atmospheres, Astrophysical Journal, 757, 104, 2012.

E. Sefton-Nash, D. C. Catling, S. E. Wood, P. Grindrod, Topographic, spectral and thermal inertia analysis of interior layered deposits in Iani Chaos, Mars, Icarus, 221, 20-42, 2012.

S. M. Som, D. C. Catling, J. P. Harnmeijer, P. M. Polivka, R. Buick. Air density 2.7 billion years ago limited to less than twice modern levels by fossil raindrop imprints, Nature, 484, 359-362, 2012, doi:10.1038/nature10890.

M. W. Claire, J. Sheets, M. Cohen, I. Ribas, V. S. Meadows, D. C. Catling. The evolution of solar flux from 2 nm to 160 microns: Quantitative estimates for planetary studies, Astrophysical J., 757, 95, 2012.

G. M. Marion, J. S. Kargel, D. C. Catling, J. I Lunine, Modeling ammonia-ammonium chemistries in the outer planet regions, Icarus, 220, 932-946, 2012.

J. F. Kasting, D. C. Catling, K. J. Zahnle, Atmospheric oxygenation and volcanism, Nature 487, E1, 2012.

D. Schulze-Makuch, A. Mendez, A. G. Fairen, P. von Paris, C. Turse, G. Boyer, A. F. Davila, M. Resendes de Sousa Antonio, D. Catling, L. N. Irwin. A two-tiered approach to assessing the habitability of exoplanets, Astrobiology, 11, 1041-1052, 2011.

D. C. Catling. Oxygenation of the Earth's atmosphere. Encyclopedia of Astrobiology (Eds. M. Gargaud et al.), New York, 1200-1208, 2011.

K. J. Zahnle, R. S. Freedman, D. C. Catling. Is there methane on Mars? Icarus, 212, 493-503, doi:10.1016/j.icarus.2010.11.027, 2011.

G. M. Marion, D. C. Catling, J K. Crowley, J. S. Kargel. Modeling hot spring chemistries with applications to Martian silica formation, Icarus, 212, 629-642, doi:10.1016/j.icarus.2011.01.035, 2011.

P. Withers. D. Catling. Results from the Phoenix Atmospheric Structure experiment, Geophys. Res. Lett., 37, L24204, doi:10.1029/2010GL045382, 2010.

S. P. Kounaves, M. H. Hecht, J. Kapit, R. C. Quinn, D.C. Catling, B. C. Clark, D. W. Ming, et al., Soluble sulfate in the Martian soil at the Phoenix landing site, in revision, Geophys. Res. Lett., 37, L09201, doi:10.1029/2010GL042613, 2010.

F. Tian, M. W. Claire, J. D. Haqq-Misra, M. Smith, D. C. Crisp, D. Catling, K. Zahnle, J. F. Kasting. Photochemical and climate consequences of sulfur outgassing on early Mars, Earth Planet. Sci. Lett., 295, 412-418, 2010.

C. R. Stoker, A. Zent, D. C. Catling, et al.,. Habitability of the Phoenix landing site. J. Geophys. Res. 115, E00E20, 2010.

G. M. Marion, D. C. Catling, M. W. Claire, K. J. Zahnle. Modeling aqueous perchlorate chemistries with applications to Mars, Icarus, 207, 675-685, doi:10.1016/j.icarus.2009.12.003, 2010.

Fisher, D. A., M. H. Hecht, S. P. Kounaves, and D. C. Catling (2010), A perchlorate-lubricated brine deformable bed could facilitate flow of the Mars North Polar Cap: Possible mechanism for water table recharging, J. Geophys. Res., 115, E00E12, doi:10.1029/2009JE003405, 2010.

Kounaves, S. P., S. T. Stroble, R. M. Anderson, Q. Moore, D. C. Catling, S. Douglas, C. P. McKay, D. W. Ming, P. H. Smith, L. K. Tamppari, A. P. Zent, Discovery of natural perchlorate in the Antarctic Dry Valleys and its global implications, Environmental Science and Technology, 44, 2360–2364, 2010.

Kounaves, S. P., M. H. Hecht, J. Kapit, K. Gospodinova, L. DeFlores, R. C. Quinn, W. V. Boynton, B. C. Clark, D. C. Catling, P. Hredzak, D. W. Ming, Q. Moore, J. Shusterman, S. Stroble, S. J. West, and S. M. M. Young, The wet chemistry experiments on the 2007 Phoenix Mars Scout Lander Mission: Data analysis and results, J. Geophys. Res., 115, E00E10, doi:10.1029/2009JE003424, 2010.

Catling, D. C., Claire, M. W., Quinn, R. C., Zahnle, K. J., Clark, B. C., Kounaves, S.; Hecht, M. H. Possible atmospheric origins of perchlorate on Mars, J. Geophys. Res., 115, E00E11, doi:10.1029/2009JE003425, 2010.

Current Research Interests

Earth’s atmospheric evolution. The geochemical co-evolution of planetary atmospheres and surfaces, and planetary habitability. Other general research interests include involvement in the exploration of Mars, planetary geomorphology (surface processes), biogeochemical cycles, and astrobiology.

Current C.V. URL

In the News

"Oxygen provided breath of life that allowed animals to evolve"

"The climate story nobody talks about"

"As a New Space Race Heats Up, Mars Beckons Once Again"

"Book explains astrobiology for a general audience"

"Astrobiology: Pouring cold asteroid water on Aristotle" by David Catling. Guest blog at Oxford University Press.

"Astronomers solve mystery of planetary atmospheres"

"Evidence for ancient life throughout the land"

"Why ET would also breathe oxygen"

"5 reasons Mars may never have seen life"

"Raindrops In Rock: Clues To A Perplexing Paradox", US National Public Radio:

"What a Baking Pan and Hairspray Taught Us About Earth's Ancient Atmosphere", PBS Newshour

"Decoding 2.7 Billion-Year-Old Raindrops", Wall Street Journal


2015: Invited by European Southern Observatory to join an Astrobiology Field-trip to the Atacama Desert. Included visits to Paranal Observatory, Monturaqui Crater (350-370 m diameter, 34 m depth, 3000 m elevation ~660 ka?), the new ALMA (Atacama Large Millimeter/submillimeter Array) observatory, and salt lagoons (microbialites) of the Salar de Atacama near San Pedro de Atacama.

2012: Conducted fieldwork on Ascension Island and St. Helena in the South Atlantic Ocean.