22 February 2009

2009 QWIP-Mojave Mission a Success!

Image: 2009 QWIP-Mojave Expedition Team. From Left to Right, Tim Titus, Dan Lowen, Peter Shu, Murzy Jhabvala and Jut Wynne. Not featured in photo, Doug Billings and Glen Cushing.

This mission was a success! While we did not meet all of our mission critical objectives, no one was injured and everyone went back to their respective homes unscathed. The work that we do can be hazardous, and in some cases, rather dangerous. I am always a stickler for safety, and I have always pushed for my team’s to place safety above everything else. My motto has been for many, many years, “Live to play another day.” So, we did just that.

Image: Murzy hard at work...on cross-word puzzles. When everything is going well, we do have a little bit of down time. So, Murzy is taking advantage of the opportunity to use his brain in a different way.

We arrived on site around 1000hr this morning. The decision was made last night that it would not be necessary to arrive earlier. The external reservoir for the generator was working without issue when we left on Saturday. So, we took the first part of the morning packing up and checking out of the hotel.

We had planned to be in the Mojave through 24 February. Unfortunately, Murzy had some problems back at the lab and caught a redeye back to Goddard. So, we shut down shop at noon today.

Image: Our second collect site for Drop Cave. This view point represents a view of the skylight entrance and adjacent tunnel looking towards the East. Credit: Tim Titus.

Ideally, we had wanted to let the camera operate until 1300hr. This would have given us the entire diurnal cycle. However, it started to rain, and the decision was made to shut down. The QWIP camera we were using represents millions of dollars in R&D. Currently, it is a workhorse, and the most sensitive instrument in Goddard’s fleet of QWIP cameras. Needless to say, Murzy didn’t want his camera getting wet.

Image: Dan and I posing for a photo. We're loaded down with gear as we make the trek across the Aa Aa flow back to the vehicles. Credit: Tim Titus.

Fortunately, Dan was able to work with us again today. Glen had left on Saturday and we really needed another strong back to help us move all the equipment off the flow. Dan jumped right in and was eager to help us.

Unfortunately, not all of our mission critical objectives were met. We still need to acquire imagery from Bumble Bee Cave, A non-cave anomaly, and from atop a large cinder cone. This latter set of imagery will enable us to make comparisons to the imagery collected in April 2008. We have published these results in an abstract for the 40th Annual Lunar and Planetary Science Conference in Houston. The abstract is entitled “Distinguishing Caves from Non-cave Anomalies: Lessons for the Moon and Mars”. Essentially, we will be parroting this collect. We have decided we will wrap up the ground-based thermography work next year when we return to upload data and service the instruments next year.

Image: Murzy and Peter trekking across the lava flow. Our second collect was largely a success. Credit: Tim Titus.

Our accomplishments are as follows: (1) We now imagery captured over two diurnal cycles (imagery captured every 10 minutes) from two different aspects of one cave (Drop Cave); (2) All caves and non-cave features are now mapped and volumetric data has been collected (we finished the last cave on Saturday!); and, (3) while in the field, Tim developed a software program to convert the images to video (144 images over 24hr period), run PCA (which enables us to view Eigenvectors and Eigen “images”), and the ability to graphical compare (DN-value vs. time) of a pixel within a cave entrance to a pixel on the surface.

Additional lessons learned include the following. We believe our generator has to work harder when it is cold. We discovered this when we were looking at our late evening imagery. There was a considerable amount of noise along the peripheries of these images. We believe the power surging at night may have introduced this noise into the images. We also learned that it is entirely possible that the pressure caused by the reservoir tank placed on top of the generator may have alleviated this. However, it is also possible that because it was overcast last night, it was warmer. As a result, the generator did not have to work as hard. We still don’t know what caused the noise in the images. Perhaps we’ll figure this out next year…

Thermal Image Panel: Captured yesterday ~1600hr. From left to right, this is an image of me, Dan and Doug right after we had ascended the skylight. Doug is facing the skylight, the large feature at bottom right is a shallow tunnel that connects with the skylight. The main image is colorizaed from the QWIP thermal image. The left inset is the thermal IR image, and the right inset is with the background subtracted out. Credit: NASA-Goddard and Tim Titus.

21 February 2009

Kangeroo Rats Dine on Spam for the First Time

Image: Dropping the skylight of Drop Cave. Credit: Dan Lowen.

My good friend, Dan Lowen, arrived early this AM. He and I worked together during Spaceward Bound!, 2007 Mojave Expedition. So, we haven’t seen each other in a while. Today was going to be a really good day. Now only do I get to see a good friend, but we’re also were going to put him to work! Our plan was to finish the first 24 hr collect of Drop Cave, move the camera to another vantage point and collect another 24hr of data from this cave, and then finish the mapping of Drop Cave. Doug Billings was the lead sketcher on this cave a couple of weeks ago, and he arrived later this morning to finish up the cave. I knew Dan wasn’t too concerned about having to work with us because initially he had planned to come out just to observe our operations. When I emailed him two nights ago to tell him that he would need to bring his vertical gear so we could drop a 40 ft pit, he was totally stoked.

Image: Doug and I rigging the skylight entrance of Drop Cave. Credit: Dan Lowen.

Tim surveyed a relentless attack by kangaroo rats and the cold Mojave night. He spent a very chilly night on the Aa Aa lava for the sole purpose of refueling the generator. This morning we learned, he was had good company throughout a good portion of the night. Several kangaroo rats stopped by to visit. Well…actually, they were likely drawn to his camp site because there were food wrappers left outside. He indicated that he saw pieces of some of his food wrappers this morning. Tim’s favorite field food seemed to have proved quite popular among the locals -- spam and bagels.

Dan and I are chatting with Doug, who is about 20 feet below us. He rappelled partially into this skylight to determine whether there was another entry point into Drop Cave. Unfortunately, this route proved too hazardous. So, we decided to rig the main entrance. Credit: Glen Cushing.

Doug, Dan and I (the Drop Cave mapping team) met up with the group later in the morning. Upon our arrival to site, I learned our equipment was holding up quite well. But most importantly, the first piece of REALLY good news is we now have 24 hrs of thermal imagery from one of our study sites! The generator held up through the night, the computer didn’t crash, and the camera didn’t fail. So, this was a huge success! Last year in the Mojave (refer to Mojave 2008- Will the Computer Work), we had several computer glitches that took a few days to rectify. We learned many lessons that were applied this year.

Image: International cave explorer, Doug Billings, in action mapping Drop Cave.

Due to high visitation on the lava flow and some other confounding factors, we decided it would probably be best to select another view point of Drop Cave, and collect another 24 hr dataset of this same feature. While Murzy, Pete, Tim and Glen began to relocate our equipment to the next vantage point for the imagery collect, Dan, Doug and I began to rig the rope for rappelling into the skylight of Drop Cave.

Our mapping of Drop Cave went quite well and was, fortunately, rather uneventful. Doug completed the sketch of the cave, and we plotted all the sensor locations on the map. It took us 2.5hr to finish up the work – 30 minutes more than we had scheduled. As we were preparing our ascent out of the cave, Tim called down to us. He was waiting to be sure we got out of the cave safely. The Goddard boys had returned to Barstow, and Glen was now en route back to FLG.

Image: Multi-sport athlete, math/ science teacher and good buddy, Dan Lowen, ascending out of the 40 foot drop of Drop Cave. Credit: Doug Billings.

Murzy and Pete successfully jury rigged an auxiliary fuel tank atop our Honda generator. We now have the capabilities to run the generator for over 18 hrs without refueling. This meant we didn’t have to baby sit the generator again. In other words, I wouldn’t be able to camp on the lava flow with the equipment. While I appreciate a nice hot shower and a warm bed at the end of the day as much as the next fella, I was rather bummed about this. I would have loved to have seen the k-rats, and I know camping out there would have been awesome!

Image: Cooler than velcro? More reliable than duct tape? This advanced concept by NASA was another victory garnered by our NASA-Goddard engineers.

Instead, Doug, Dan, Tim, and I began our hike back to the vehicles. Not only did we have another safe day, but we had a successful day in the field! We have now mapped all caves and non-cave features in the Mojave, all cave volume data has been collected and we now have thermal imagery over a diurnal cycle from one of our study sites. Today was a very good day!

Image: Left to right, Doug, Tim and Dan conducting a final walk through of the sampling station before we return to Barstow for the night.

20 February 2009

2009 QWIP-Mojave Mission

Image: The Quantum Well Infared Photo Detector (QWIP) in action. For more information on this camera, Go to the NASA GSFC story "Inexpensive Detector Sees the Invisible, In Color".

Today was our first day of the 2009 QWIP-Mojave Mission, southern California. This will be a short mission. We plan to conduct two 24 hour thermal imagery collects at one cave using two different observation points. We will be here through Sunday, 22 February.

Image: The core science team for the 2009 QWIP/Mojave Mission. From left to right, Drs. Murzy Jhabvala and Peter Shu NASA-GSFC; Dr. Tim Titus and Mr. Glen Cushing, USGS-Astrogeology Branch.

Our objective for the day was to collect thermal imagery of Drop Cave. This is the cave that involves a 40ft rappel to access. The approach to this cave is quite difficult and even more difficult when carrying a large bulky box with a multi-million dollar camera, generator, gas can, and all the accessories for running this system. I inadvertently weaseled out of having to carry gear.

I had to meet some of the area land managers to show them what we’ve been doing in the Mojave. There was also one cave with a large guano pile and a considerable number of spiders, so I wanted to show them this cave as well. So, there were two biologists and one archaeologist who came out today. I took them to three caves and then we finished our tour at Drop Cave.

Image: Murzy and I acting like we're discussing something important. Credit: Glen Cushing.

Upon our arrival, Tim, Murzy, Glen and Pete had the camera set up and had been collecting data for one and a half hours. Murzy, Glen and I had learned quite a bit about field operations with this camera from our work out here in 2008. So, we felt we had our bases fairly well covered. We were right. So far, so good.

Image: Tim and Murzy discussing the operating procedures for the QWIP. Tim is getting the low-down before the rest of the team departs for Barstow.

We remained on the flow until early evening. Tim volunteered to stay the night to refill the reservoir on the generator. The tank needs to be filled around midnight.

I would have preferred to have stayed with the camera. However, I will be rappelling into Drop Cave tomorrow to finish up the map. I will be meeting up with a couple of my buddies, Dan Lowen and Doug Billings, and we will be finishing up the map for this cave. So, I felt it would be a good idea if I got a good night’s sleep before doing this. The alternative would have been to try to sleep next to noisy generator.

We’re hoping to retrofit the generator tomorrow so that we can run it 24 hrs using an external gas tank. If it works, we will all sleep in the hotel tomorrow night. If not, I’ll be spending the night on the lava flow.

Image: A fly over by the San Bernardino Sheriff’s Department. I reckon they were wondering what we were doing out there. They have a nice bird. I wonder if they would want to help us with the overflights?

19 February 2009

Looking at Planes at NASA-Dryden and Hanging Out with the Incredibly Beautiful SOPHIA

Image: Sitting the the belly of a DC-8. The belly of this plane has been modified to have several ports for instrumentation. Our purpose was to look at this plane and see whether it would be suitable for the Mojave overflight mission. Bob Curry is behind me. Credit: Tim Titus.

Today, Tim Titus, Murzy Jhabvala and Peter Shu and I went to meet Bob Curry at NASA Dryden’s Aircraft Operations Facility in Palmdale, California. We went to chat with them regarding possible aircraft for the Mojave overflights. From the work we did two weeks ago, we have temperature and barometric pressure sensors deployed in five caves and five non-cave features on a lava flow in the Mojave Desert. The data from these instruments will help instruct us as to when we should conduct the overflights with the QWIP thermal imaging camera. This is where meeting with the Dryden folks comes in. They have a couple of aircraft that may be suitable for our needs. Today, our team and Bob met to discuss some options. There seems to be a few good possibilities. However, we have to wait and see how this turns out.

Image: SOPHIA in the background.

We did get a chance to see one of their aircraft for collecting imagery. It’s a DC-8, and obviously a huge plane. It was incredibly cool to see how this plane has been converted from a passenger plane to a science lab. We were shown numerous ports in the belly of the plane where viewing instruments could be installed.

Image: One of Dryden's workhorses. This is the DC-8. She has been modified to serve as a remote sensing lab.

We also had the opportunity to play tourists. Bob was kind enough to set up a quick mini-tour of SOPHIA (Stratospheric Observatory for Infrared Astronomy lab). Costing in the 100s of millions to develop, this airborne observatory is a 747 jumbo jet carrying a massive telescope for viewing the heavens. The telescope is located at the aft of the plane. The side of the plane has been modified and has an open cavity for the telescope to collect data. After Bob had told me how much this bird costs, I actually tip-toed mindfully through the plane. Calling this bird impressive is an understatement.

Image: Murzy and me being tourists and posing for a photo. This is just before we got a tour of SOPHIA. Murzy's wife, Christine actually developed one of the instruments on-board this jumbo-laboratory.

08 February 2009

2009 NASA/ SETI Mojave Expedition a Success!

02 February 2007

Image: 2009 Mojave Desert Expedition Team (sans Doug Billings). Kneeling (left to right): James Rice, Sabine Airieau, and Jut Wynne. Standing (left to right): Denise Hill, Greg Flores, Tim Titus, Dave Decker, Dan Ruby, Amanda Stockton, and Queeg. Credit: Polly Kinsinger.

After holding a team meeting after work yesterday, we identified our remaining tasks for this expedition. This morning, we got up in good spirits and completed all our scheduled work with the exception of one cave – Drop Cave. Doug was going to finish up the map this morning; he was going to return from LA. However, his car was broken into the night before, and was unable to return promptly. So, we had to table completion of Drop Cave.

All other mission critical objectives were met. This has been an outstanding team. It has been both an honor and a pleasure to work with such a dedicated and hard-working group.

We are now studying five caves and five non-cave features in the Mojave! Instruments are now in the ground and logging data as I type. Christina Colpitts (2008 Atacama Desert Expedition medical specialist/ safety chief) and I will return in mid-March. We will meet Doug in the Mojave, and we will finish up Drop Cave. It should take us one day to finish up.

Image: Pallid bat (Antrozous pallidus ) disturbed while roosting. Oddly, these bats have a distinct smell. They actually smell like tortillas. Credit: James Rice.

I am know working on entering in all the information collected when we deployed sensors. This information will assist us in relocating them to upload the data. We will upload data from these sensors in one year. Dan Ruby will begin the process of developing our volumetric maps of each Mojave cave, while Dave Decker and Doug Billings will draft our cave and non-cave feature maps.

This project is on track and all team members are happy with this progress. Thanks again to the 2009 Mojave Desert Expedition Team for making this expedition a success!

Image: Our study area. Credit: Dave Decker.

Bees in Bumble Bee Cave?

01 February 2009

Image: Well, we didn't find bees, but someone left their chair here. From the looks of it, it was left here back in the 1970s. Did the Brady Bunch ever make a trip to the Mojave? Credit: Dan Ruby.

We are making really good progress in the Mojave. It appears we will be able to end the project early. The next two days will be spent tying up all the loose ends.

Dan’s team continued to map Bumble Bee Cave, while James’ team went to Binny Cave and the Trench Non-cave Complex. Nothing overly exciting to report here. Progress is being made, and I remain quite pleased with my team.

We also had one final cave to deploy sensors within. We were able to complete this task in a couple of hours.

Thereafter, we spend the remainder of the day walking across the flow collecting GPS data. Last night, Tim and I went through all the GPS data collected. We determined to best tie each mapped cave into geographical space, we should have at least three points per cave.

Image: Additional note taking at the big trench. Credit: Tim Titus.

This evening, Tim, Dan and I met to discuss our progress. It appears we will likely finish one to two days early. We plotted out where we are, and what we have to complete. We will implement our plan tomorrow AM.

Dan and Denise collected volumetric data from Carbon Cave and mapped the locations of our sensors. Russ provided us with a great map of this cave. So, we won’t have to sketch it.

Image: Sabine and Greg learning how to sketch caves! Credit: Dave Decker.

Dave gave a cave mapping lesson to Greg and Sabine. They spent the day mapping The Trench.

Image: Self-portrait with Tim.

Jagged lava and shoes don't mix

31 January 2009

Image: In addition to serving as our "Papa Bear," Queeg was responsible for setting up, as well as making modifications to our instruments.

Today, Russ and Liz Harter came to check on our progress. Russ has been investigating the caves in this part of the Mojave since the early 1960s. He has been quite an asset to our project. He and I have been collaborating since the 2006 Mojave Expedition with NASA Spaceward Bound!.

Tim and Jut have a major breakthrough! We found a trench that contains four non-cave features! The beauty of selecting this site is that all these shallow alcoves have different aspects.

Image: Russ Harter. Russ is a collaborator on this project. He is a geologist with over 30 years experience working on this flow. We are very fortunate to have him on our team.

Dan’s team began mapping Bumble Bee Cave. He anticipates it will take a couple of days to complete this cave.

Tim and I returned to Bumble Bee Cave to deploy sensors in the cave’s interior. Once finished, we trekked across the Aa Aa flow to Binny Cave.

Image: The gear of a cave cartographer. Note the toes of the boots are wearing thin. The Aa Aa lava is no friend to boot or shoe. Credit: Dave Decker.

This type of lava is jagged and sharp. Aa Aa forms when the lava is flowing slowly. It cools forming very rough terrain. One can only traverse Aa Aa lava in a mindful state. This type of lava is generally loose, and falling on Aa Aa would be most unpleasant.

Image: Tim collecting GPS data for the entrance of Binny Cave.

Possible Earthquake in the Mojave?

30 January 2009

Image: Lounging around in Sprig Cave. From left, back and to right - Tim, Dave, Greg, Dan and me. Credit: Amanda Stockton.

We continue to make great progress here in the Mojave. We have an impressively dedicated team. I am proud to lead such a group of professional and hard-working cavers.

Today, Dan’s team completed the sketch map and volumetric mapping of Sprig Cave. Dan in quite pleased with the equipment he has designed to collect volumetric data; it appears both mapping teams are becoming proficient at mapping cave volume.

Image: Another scary dark hole that we will have to go into. Credit: Dan Ruby.

Tim and I went to Bumble Bee Cave, we deployed sensors in this feature as well. We are moving right along and well ahead of schedule.

Dan, Tim and I went into to Barstow to eat tonight. We went to the infamous Bun Boy. If you’ve never eaten at the Bun Boy, then you ain’t living. It doesn’t look like much from outside, but culinary delights await you once you pass through those doors framed in the 1960s. The past few times I’ve eaten there, I go with the Gyro Platter – plenty of food…man, it is good!

While chatting at dinner, Dan mentioned that he thinks he felt a small earthquake during the night last night…I didn’t feel anything b/c I was sleeping in vehicle. We’ll need to check to see if there was an earthquake reported in the area for last night…

Upon our arrival back to camp, I decided to pull out the guitar. After an almost two year hiatus from playing, the calluses on my fingers have returned. I’m remembering many songs that I used to play and I’m learning new songs once again. So, although quite rusty, I played by the camp fire for about an hour before calling it a night.

Another excellent day in the beautiful Mojave Desert!

Image: Dan's mapping team mapping the collapse pit associated with the southern entrance of Sprig Cave. Sabine featured here. Credit: Dan Ruby.

A Chuckwalla on the Flow...

29 January 2009

Image: Moving through tight passage in Drop Cave. Credit: Tim Titus.

Doug’s team continued to map Drop Cave. This will likely take them a couple more days to complete this cave. All is going well, and Doug’s team is proving to be incredibly proficient at the mapping techniques and negotiating the rappel.

Tim and I joined Dan’s mapping team at Sprig Cave. His team continued mapping and we successfully deployed sensors within this cave.

Image: This chuckwalla (Sauromalus ater) was observed moving across the flow. I didn't see one chuckwalla this trip. However, when I was on this flow in April 2008, I saw these critters daily. Credit: Dave Decker.

Unfortunately, Doug had to return home. James stepped in and continued the mapping effort. He, Greg and Sabine spent one more day at Drop Cave.

Image: Greg navigating tight passage in Sprig Cave. Credit: Dave Decker.

The weather is excellent here in the Mojave. At night the temperatures are dropping into the mid-30s and it’s in the high 60s to low 70s during the day. This has made our time out here quite comfortable.

Image: Relaxing by the fire after a long day in the field. Credit: Tim Titus

On Rope on Day Two!

28 January 2009

Image: Scouting out a location to place the temperature sensor. Credit: Tim Titus.

We started off the first official day of working on rope. The cave where we were working required a 40 ft rappel into a skylight. I’m calling this cave Drop Cave. This entrance was excavated by cavers many years ago. They observed blowing air through a small crack and opened it wide enough to rig ropes to rappel into it.

This feature has not received much traffic, which made it an excellent candidate for our study. Tim and I went through the cave and deployed sensors within.

This morning, Doug, Denise and James began mapping this cave. It consisted of three skylight entrances, and has large booming passage. This may be the largest known cave on the lava flow.

Image: Sabine using a frog device to climb up rope and out of the cave. Credit: James Rice.

In one room, this cave contained what appeared to be the skeleton of a bobcat. Apparently, this cat fell into the cave and survived at least long enough to move a considerable distance from the closest entrance. I find it rather impressive that a bobcat could survive a 40ft fall. However, there is a possibility this cat found a way to climb into the cave unbeknownst to us. Unfortunately, someone walked away with the skull. Only the mandible and other bones remain.

Tim and I were finished before the mapping team. So, we climbed out and went to one of our non-cave features, where we then deployed sensors within this feature.

Dan’s team mapped Sprig Cave. This cave is rather mazy with considerable passage. We anticipate it will take a couple of days to both sketch and collect volumetric data of this cave.

Day 1: Orientation and Training Day

27 January 2009

Image: Sitting around the fire pit during the expedition and safety briefings. Left to right: Dan, me and Sabine. Credit: Dave Decker.

When one thinks of the Mojave, the hottest desert in the American Southwest, it doesn’t register that it can also be incredibly cold. During the winter, low temperatures can range well below freezing. Our team was welcomed to the Mojave those nighttime temperatures. Last night, it was darn cold! I had a 15 degree bag and wool blanket and my feet were frozen most of the night. Thankfully, the weather forecast is that it will become increasingly warmer throughout the next 10 days.

The team trickled in last night, and I was among one of the last members to arrive. I got hung up in Flagstaff, and had to drive through bad weather until I dropped down off the Mogollon Rim. Snow was falling sporadically yet heavily in places until I reached Kingman. So, it was slow goings until I reached the desert lowlands.

Image: Denise Hill (Safety Chief) demonstrating how to tie a diaper sling. Credit: Dave Decker.

Today was the orientation and training day. I went over expedition goals, identified the expedition chain of command, and addressed overall project objectives. Denise, our safety chief and medical specialist went over basic first aid, typical rescue situations and then we did a knot review. Thereafter, Dan led the cartography training; he walked us through the mapping techniques to be applied during this expedition. All of this took up most of the morning.

Once we went addressed everything related to project orientation, we spent the latter half of the day in the field. Tim and I began investigating potential study sites, while Dan took everyone else to a large non-cave feature to continue the cartography training.

We determined we will have three teams on this trip – the sensor deployment team (Tim and I), and two mapping teams (everyone else).

Image: Dan is leading a training exercise. The cartorgraphy teams are being taught how to use the new volumetric mapping techniques that we developed. Credit: Dave Decker.

2009 Mojave Desert Expedition, NASA/SETI Earth-Mars Cave Detection Project

26 January - 02 February 2009

Image: The Sunshine Mountains constrain the southern extent of the lava flow where we will be working in the Mojave Desert. Credit: Queeg.

Phase II of the Earth-Mars Cave Detection Project has two study sites -- the Atacama and Mojave Deserts. The 2008 Atacama Expedition Team garnered much success in northern Chile. I am confident we will be equally successful in the Mojave.

No photo. Jut Wynne (No. I; Expedition Lead). In addition to leading all field campaigns for this project, I am also the project manager.

Tim Titus (No. II in Command; Sensor Deployment). Tim is a co-investigator on this project, and is assisting in sensor deployment. He is also the lead modeler; using the data collected in the field, he will be developing cave thermal behavior models for both terrestrial caves, as well as models to simulate how a Martian cave will behave thermally. These models will ultimately be used to identify cave detection times, and will enable us to schedule aerial overflights with the thermal imaging camera accordingly.

Dan Ruby (No. III in Command; Cartography Chief). Dan is a veteran of the Atacama Desert Expedition. With other Atacama team members, he has been refined our volumetric mapping techniques. He will be leading this component of the expedition. Dan is also a newly elected member into The Explorers Club.

Denise Hill (Medical Specialist/ Safety Chief). Denise is responsible for making sure we all get home safe. She is an EMT and is our safety chief. What she says goes. If she feels a cave or given situation is unsafe, she makes the “no-go” call. The entire team will follow her lead.

Queeg (Base Camp; aka Poppa Bear). This man was an unforeseen blessing. He is a member of the Desert Dog Troglodytes out of California, and has coordinated many of their outings. He is our “Poppa Bear” -- our central command. He will have coordinates to all of our study sites, and each team will radio to him their exact location and when they will move the next location. He will keep a log of our movements on the lava flow, and has all the numbers to contact first responders in the event of an emergency.

Sabine Airieau (Mapping Assistant/ Instruments). Sabine is an accomplished rock climber and astrobiologist.

No photo. Doug Billings (Cartographer/ Sketcher). Doug is a long-time friend of mine, and one of the owners of Cathedral Cave Preserve. He has been a lead cartographer and sketcher for many international expeditions, and it is an honor to have him developing maps for this project.

Dave Decker (Cartographer/ Sketcher). Dave will be serving as a lead cartographer and sketcher.

Greg Flores (Mapping Assistant/ Instruments). Greg is an accomplished caver and has worked extensively on the North Rim with my friend and colleague Kyle Voyles.

James Rice (Mapping Assistant/ Instruments). James is an experienced caver and has completed numerous international expeditions. He will be operating instruments as part of the mapping effort.

Amanda Stockton (Microbiologist/ Mapping Assistant) Amanda is a rock climber and is a graduate student at UC-Berkeley. She will be assisting us in the mapping effort, and evaluating caves as part of an upcoming proposal we plan to submit to investigate microbial life in caves.