Sciences and Exploration Directorate

Brief Bio

Bea Gallardo-Lacourt has been working at NASA GSFC since 2019. She first joined NASA as an NPP fellow affiliated with Universities of Space Research Association (USRA), as a member of the Ionospheric-Thermospheric-Mesospheric (ITM) Laboratory (675).  The overall theme of Bea’s research is the interaction of the solar wind and the Earth’s magnetic field that creates a dynamic plasma physics environment around our planet, one consequence of which is the aurora or northern lights. Fifty years ago, scientists used auroral observations to identify an explosive instability in near-Earth space they called substorm. The question of what causes the explosion, or “onset”, has emerged as one of the most intriguing challenges for our field. After five decades, this question remains unanswered. Bea’s research targets important aspects of this paradigm.


Research Associate

Catholic University of America - Washington, DC/ Greenbelt, MD

May 2022 - Present

NASA Postdoctoral Program (NPP) Fellow

USRA - Greenbelt, Maryland

June 2019 - May 2022

Postdoctoral Scholar

University of Calgary - Calgary, Canada

April 2017 - June 2019

Postdoctoral Scolar

UCLA - Los Angeles

July 2016 - April 2017

Teaching Experience

  • Teaching Assistant, Department of Atmospheric and Oceanic Sciences, UCLA. September 2014-March 2014


Ph.D. in Atmospheric and Oceanic Sciences, University of California, Los Angeles, 2016

"Properties of Mesoscale Flows in the Nightside Auroral and Subauroral Ionosphere"

M.S. in Atmoispheric and Oceanic Sciences, University of California, Los Angeles

B.E. Physics Engineering, University of Santiago, Chile

B.S. Applied Physics, University of Santiago, Chile

Professional Societies

American Geophysical Union

2008 - Present

Japan Geoscience Union

2018 - Present

The National Society of Hispanics Physicists


2022 - Present

European Geosciences Union

2023 - Present

Professional Service

  • 2022 - Present: Chair of the AGU SPA Early Career Advisory Committee
  • 2022 - Present: Geospace Dynamics Constellation (GDC) Ground-based Coordination Lead
  • 2022 - Present: Chair of the NSF funded GEM Focus Group: The Nightside Transition Region
  • 2022 - Present: Secretary of the National Society of Hispanic Physicists
  • 2022 - Present: Member of the AGU Honors Committee
  • 2021 - Present: STEVE Workshop organizer
  • 2020 - Present. Geospace editor - AGU Books
  • 2020 - Present: Associated Investigator of the PUNCH (Polarimeter to UNify the Corona and Heliosphere) NASA Mission
  • 2018 - 2021: AGU Global Engagement Committee - North American Representative
  • 2020: Panelist at Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion from an International AGU Perspective: A Panel Discussion of a Global Issue from a non-US World View
  • 2020: How did I get here? Invited talk at STEM para Todas, a workshop to motivate young Peruvian girls into STEM careers, Virtual Presentation, February 2020


2019: NASA Honor Award - Group Achievement Award

2019: GSFC Honor Award - Science - STEVE/Aurorasaurus Team

2019: NASA Postdoctoral Program Fellowship

2016: UCLA Bosart Award: For Unselfish Service to Fellow Students

2015-2016: UCLA Dissertation Year Fellowship

2015: UCLA Morris Neiburger Award: For Excellence in Graduate Teaching

2014: Outstanding Student Paper Award, AGU Fall Meeting 2014

2014: First place student Poster Award on Ionosphere-Thermosphere, CEDAR workshop

2010: AGU Fall Meeting Student travel grant (Grad Student)

2009: AGU Fall Meeting Student travel grant (Undergraduate)



Gallardo-Lacourt, B., H. U. Frey, and C. Martinis. 2021. Proton Aurora and Optical Emissions in the Subauroral Region Space Science Reviews 217 (1): 10 [10.1007/s11214-020-00776-6]

Forsyth, C., V. A. Sergeev, M. G. Henderson, Y. Nishimura, and B. Gallardo-Lacourt. 2020. Physical Processes of Meso-Scale, Dynamic Auroral Forms Space Science Reviews 216 (4): 46 [10.1007/s11214-020-00665-y]

Liang, J., E. Donovan, M. Connors, et al. D. Gillies, J. P. St‐Maurice, B. Jackel, B. G., E. Spanswick, and X. Chu. 2019. Optical Spectra and Emission Altitudes of Double‐Layer STEVE: A Case Study Geophysical Research Letters 46 (23): 13630-13639 [10.1029/2019gl085639]

Gillies, D. M., E. Donovan, D. Hampton, et al. J. Liang, M. Connors, Y. Nishimura, B. Gallardo‐Lacourt, and E. Spanswick. 2019. First Observations From the TREx Spectrograph: The Optical Spectrum of STEVE and the Picket Fence Phenomena Geophysical Research Letters 46 (13): 7207-7213 [10.1029/2019gl083272]

Nishimura, Y., B. Gallardo‐Lacourt, Y. Zou, et al. E. Mishin, D. J. Knudsen, E. F. Donovan, V. Angelopoulos, and R. Raybell. 2019. Magnetospheric Signatures of STEVE: Implications for the Magnetospheric Energy Source and Interhemispheric Conjugacy Geophysical Research Letters 46 (11): 5637-5644 [10.1029/2019gl082460]

Gabrielse, C., V. Pinto, Y. Nishimura, et al. L. Lyons, B. Gallardo‐Lacourt, and Y. Deng. 2019. Storm Time Mesoscale Plasma Flows in the Nightside High‐Latitude Ionosphere: A Statistical Survey of Characteristics Geophysical Research Letters 46 (8): 4079-4088 [10.1029/2018gl081539]

Gallardo-Lacourt, B., G. Perry, W. Archer, and E. Donovan. 2019. How Did We Miss This? An Upper Atmospheric Discovery Named STEVE Eos 100 [10.1029/2019eo117351]

Gallardo-Lacourt, B., Y. Nishimura, E. Donovan, et al. D. M. Gillies, G. W. Perry, W. E. Archer, O. A. Nava, and E. L. Spanswick. 2018. A Statistical Analysis of STEVE Journal of Geophysical Research: Space Physics 123 (11): 9893-9905 [10.1029/2018ja025368]

Lyons, L., B. Gallardo-Lacourt, Y. Zou, et al. Y. Nishimura, P. Anderson, V. Angelopoulos, E. Donovan, J. Ruohoniemi, E. Mitchell, L. Paxton, and N. Nishitani. 2018. Driving of strong nightside reconnection and geomagnetic activity by polar cap flows: Application to CME shocks and possibly other situations Journal of Atmospheric and Solar-Terrestrial Physics 177 73-83 [10.1016/j.jastp.2017.09.013]

Gallardo-Lacourt, B., J. Liang, Y. Nishimura, and E. Donovan. 2018. On the Origin of STEVE: Particle Precipitation or Ionospheric Skyglow? Geophysical Research Letters 45 (16): 7968-7973 [10.1029/2018gl078509]

Gabrielse, C., Y. Nishimura, L. Lyons, et al. B. Gallardo-Lacourt, Y. Deng, and E. Donovan. 2018. Statistical Properties of Mesoscale Plasma Flows in the Nightside High-Latitude Ionosphere Journal of Geophysical Research: Space Physics 123 (8): 6798-6820 [10.1029/2018ja025440]

Lyons, L. R., Y. Zou, Y. Nishimura, et al. B. Gallardo-Lacourt, V. Angelopulos, and E. F. Donovan. 2018. Stormtime substorm onsets: occurrence and flow channel triggering Earth, Planets and Space 70 (1): 81 [10.1186/s40623-018-0857-x]

MacDonald, E. A., E. Donovan, Y. Nishimura, et al. N. A. Case, D. M. Gillies, B. Gallardo-Lacourt, W. E. Archer, E. L. Spanswick, N. Bourassa, M. Connors, M. Heavner, B. Jackel, B. Kosar, D. J. Knudsen, C. Ratzlaff, and I. Schofield. 2018. New science in plain sight: Citizen scientists lead to the discovery of optical structure in the upper atmosphere Science Advances 4 (3): eaaq0030 [10.1126/sciadv.aaq0030]

Liu, J., L. R. Lyons, W. E. Archer, et al. B. Gallardo‐Lacourt, Y. Nishimura, Y. Zou, C. Gabrielse, and J. M. Weygand. 2018. Flow Shears at the Poleward Boundary of Omega Bands Observed During Conjunctions of Swarm and THEMIS ASI Geophysical Research Letters 45 (3): 1218-1227 [10.1002/2017gl076485]

Gallardo-Lacourt, B., Y. Nishimura, L. R. Lyons, et al. E. V. Mishin, J. M. Ruohoniemi, E. F. Donovan, V. Angelopoulos, and N. Nishitani. 2017. Influence of Auroral Streamers on Rapid Evolution of Ionospheric SAPS Flows Journal of Geophysical Research: Space Physics 122 (12): 12,406-12,420 [10.1002/2017ja024198]

Lyons, L. R., B. Gallardo-Lacourt, S. Zou, et al. J. M. Weygand, Y. Nishimura, W. Li, M. Gkioulidou, V. Angelopoulos, E. F. Donovan, J. M. Ruohoniemi, B. J. Anderson, S. G. Shepherd, and N. Nishitani. 2016. The 17 March 2013 storm: Synergy of observations related to electric field modes and their ionospheric and magnetospheric Effects Journal of Geophysical Research: Space Physics 121 (11): 10,880-10,897 [10.1002/2016ja023237]

Lyons, L. R., Y. Nishimura, B. Gallardo‐Lacourt, et al. Y. Zou, E. F. Donovan, S. Mende, V. Angelopoulos, J. M. Ruohoniemi, K. A. McWilliams, D. L. Hampton, and M. J. Nicolls. 2015. Dynamics Related to Plasmasheet Flow Bursts as Revealed from the Aurora Geophysical Monograph Series 95-113 [10.1002/9781118978719.ch8]

Lyons, L. R., Y. Nishimura, B. Gallardo‐Lacourt, et al. M. J. Nicolls, S. Chen, D. L. Hampton, W. A. Bristow, J. M. Ruohoniemi, N. Nishitani, E. F. Donovan, and V. Angelopoulos. 2015. Azimuthal flow bursts in the inner plasma sheet and possible connection with SAPS and plasma sheet earthward flow bursts Journal of Geophysical Research: Space Physics 120 (6): 5009-5021 [10.1002/2015ja021023]

Gallardo-Lacourt, B., Y. Nishimura, L. R. Lyons, et al. J. M. Ruohoniemi, E. Donovan, V. Angelopoulos, K. A. McWilliams, and N. Nishitani. 2014. Ionospheric flow structures associated with auroral beading at substorm auroral onset Journal of Geophysical Research: Space Physics 119 (11): 9150-9159 [10.1002/2014ja020298]

Gallardo-Lacourt, B., Y. Nishimura, L. R. Lyons, et al. S. Zou, V. Angelopoulos, E. Donovan, K. A. McWilliams, J. M. Ruohoniemi, and N. Nishitani. 2013. Coordinated SuperDARN THEMIS ASI observations of mesoscale flow bursts associated with auroral streamers Journal of Geophysical Research: Space Physics 119 (1): 142-150 [10.1002/2013ja019245]

Lyons, L. R., Y. Nishimura, B. Gallardo-Lacourt, et al. Y. Zou, E. Donovan, S. Mende, V. Angelopoulos, J. M. Ruohoniemi, and K. McWilliams. 2013. Westward traveling surges: Sliding along boundary arcs and distinction from onset arc brightening Journal of Geophysical Research: Space Physics 118 (12): 7643-7653 [10.1002/2013ja019334]

Gallardo-Lacourt, B., Y. Nishimura, L. R. Lyons, and E. Donovan. 2012. External triggering of substorms identified using modern optical versus geosynchronous particle data Annales Geophysicae 30 (4): 667-673 [10.5194/angeo-30-667-2012]

Talks, Presentations and Posters


Seminar at Dartmouth College: The physics behind STEVE, the optical subauroral phenomenon

March 9, 2021

Invited Seminar at Rice University: Tracking auroral optical structures

December 24, 2020


Selected Public Outreach

Basic concepts of Space Physics and the Aurora-Primary School Science Fair in Chile

December 2020 - December 2020

Royal Astronomical Society of Canada: The Mysterious STEVE

May 2019 - May 2019