Sciences and Exploration Directorate

Jacob A. Richardson


Jacob A. Richardson's Contact Card & Information.
Phone: 301.614.5713
Org Code: 698
Mail Code 698
Greenbelt, MD 20771

Research Interests

Planetary Field Exploration

Solar System: Planetary surfaces

Geological investigations can be performed from orbit or at the surface of a planet. On Earth, field geologists often perform investigations with science instruments that take hours to days in order to understand subsurface processes and find buried features of interest. Astronauts and rovers will one day carry out similar investigations on other planetary surfaces. Dr. Richardson studies how astronauts and robots can best deploy geophysics instruments to look for important resources and geologic units below the surface.

Planetary Volcanism

Solar System: Volcanology

Volcanism is a major geologic process on rocky and icy planets that paves new surfaces with lava flows, modifies the crusts of planets with magma intrusions, and delivers gasses and particles from deep within a planet its atmosphere. Volcanism on Earth and planetary bodies we might one day explore is also a hazard to communities near volcanoes and global air traffic. Dr. Richardson studies volcanic fields and lava flows on Earth and its neighbors to understand the cadence and magnitude of volcanism over geologic time.

Current Projects

Applied Lunar Science Group

Planetary Geology

In preparation for crewed missions to planetary surfaces--starting with the Moon and leading to Mars and beyond--new scientific measurements are needed to improve mission outcomes. What scientific research can be performed on the lunar surface, what research requires samples to be returned to Earth by Artemis crews, and how we can safely and expediently explore a landing site in early Artemis missions are critical decisions that NASA is now tasked with making. Researcher participants of Goddard Space Flight Center's Applied Lunar Science Group work in service of NASA's needs to advance urgent science and exploration goals for the Moon and provide foresight towards martian exploration.

Currently, Dr. Richardson serves as the Deputy Lead of the Applied Lunar Science Group.



GEODES (Geophysical Exploration of the Dynamics and Evolution of the Solar System) is a team within the NASA Solar System Exploration Research Virtual Institute, or SSERVI. GEODES scientists investigate the Moon, near-Earth asteroids, and the moons of Mars with geophysics methods to enable the exploration of their surfaces. Dr. Richardson serves as the Deputy Principal Investigator of GEODES and leads the Magma-Tectonics Theme, which investigates lunar lava flows and magmatic bodies as well as tectonic features on the Moon and Phobos. Magma-tectonic features can mobilize or trap volatiles and ore materials. Also, the ability for faults to become active on the Moon or other airless bodies is important to understand before humans are sent to explore their surfaces. Learn more at

  • Watch an interview about one GEODES investigation [YouTube link] by Lauren Canavan (part of the SSERVI RISE student journalism program)

Goddard Instrument Field Team

Planetary Geology

As a lead of the Goddard Instrument Field Team (GIFT), Dr. Richardson directs and performs planetary analog research at field sites on Earth to understand similar processes and features found on other planetary bodies. Dr. Richardson's GIFT research has taken place in Iceland, Hawaii, Alaska, California, Arizona, and New Mexico, where volcanism has modified the surface over geologic time with lava flows and explosive eruptions of ash. Data collected by Richardson and colleagues are geophysical data; analysis of these data add to our understanding of the physical nature of the geologic materials in the subsurface.

Currently, Dr. Richardson studies how to detect persistent ice buried under volcanic ash in preparation for similar investigations on the Moon and Mars. He also investigates how lava flows are emplaced and how lava source vents are constructed during volcanic eruptions similar to eruptions found on Mars, Venus, and the Moon.

Explosive Volcanism in Arabia Terra, Mars


This project seeks to use newly abundant high-resolution data to search for evidence of explosive volcanism to evaluate claims of calderas in Arabia Terra. A systematic survey of Arabia Terra with orbital images and spectrometry is identifying locations where layers of altered minerals might have initially been deposited during volcanic supereruptions in Mars's ancient past.

  • Recent findings show evidence of volcanic 'super eruptions' [YouTube Link]

Volcanism and Exoplanets

Extrasolar planets

Extrasolar planets have been detected that likely have rocky surfaces that are subjected to very hot temperatures and enormous amounts of tidal stress as they orbit their star. High stresses and temperatures are known to cause volcanism in our Solar System and so volcanism is almost certainly a common process throughout the Milky Way. Dr. Richardson is a member of a team that is modeling flood volcanism (large lava flows that emit volcanic gas) on exoplanets to understand how detectable "exovolcanism" is from Earth.

  • NCCS-Enabled Simulations of Massive Ancient Volcanic Eruption Show Unexpected Climate Warming [Article Link]
  • Video about Flood Basalt Eruption findings [YouTube Link]


2016 - PhD - School of Geosciences, University of South Florida, Tampa, FL [Dissertation: Modeling the Construction and Evolution of Distributed Volcanic Fields on Earth and Mars]

2010 - BSc - Department of Geography and Geology, Eastern Michigan University, Ypsilanti, MI


2022: Special Act Award, Leadership of the Goddard Instrument Field Team, Solar System Exploration Division, NASA GSFC

2019: Peer Award, Solar System Exploration Division, NASA GSFC

2015: Richard A. Davis Ph.D. Fellowship, School of Geosciences, University of South Florida

2014: Betty Pierazzo International Student Travel Award, Planetary Science Institute

2010: Stephen E. Dwornik Planetary Geoscience Award, Geological Society of America



2023. "The Prospect of Detecting Volcanic Signatures on an ExoEarth Using Direct Imaging." The Astronomical Journal 166 (5): 199 [10.3847/1538-3881/acfe12] [Journal Article/Letter]

2022. "Field Mapping and Modeling of Terrestrial Lava Tube Magnetic Anomalies as an Analog for Lunar Lava Tube Exploration and Prospecting." Journal of Geophysical Research: Planets 127 (6): [10.1029/2021je007140] [Journal Article/Letter]

2022. "Volcanic Climate Warming Through Radiative and Dynamical Feedbacks of SO 2 Emissions." Geophysical Research Letters 49 (4): [10.1029/2021gl096612] [Journal Article/Letter]

2021. "Stratigraphic Evidence for Early Martian Explosive Volcanism in Arabia Terra." Geophysical Research Letters 48 (15): [10.1029/2021gl094109] [Journal Article/Letter]

2021. "Small Volcanic Vents of the Tharsis Volcanic Province, Mars." Journal of Geophysical Research: Planets 126 (2): [10.1029/2020je006620] [Journal Article/Letter]

2020. "Deep and rapid thermo-mechanical erosion by a small-volume lava flow." Earth and Planetary Science Letters 537 116163 [10.1016/j.epsl.2020.116163] [Journal Article/Letter]

2020. "Resolution of Lava Tubes with Ground Penetrating Radar: The TubeX project." Journal of Geophysical Research: Planets [10.1029/2019je006138] [Journal Article/Letter]

2019. "High-resolution DEM generation from spaceborne and terrestrial remote sensing data for improved volcano hazard assessment — A case study at Nevado del Ruiz, Colombia." Remote Sensing of Environment 233 111348 [10.1016/j.rse.2019.111348] [Journal Article/Letter]

2019. "How to use kernel density estimation as a diagnostic and forecasting tool for distributed volcanic vents." Statistics in Volcanology 4 1-25 [10.5038/2163-338x.4.3] [Journal Article/Letter]

2019. "Using dust shed from asteroids as microsamples to link remote measurements with meteorite classes." Meteoritics & Planetary Science 54 (9): 2046-2066 [10.1111/maps.13348] [Journal Article/Letter]

2018. "A new approach to probabilistic lava flow hazard assessments, applied to the Idaho National Laboratory, eastern Snake River Plain, Idaho, USA." Geology 46 (10): 895-898 [10.1130/g45123.1] [Journal Article/Letter]

2017. "Modeling the October 2005 lahars at Panabaj (Guatemala)." Bulletin of Volcanology 80 (1): 4 [10.1007/s00445-017-1169-x] [Journal Article/Letter]

2017. "Benchmarking computational fluid dynamics models of lava flow simulation for hazard assessment, forecasting, and risk management." Journal of Applied Volcanology 6 (1): 9 [10.1186/s13617-017-0061-x] [Journal Article/Letter]

2017. "Recurrence rate and magma effusion rate for the latest volcanism on Arsia Mons, Mars." Earth and Planetary Science Letters [10.1016/j.epsl.2016.10.040] [Journal Article/Letter]

2015. "Lava flow mapping and volume calculations for the 2012–2013 Tolbachik, Kamchatka, fissure eruption using bistatic TanDEM-X InSAR." Bulletin of Volcanology 77 (12): 106 [10.1007/s00445-015-0989-9] [Journal Article/Letter]

2015. "Role of sills in the development of volcanic fields: Insights from lidar mapping surveys of the San Rafael Swell, Utah." Geology 43 (11): 1023-1026 [10.1130/g37094.1] [Journal Article/Letter]

2015. "Subsurface structure of a maar–diatreme and associated tuff ring from a high-resolution geophysical survey, Rattlesnake Crater, Arizona." Journal of Volcanology and Geothermal Research 304 253-264 [10.1016/j.jvolgeores.2015.09.006] [Journal Article/Letter]

2015. "The Syrtis Major volcano, Mars: A multidisciplinary approach to interpreting its magmatic evolution and structural development." Journal of Geophysical Research: Planets 120 1476–1496 [10.1002/2014JE004774] [Journal Article/Letter]

2015. "Multiscale postseismic behavior on a megathrust: The 2012 Nicoya earthquake, Costa Rica." Geochemistry, Geophysics, Geosystems 16 (6): 1848-1864 [10.1002/2015gc005794] [Journal Article/Letter]

2013. "The volcanic history of Syria Planum, Mars." Journal of Volcanology and Geothermal Research 252 1-13 [Full Text] [10.1016/j.jvolgeores.2012.11.007] [Journal Article/Letter]


2021. "The Importance of Field Studies for Closing Key Knowledge Gaps in Planetary Science." Vol. 53, Issue 4 (Planetary/Astrobiology Decadal Survey Whitepapers) 53 (4): [10.3847/25c2cfeb.0a087f9f] [Other]

2020. "Building Safer and More Inclusive Field Experiences in Support of Planetary Science." 2023–2032 NAS Planetary Science and Astrobiology Decadal Survey [Journal Article/Letter]

2020. "End-member volcanism in the absence of plate tectonics: Silicic volcanism on the Moon." 2023–2032 NAS Planetary Science and Astrobiology Decadal Survey [Report]

2018. "Highly Volcanic Exoplanets, Lava Worlds, and Magma Ocean Worlds: An Emerging Class of Dynamic Exoplanets of Significant Scientific Priority." ArXiv e-prints [Journal Article/Letter]

Talks, Presentations and Posters


Magnetic Surveys to Probe the Lunar Subsurface

August 2020

Richardson, J., E. Bell, N. Schmerr, J. Espley, D. Sheppard C. Connor, P. Whelley, B. Strauss, and K. Young.

Lunar Surface Science Workshop

Flashtalk presentation available: (begins at 23m 11s)

Selected Public Outreach

Volcano Demonstrations

June 2020 - Present

See how you can make an explosive volcanic eruption at home and also check out a bigger version using a trashcan! These demonstrations are in support of International Observe the Moon Night. [YouTube Link] (begins at 16m 12s)

NASA Expeditions Social Media Takeovers

September 2019 - Present

During field campaigns, the Goddard Instrument Field Team works with NASA Expeditions to present our research in real time to followers on various social media platforms.

Check out previous expeditions to volcanic sites that are similar to surfaces on other planets on Twitter.

3D Models of Planetary Surfaces and Crusts

2015 - Present

Using publicly available data and models of other planets, Dr. Richardson has developed several 3D models of planetary surfaces and crusts, including the landing sites of the Apollo missions. These models can be printed with a 3D printer and downloadable STL format files are found at The Solar System Exploration Division at Goddard Space Flight Center uses these 3D models during public engagement events to show the surfaces and interiors of the Moon and Mars.

Professional Service

Review Panelist for NASA research programs and fellowships in the Planetary Science and Earth Science Divisions

Peer-reviewer for Science Journals including Geophysical Research Letters, Journal of Volcanology and Geothermal Research, Computers & Geosciences, Icarus, Geomorphology, Journal of Geophysical Research: Planets, Geological Society of America, Scientific Reports, Planetary & Space Science, and Journal of Applied Volcanology

Judge for the Geological Society of America's Dwornik Planetary Geoscience Award, 2018, 2019.