Maars to Mars

Mars illustration

Photo illustration featuring photo from

Get Scientific Research Experience this Summer!

Wanted: Two OCCC student researchers to assist on a geological project titled “Maars to Mars”. This research project is supported by the Oregon NASA Space Grant Consortium and will be conducted during June 2021. Under the supervision of OCCC Professor Gilbert Bernhardt, a small team will travel to Eastern Oregon for three days to investigate geological features known as maars. Student researchers will assist in collecting sediment samples and taking aerial images using an infrared camera. After the field work, student researchers will work for 2 weeks in a laboratory setting to analyze sediment samples.

The project will culminate with students presenting their results at the Oregon NASA Space Grant Consortium student research symposium at OSU in the fall. Students will also assist in the creation of an interactive laboratory activity that will be used in a geology course (G 201).

Students will receive an $800 stipend and have their travel expenses paid when conducting field research in Eastern Oregon. Getting research experience helps students stand out from the crowd when applying for scholarships, jobs, and admission to academic programs.

Because students researchers and faculty mentors will be working in close proximity for long durations of time, we request that all participants be fully vaccinated for COVID-19 prior to June 14, 2021.

The scientific motivation for this research project is to investigate the characteristics of crater-like features called maars, which are found in Central Oregon and on other planetary bodies such as Mars. (Learn more from this research paper.) The identification of water stored within maars in Oregon would establish the likelihood that frozen paleo-water might still be present within similar features on Mars. Thus, maars would offer a potential source of water for extraction by future robotic or manned missions by NASA.

Student Researcher Requirements:

    • Must be an OCCC student or planning to enroll in summer or fall 2021.
    • Work well with others.
    • Have enthusiasm for science and a strong work ethic.
    • Proof of vaccination for COVID-19 prior to June 14.
    • Be able to walk 6 km per day across uneven terrain in Central Oregon.
    • Be available for a field trip to Central Oregon on June 14 -16, two pre-trip meetings, and available for two weeks after the field trip for laboratory work.
    • Carry up to 30 lbs of equipment and samples.

If you would like to apply for one of the two positions, please send a cover letter to Professor Bernhardt at In your cover letter, make sure to state your academic goals, your experience working in a team, and most importantly, why you are interested in working on this project. Applications are due by the end of day, Thursday May 6, 2021 (extended deadline!). Questions can also be directed to Prof. Bernhardt at the email address provided.