I am interested in the geological study of the solid bodies in our solar system, from the icy ocean worlds, to the planets Mars and Earth, and the asteroids. I’m particularly interested in using laboratory experiments paired with remote sensing to characterize and understand mineralogical and geochemical processes active on planetary surfaces. I am interested in the geological evolutionary history of our solar system, and how this history of changes can be constrained through the advancement of analytical techniques applied via remote sensing and laboratory experiments. I find I’m drawn to research at the nexus of geology, physics, and engineering, and the field of planetary science frequents this cross-over space.

Remote sensing of extreme icy environments

Remote sensing measurements of a planetary surface are sensitive not only to the composition of the surface, but also to the environment from which the measurement was taken. I'm interested in how the extreme environmental conditions on icy small bodies alter the types of compositional information measured by planetary spacecraft. These extreme environments are replicated in the laboratory and include mimicking the vacuum of space, the coldness of an airless body, and the high radiation present at the surface of Europa. I apply laboratory experiments to understand how extreme environmental conditions on ocean worlds such as Europa will affect compositional data collected by planetary spacecraft. Understanding these will advance our ability to interpret possible biosignatures measured and will aid in the search for life in the solar system. In addition to laboratory experiments, I also apply remote sensing techniques to planetary bodies including Europa and Ceres to seek a rigorous compositional understanding of these objects. This will provide the framework to ask questions about the origin of life and the presence of currently habitable niches.

Advancing thermal infrared spectroscopy of airless bodies

I’m interested in advancing thermal infrared spectroscopy as a tool for the mineralogical investigation of airless planetary surfaces. These surfaces are affected by a multitude of factors that are significantly different than the ambient laboratory, but, in particular, the vacuum environment sets up strong near-surface thermal gradients that significantly alter thermal infrared spectra. To accurately interpret thermal infrared data of airless bodies, it is necessary to first understand how the thermophysical properties of planetary materials affect emissivity spectra under cold, vacuum conditions in a controlled laboratory setting. This is achieved through careful analysis of candidate planetary materials in chambers mimicking the environment of airless planetary surfaces. I’m working on advancing our ability to increase the spectral precision and radiometric accuracy of remotely sensed thermal infrared data, and our ability to interpret the mineralogy and geochemical history of a surface from these spectra.

Relevant publications and abstracts:

Remote sensing of the martian surface

I am interested in synthesizing remotely sensed data collected by orbital instruments to understand the geological evolution of the martian crust and constraining mineralogical and morphological signatures of environments that could have supported life. I pursue this by using spacecraft observations from instruments such as the Compact Reconnaissance Imaging Spectrometer for Mars (CRISM) or the High Resolution Imaging Science Experiment (HiRISE) to constrain the geological context of outcrops bearing mineralogical clues to the past near-surface environments at these locations. More broadly, I apply remote sensing techniques to characterize planetary surface processes recorded in rocks exposed at the surface. This is quantitatively achieved via the integration of several orbital data sets, and through comparative planetology with the Earth.

Relevant publications and abstracts: 

M. S. Bramble, T. A. Goudge, R. E. Milliken, and J. F. Mustard. 2019. Testing the Deltaic Origin of Fan Deposits at Bradbury Crater, Mars. Icarus 319, 363–366. doi:10.1016/j.icarus.2018.09.024 (PDF)

M. R. Salvatore, T. A. Goudge, M. S. Bramble, C. S. Edwards, J. L. Bandfield, E. S. Amador, J. F. Mustard, and P. R. Christensen. 2018. Bulk mineralogy of the NE Syrtis and Jezero crater regions of Mars derived through thermal infrared spectral analyses. Icarus 301, 76–96. doi:10.1016/j.icarus.2017.09.019 (PDF)

M. S. Bramble, J. F. Mustard, and M. R. Salvatore. 2017. The Geological History of Northeast Syrtis Major, Mars. Icarus 293, 66–93. doi:10.1016/j.icarus.2017.03.030 (PDF)

Quantitative analytical techniques in the geological sciences

As with most of the physical sciences, the study of geology and planetary science requires the cutting edge of scientific instruments and applying these devices in novel methods to acquire data of the highest fidelity. I am interested continuing the development of applied instrumental techniques that increase the mathematical certainty in observations and perhaps lessens the degree of interpretation bias. The next step after quantitative measurement in my mind is to solidify the relationships interpreted from the data by modeling the data to show the degree of certainty that may be attached to interpretations. With this mindset, I’m developing radiative transfer and physical models to aid the quantitative analysis of quantifiable geological properties.

Relevant publications and abstracts:

M. S. Bramble, Y. Yang, W. R. Patterson III, R. E. Milliken, J. F. Mustard, and K. L. Donaldson Hanna. 2019. Radiometric Calibration of Thermal Infrared Data from the Asteroid and Lunar Environment Chamber (ALEC). Review of Scientific Instruments 90,  093101. doi:10.1063/1.5096363

M. S. Bramble, R. L. Flemming, and P. J. A. McCausland. 2015. Grain size measurement from two-dimensional micro-X-ray diffraction: Laboratory application of a radial integration technique. American Mineralogist 100, 1899–1911. doi:10.2138/am-2015-5181

M. S. Bramble, R. L. Flemming, J. L. Hutter, M. M. Battler, G. R. Osinski, and N. R. Banerjee. 2014. A temperature-controlled sample stage for in situ micro-X-ray diffraction: Application to Mars analog mirabilite-bearing perennial cold spring precipitate mineralogy. American Mineralogist 99, 943-947. doi:10.2138/am.2014.4629

M. S. Bramble, R. L. Flemming, and P. J. A. McCausland. 2014. Grain Size, ‘Spotty’ XRD Rings, and CheMin: Two-Dimensional X-ray Diffraction as a Proxy for Grain Size Measurement in Planetary Materials. Lunar and Planetary Science Conference XLV, abstract No. 1658 (abstract, poster)

Meteorites and early solar system processes

Meteorites provide a tangible way to study planetary bodies and processes in the early solar system. Meteorites also allow for the study of astromaterials using the current level of laboratory technology providing data of higher resolution and fidelity than can be achieved by some spacecraft and remote sensing techniques. I am interested in studying processes in meteorites that can tell us about mineralogical interactions and evolution in the early solar system.

Relevant publications and abstracts:

M. S. Bramble and R. E. Milliken. 2020. The Thermal Emission of Ordinary Chondrites and Analog Mixtures at Simulated Asteroid Conditions. Lunar and Planetary Science Conference LI, abstract 2498 (abstract)

P. J. A. McCausland, M. S. Bramble, P. G. Brown, J. U. Umoh, and D. W. Holdsworth. 2016. Many meteorites in one: Spatial scale and range of variation in bulk physical and lithological properties of the Tagish Lake C2 chondrite. GAC-MAC Annual Meeting, abstract No. 166 (abstract)

M. S. Bramble and J. F. Mustard. 2016. Investigating the Antarctic meteorite analog of carbonate formation on Mars. Lunar and Planetary Science Conference XLVII, abstract No. 2553 (abstract, poster)

M. S. Bramble, P. J. A. McCausland, R. L. Flemming, and M. R. M. Izawa. 2014. Micro-Xray diffraction and scanning electron microscopy investigation of enigmatic duncoloured veins in the Tagish Lake carbonaceous chondrite. GAC-MAC Annual Meeting, abstract No. 263 (abstract, poster)

Research in the media