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Ryan Zeigler

On Shore Scientist
Apollo Sample Curator
NASA - Johnson Space Center

Tell us about your work/research. What kinds of things do you do?

I have amassed nearly two decades of experience in the detailed petrographic and geochemical study of lunar samples, placing particular emphasis on the identity and provenance of the various components within lunar soils and breccias (both Apollo and Lunar Meteorite). The main tools I use in these investigations are the electron microprobe, the scanning electron microscope, and the X-ray Computed Tomography system. As the Apollo Sample Curator, I have overseen the maintenance and protection of the Apollo Samples for the past 9 years, providing access to hundreds of researchers around the world to study the Apollo samples in a myriad of ways.

What sparked your initial interest in your career?

I have always loved the outdoors, and geology was a way to work in an environment I love. Like many geologists, I am drawn to interesting places and topics, and once I found out there were "space rocks" to be studied that could tell us wholly new things about entire planets that had exotic (compared to Earth) environments, I was hooked. I have studied anything else since!

Who influenced you or encouraged you the most?

My first geology professor at SUNY Potsdam, Dr. Neal O'Brien got me hooked on Geology and he encouraged me to pursue planetary geology. Once I got to Washington University in St. Louis, my trio of PhD advisors (Brad Jolliff, Randy Korotev, Larry Haskin) got me hooked on lunar science and started me down the path that lead me to where I am today! (In case anyone was wondering, 3 PhD advisors is a bad tip.)

What element of your work/study do you think is the most fascinating?

Looking at a new sample of the Moon in the Electron Microprobe or X-ray Computed Tomograph for the first time (usually a newly found lunar meteorite). You're looking at a rock that no one in science has ever seen before, and it is truly "exploration science" in the purest sense of the word. You never know what new discovery you're going to make, or what the implications will be for our understanding of the Moon.

What other jobs led you to your current career?

I spent 10 years studying Moon rocks (both Apollo samples and lunar meteorites) at Washington University in St. Louis, which gave me the knowledge base I needed to one day become the Apollo Sample Curator.

What are your degrees and certifications?

I have a BA in History and Geology from the State University in New York, Potsdam, as well as an MA and PhD in Earth and Planetary Sciences from Washington University in St. Louis.

What are your hobbies?

I like to travel, and I like the great outdoors. In particular I like to visit the US National Parks, and so far I have visited 45 of the 62 National Parks, and 53 of the >130 National Monuments.

How did you get involved with the Ocean Exploration Trust?

My friend and colleague Marc Fries tracked a meteorite that fell in the water...and he was kind enough to invite me on this adventure to see if we could find it!

What advice would you give someone who wants to have a career like yours?

Find something that interests you, but challenges you; realize that reading and math are your friends and will help you in your career in ways you never expected. Learn to be curious about the world around you and train yourself to be able to find out answers for yourself.


Ryan participated in the following Ocean Exploration Trust expeditions: