Penelope Boston studies caves and karst formations, and the special biology that lives in them -- both here on Earth and possibly on other planets.
Penelope Boston is fascinated by caves -- secret, mineral environments that shelter mysteries in beguiling darkness and stillness. She's spent most of her career studying caves and karst formations (karst is a formation where a bedrock, such as limestone, is eaten away by water to form underground voids), and is the cofounder of the new National Cave and Karst Research Institute, based in New Mexico.
Deep inside caves, there's a biology that is like no other on Earth, protected from surface stress and dependent on cave conditions for its survival. As part of her work with caves, Boston studies this life -- and has made the very sensible suggestion that, if odd forms of life lie quietly undiscovered in Earth's caves, there's a good chance it might also have arisen in caves and karst on other planets. Now, she's working on some new ways to look for it
“I have learned to think about Earth as an extraterrestrial planet.”
“I think that the chance of life having arisen on Mars, sometime in its past, is maybe one in four to maybe even half and half.”
“I’m very passionately interested in the human future, on the Moon and Mars particularly, and elsewhere in the solar system. I think it’s time that we transitioned to a solar system-going civilization and species.”