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This profile was last updated on 2/2/16  and contains information from public web pages and contributions from the ZoomInfo community.

Dr. Catharine Cassie Conley

Wrong Dr. Catharine Cassie Conley?

Planetary Protection Officer

Phone: (202) ***-****  
Email: h***@***.gov
Local Address:  Washington , United States

Employment History

  • Scientist
  • Biologist


  • doctorate , plant biology
    Cornell University
135 Total References
Web References
We really want to understand what's ..., 20 Oct 2015 [cached]
We really want to understand what's there at Mars and not see the stuff we brought with us," NASA's planetary protection officer Catharine Conley said.
"Recent events demonstrate how important it ..., 30 Oct 2014 [cached]
"Recent events demonstrate how important it is for Earth safety to avoid false negatives," said Catharine Conley.
Catharine Conley, a NASA scientist whose official title is Planetary Protection Officer, said the recent outbreak highlights "the need to have good protocols in place prior to bringing potentially hazardous materials back to Earth, and having a very careful and well-tested plan for how to determine that they are 'safe.'"
"Recent events demonstrate how important it is for Earth safety to avoid false negatives, as well as avoiding false positives to protect human activities at Mars," Conley added.
SpinCam: Pancake Recipe for Life :: Astrobiology Magazine :: Search for Life in the Universe, 28 Feb 2006 [cached]
The chance to explore such radical modifications led Principal Investigator, Catharine Conley, a biologist at NASA Ames, to flatten some already flat-worms (or nematodes).
According to Conley, humans die after one minute at 10 G because the blood gets centrifuged from the head.But the worms, with no circulatory system and a sturdy constitution, don't have that problem.In fact, these worms can naturally withstand 1,000,000 G or a force-equivalent of over a million-times their terrestrial weight.
To examine the worms as they spin, scientists are using a video system designed and constructed by students at Harvey Mudd College, Claremont, Calif.
"By looking at what changes occur in the worms when they transition from high-G forces to normal gravity, we think we can predict what will happen to them when they experience near weightlessness during space flight," said Conley."In the future, we want to fly the worms in space, subjecting them to microgravity to see if our predictions are correct."Microgravity (one-million times less than terrestrial levels) is close to 'zero gravity.'
"Radiation levels in space are much higher than they are on the Earth's surface," Conley said."We know that elevated radiation increases the mutation rate of living things.Because these worms reproduce every four days, we can look quickly at many worm generations in space to see how radiation and microgravity may cause changes later," she explained.
"Worms have already flown aboard the space shuttle, and it was found that they went through several generations without gross structural changes to their bodies," Conley said.
"Should our hypothesis prove correct, it will validate Caenorhabditis elegans [nemotode] as an extremely useful and cost-effective model organism for studying responses to space flight at the molecular, genetic and whole-organism levels," Conley said.
When Conley was planning her current experiments that utilize a smaller, desktop centrifuge, she realized she would need a camera no bigger than an ice cube that could broadcast signals from the spinning apparatus to a TV monitor and recorder in real time.So she turned to the Student Engineering Clinic at Harvey Mudd College to produce the camera system.
"During spinning there are changes in the worms' gene expression that seem to help them compensate for the increased apparent gravity, allowing them to survive," Conley said.
Dr. Conley's Research
When Catharine Conley ..., 14 Jan 2016 [cached]
When Catharine Conley started her job at NASA, her predecessor gave her a pair of dark Ray Ban sunglasses. It's only fitting - Conley is a real-life version of the famously shaded title characters in the 1997 movie Men in Black. Part of her job as planetary protection officer is to keep Earth safe from alien life. But, as far as we know, Earthlings are the ones regularly hopping around the solar system, so most of her job is to protect aliens from the human race.
"The missions we have sent since ..., 2 Oct 2015 [cached]
"The missions we have sent since Viking have not been cleaned to the same level -- Viking was essentially sterile," said Catharine Conley, who heads NASA's office of planetary protection, set up to prevent cross-contamination between Earth and the Solar System's other heavenly bodies.
"It would be very nice to have that capability again, to be able to drive right into the RSLs and sample (them)," she added.
"We also try to kill all the bacteria on these probes so that we don't wind up... embarrassingly discovering life on Mars only to realise that it's our own dirty fingerprints," added Conley.
"It is a question of budget and priorities," noted Conley.
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