We are University of Florida research scientists Rob Ferl and Anna-Lisa Paul working to feed Martians! For more than 20 years, we’ve been studying how to grow plants in space to enable explorations. AMA!
Hi, Reddit! We’re Robert Ferl, PhD, and Anna-Lisa Paul, PhD, and we lead the UF Space Plants laboratory to try to understand extraterrestrial plant life.
Since 1999, we have launched and analyzed a dozen orbital spaceflight experiments to explore the effects of the spaceflight gene expression. Our experimental heritage lies in the study of gene expression in response to environmental change, leading now toward an understanding of the new environments of spaceflight and extraterrestrial habitats.
While we are both dedicated lab geeks, we also enjoy and advocate for the field experiential side of science – we’ve flown with our experiments on parabolic, or reduced-gravity, flights and other research aircraft. We have also personally worked in planetary exploration analogs in Antarctica (Neumayer III) and in the high Canadian Arctic (the Haughton Mars Project).
In 2015, we were the co-recipients of NASA’s Award for Most Compelling Science on the International Space Station. Our current research is focused on evaluating the epigenomic responses of Arabidopsis to the spaceflight environment and using the new generation of suborbital launch vehicles to explore the transitions to and from space.
A bit more about us:
Anna-Lisa: I’m a Research Professor and the Interim Director of the Interdisciplinary Center for Biotechnology Research at the University of Florida. I have served the space research community as the President of the American Society for Gravitational and Space Research, as a member of the ISS Standing Review Board, and as a member of the Suborbital Applications Research Group, an advisory board for the Commercial Space Federation. In 2019 I was honored to receive NASA’s Medal of Honor for Exceptional Scientific Achievement.
Rob: I’m a Distinguished Professor and Assistant Vice President of Research at the University of Florida. I co-chair the Committee on Biological and Physical Sciences in Space for the US National Academies of Science. I was honored with the 2016 NASA Medal of Honor for Exceptional Scientific Achievement for discoveries on the International Space Station and the 2016 AIAA Jeffries Aerospace Medicine and Life Sciences Research.
- UF Space Plants Lab
- Space Plants: Scientists on a mission to feed Mars
- Star Trek: Antarctica – a photo essay about our travels to Neumayer III Station in Antarctica
- Science Friday: Plants in Space!
- Staying True to Your Roots: Plants on the ISS
- Taking plants off planet – how do they grow in zero gravity?
Update 1: Anna-Lisa and Rob will be joining the session to start answering questions at 5 pm EST.