Catharine Conley

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Catharine Conley
NASA Planetary Protection Officer
In office
Preceded byJohn Rummel
Succeeded byLisa Pratt
Personal details
Catharine Anastasia Conley
Other namesCassie Conley
Alma mater
Scientific career
InstitutionsAmes Research Center
ThesisSpatial and temporal localization of the defects associated with Petunia cytoplasmic male sterility (1995)

Catharine Anastasia Conley was NASA's Planetary Protection Officer from 2006 through 2018.


Conley received her bachelor's from MIT, a Ph.D. in Plant Biology from Cornell University in 1994,[1] and obtained a postdoctoral fellow position at The Scripps Research Institute studying proteins involved in muscle contraction.[2][3] Conley conducted some of her research using the nematode Caenorhabditis elegans.[4][5]

NASA career[edit]

In 1999 Conley became a research scientist with the NASA Ames Research Center. Her research focuses on the evolution of motility, particularly animal muscle. One of her experiments was on board during the Space Shuttle Columbia disaster. The experiment, the fourteenth Biological Research In Canisters (BRIC-14), survived re-entry and the nematode cultures were still alive. Some scientific data was recovered.[6]

In 2006, Conley was appointed as NASA's Planetary Protection Officer (see Planetary protection).[7][8][9][10][11][12] A NASA re-organization opened the job for competition in 2017, and Conley was replaced by Dr. Lisa Pratt in February 2018.[13][14]


  1. ^ Conley, Catharine Anastasia (1995). Spatial and temporal localization of the defects associated with Petunia cytoplasmic male sterility (Ph.D.). Cornell University. OCLC 693242966 – via ProQuest.
  2. ^ "Catharine Conley". Archived from the original on July 16, 2011. Retrieved May 4, 2009.
  3. ^ Person Report: Catharine Conley
  4. ^ International Caenorhabditis elegans Experiment: Physiological Study of Nematode Worms in Weightlessness (ICE-First) 2009-02-20 Archived October 29, 2009, at the Wayback Machine
  5. ^ Viso, Michel. "International Ceonorhabditis elegans Experiment First flight: Science Goals and Objectives". Dutch Experimental Support Center.
  6. ^ Columbia Survivors 2006-01-01 Archived January 25, 2007, at the Wayback Machine
  7. ^ Leary, Warren E. (October 9, 2007). "In NASA's Sterile Areas, Plenty of Robust Bacteria". The New York Times.
  8. ^ Shades of Gravity: Interview with Catharine Conley 2007-11-05[dead link]
  9. ^ Conley, Catharine A. (March 2008). "Planetary protection considerations for mars sample return" (PDF). Lunar and Planetary Institute.
  10. ^ "Meet Cassie Conley". Archived from the original on April 20, 2009. Retrieved May 4, 2009.
  11. ^ "Spaceward bound: Cassie Conley". Archived from the original on May 10, 2009. Retrieved May 4, 2009.
  12. ^ "Catharine Conley Pipl Profile". Archived from the original on October 2, 2011. Retrieved May 4, 2009.
  13. ^ Voosen, Paul (February 22, 2018). "NASA planetary protection officer suggests loosening limits on exploring Mars for life". Science. doi:10.1126/science.aat4041.
  14. ^ "Indiana University astrobiologist named planetary protection officer at NASA". Indiana University. January 18, 2018.
Government offices
Preceded by
John Rummel
NASA Planetary Protection Officer
2006 – 2018
Succeeded by
Lisa Pratt