Dale T. Andersen, Ph.D.
Affiliation: Center for the Study of Life in the Universe, SETI Institute
BS Biology, Va Tech
Ph.D., Physical Geography, McGill University
Job Description: To Explore the Unknown
Dale has been a Principal Investigator at the SETI Institute’s Center for the Study of Life in the Universe since 1992. During this time, his research has focused on microbial ecosystems in extreme environments including areas of the Arctic, Antarctic, Atacama Desert, Death Valley and Siberia.
Dale’s research interests are with the origin, evolution and distribution of life in the universe and he has been involved with NASA’s Exobiology and Astrobiology programs since the mid 1980’s. He is interested in locating, characterizing and understanding environments where physical and chemical conditions approach or exceed the tolerances for life. This includes biogeochemical processes occurring in polar lakes, oceans, and springs, or in lithic environments such as sandstones or retrogressive thaw slumps harbouring massive ground ice. Of particular interest are the physical controls and ecological impacts that perennial ice-covers and thick continuous permafrost have on the structure and function of microbial ecosystems.
Dale has participated in field research in polar regions for more than 25 years having participated and led 11 expeditions to the Antarctic (each lasting 4.5-6 months on the continent) and over twenty expeditions to the Arctic. Dale helped pioneer scientific research diving in the perennially ice-covered lakes of the McMurdo Dry Valleys and the Bunger Hills and has made more than 600 dives beneath polar ice, north and south. Dale was the first to use remotely operated vehicle (ROV) technology in the Antarctic to help explore lake and marine environments and as a PI at the SETI Institute he helped develop and utilize telepresence technology to extend the capabilities of the underwater ROV’s.
Dale’s research has been featured in numerous newspaper and popular journals such as National Geographic and Sky and Telescope as well as on the Discovery Channel Canada, National Geographic TV and in three PBS programs - Life on Ice, Antarctica and Mars, Live! From Other worlds and The New Explorers - Crystal Lab. Dale created and was the driving force behind the production of the award winning documentary Life on Ice, Antarctica and Mars and Live! From Other Worlds, a three part, interactive field trip that allowed students to make virtual dives with Dale under the ice in Antarctica while controlling telepresent rovers from their desktop computers. Dale is a Fellow Member of the Explorers Club (FN87), and an Eagle Scout.