Samuel Birch at Cornell
Image courtesy of Heising-Simons Foundation

I’m a Heising-Simons Foundation 51 Pegasi b Fellow at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. My research focuses on understanding the physical processes responsible for shaping planetary surfaces and climates, and see how we can use these worlds to learn more about our home here on Earth. I do this using a combination of data analyses, theory, laboratory experiments, and  numerical simulations. I also work to develop and operate spacecraft that seek to explore the outer solar system, as much of my research interests and passions center around exploration by these active missions.

Two fascinating worlds have currently captured much of my attention: Titan, Saturn’s largest moon, has an active hydrological cycle matched in complexity only by our own Earth’s; and Comet 67P/Churyumov-Gerasimenko, the most well-observed small-body to date, one with landforms not dissimilar to those we’d find on Earth, despite the near lack of gravity. Though they are quite different from each other, they both continue to unveil new and interesting physics, which we will continue to leverage as we go forward exploring yet more of our solar system !

On this webpage, you can find information about my research, download data products, and learn more about the Winnipeg Planet Walk. Please feel free to contact me if you have any questions or are interested in collaboration.

Some News

August 2, 2021: Our paper, led by outstanding undergraduate student Julia Miller, has now been accepted and is available online. This paper provides the definitive mapping of Titan’s rivers, with the data freely available upon request!

April 13, 2021: Our paper that details outstanding Titan questions to be answered over the next decade is accepted and available online.

February 26, 2021: I gave a job talk as part of the EAPS Department Lecture Series. You can watch it here & here in two parts!

August 28, 2020: It was my pleasure to talk with the students and space enthusiasts  at the Tecnológico de Costa Rica seminar! 

March 24, 2020: I am grateful to be one of the recipients of the Heising-Simons Foundation 51 Pegasi b Fellowship.

January 31, 2020: Our work to understand Titan’s deltas was covered by Eos !

January 22, 2020: Check out this Q&A I gave with the Canadian Space Society ! 

January 7, 2020: Dancing debris, moveable landscape shape Comet 67P: Our paper on changes on 67P is described in the Cornell Chronicle.

November 18, 2019: Our paper outlining Titan’s global geology is published in Nature Astronomy

September 20, 2019: Our paper detailing a new method for precise topographic data on Comet 67P is published in the Astronomy & Astrophysics‘ Second Rosetta Special Issue.

September 18, 2019: Our work on Comet 67P’s “bouncing boulders” is presented at the joint meeting of the European Planetary Science Congress and the Division of Planetary Sciences.

September 12, 2019: Our paper documenting and modeling large-scale changes on 67P, and then linking those changes to coma activity for the first time is available in Geophysical Research Letters!

July 17, 2019: Our paper discussing the “raised ramparts” that surround some of Titan’s polar lakes is available in Icarus.

June 27, 2019: We are going back to Titan! Dragonfly has been selected as NASA’s next New Frontiers mission.

April 15, 2019: Our paper detailing the disappearance of lakes around Titan’s north pole is published online in Nature Astronomy!

May 29, 2018: Our paper documenting the presence of raised rims around Titan’s polar lakes is now online.

December 20, 2017: CAESAR and Dragonfly are BOTH selected for Phase A study as part of NASA’s New Frontiers 4 program!

December 12, 2017: Our paper on the discovery of paleoseas at Titan’s south pole is published in Icarus.

September 15, 2017: Cassini ends its mission in a Grand Finale.

May 6, 2017: Our paper on the geomorphologic map of Comet 67P is published in Monthly Notices of the Royal Astronomical Society.

January 15, 2017: Our paper on geomorphologic mapping of Titan’s poles is published on the cover of Icarus

September 30, 2016: Rosetta completes its mission, touching down on Comet 67P. 

March 5, 2016: “Titan’s Surface and Atmosphere” Icarus Special Issue is online.

February 4, 2016: Our paper on the distribution and nature of alluvial fans on Titan is now available online.