Kynan Hughson

Assistant Professor

Earth Sciences

Forestry/Geology 113-1


Research interests

My research focuses on understanding the geological, geophysical, and hydrological processes that shape the surfaces of Earth and other objects in our solar system.

I am particularly interested in how the shapes of landforms inform us of their formation, internal structure, and composition and in how groundwater and ground ice are distributed and structured in glacial, periglacial and hillslope environments. Using a combination of remote sensing, geophysical field methods, and geophysical modeling, I aim to better understand the hydrogeologic structure, dynamics, and stability of hillslopes, permafrost features, and periglacial landforms on Earth and infer the implications for potential analog environments on Mars, Ceres and other ice-rich worlds.

Research projects

Pingo SubTerranean Aquifer Reconnaissance and Reconstruction

Pingo STARR project uses a combination of remote sensing, ground penetrating radar, electrical resistivity tomography, and transient electromagnetic sounding to probe the 3D structure of pingos in the North American Arctic. The goal of this project is to thoroughly characterize the subsurface structure of active pingo systems during their most frozen periods, test the synergies of various geophysical methods in a planetary analog environment, and to inform the ground ice surveying strategy for next generation of planetary missions.

Pingo STARR is a four-year (2020-2024) field campaign funded through NASA's Planetary Science and Technology through Analog Research (PSTAR) program.

Chill Hills: Exploring Ceres’ Hydrology and Geology Through Pingo-like Morphologies

The Chill Hills project is employing geologic mapping and spatial clustering techniques to identify and morphologically classify pingo candidates on Ceres. These mounds are being analyzed for context and correlation with geologic units and structures identified in published maps of Occator, Urvara, and the intervening region in order to determine their regional - and local-scale geologic affinities. This analysis will increase our understanding of the origin of cerean hills and quantitatively estimate their morphometric similarity to pingos and other terrestrial hill-forms.

The Chill Hills project is funded through NASA's Discovery Data Analysis Program (DDAP).

Selected publications

Hughson, K. H. G., et al. (2022), Comparative morphometric analysis suggests ice-cored pingo-shaped landforms on the dwarf planet Ceres. Geology, 50, 522-527.

Hughson, K. H. G., et al. (2019), Fluidized appearing ejecta on Ceres: Implications for the mechanical properties, frictional properties, and composition of its shallow subsurface, Journal of Geophysical Research: Planets.

Hughson, K. H. G., et al. (2019), Normal faults on Ceres: Insights into the mechanical properties and thermal history of Nar Sulcus, Geophysical Research Letters 46, 80-88.

Hughson, K. H. G., et al. (2018), The Ac‐5 (Fejokoo) quadrangle of Ceres: Geologic map and geomorphological evidence for ground ice mediated surface processes, Icarus 316, 63-83.