Dr. Bonnie Teece is a Postdoctoral Fellow at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL) in the Origins and Habitability Lab (OHLlab) from Australia. She has a unique journey that started from an arts degree in English Literature. As an undergraduate, Bonnie attended the class “Life, the Universe, and Everything”, to fulfil the requirement of taking a subject outside one’s faculty. During this subject, she read a paper by Dr. Abigail Allwood, who is the first Australian and the first woman to head an investigation on a Mars Rover mission. This sparked the realization that she didn’t have to study science fiction when she could just do it and make it a reality.
“There wasn’t a single moment that inspired me to go into planetary science and astrobiology, instead, it was a series of moments.”, Bonnie stated.
Bonnie added a science degree majoring in Museum Studies on top of her arts degree where she started doing a mix of paleontology and geology.
She then pursed her Master of Research with High Distinction in Earth and Planetary Science from Macquarie University. Her focus was on stromatolites from the Cambrian period which led her to dive into organic geochemistry. For billions and billions of years, Earth was microbially dominated until animals evolved and restricted where microbialites were found due to scratching and grazing. Bonnie wanted to use techniques like the ones you would find on the Mars Rover, but there were some difficulties looking for biomarkers in rocks that had been quite metamorphosed. As a result, she expanded her research from just GC-MS to include other techniques like FTIR, Raman Spectroscopy, Micro X-ray Fluorescence (XRF), and petrography to build a fully rounded picture of these fossils.
Bonnie did her PhD in Geology from the University of New South Wales studying rocks across the entire geologic record from modern active hot springs all the way back to 3.5 billion year old rocks.
In addition to working with some of the best preserved Precambrian period rocks found in Australia, she also worked on much younger land-based hot spring rocks from New Zealand, El Tatio in Chile, Yellowstone in US, and South America.
Bonnie brings with her a wealth of experience in management, team leadership, and community engagement with over 12 years of working in management and retail. She is actively involved in working with and leading various committees. She serves on the Early Career Advisory Panel for the Geological Society of Australia, as well as the co-chair for their Education and Outreach group.
Perhaps her most relevant experience is her position as a Project Officer for a Community of Practice for online education, where she provided support and guidance to over 180 academics and professional staff. She says, “I have experience working with people across a vast range of time zones, working out how to increase engagement, and figuring out what people want and need from the organization that they are subscribing to.”
What lies ahead for ECC
As the new co-lead of ECC, Bonnie is excited about showcasing the ECC’s identity. She plans to create more opportunities for collaboration between ECC, NfoLD, and other early career groups as she recognizes the importance of building a strong network in the interdisciplinary field of astrobiology. To better understand the need of ECC members, Bonnie intends to send out surveys to gather feedback. She is also particularly keen to expand ECC’s reach and make it accessible to researchers around the world who may not have access to astrobiology communities in their own countries.
Bonnie acknowledges the outstanding work that has been done by her predecessor, Dr. Michael “Joey” Pasterski. She is excited to build on what he has been doing.
“I am really excited - and a bit intimidated - to follow Joey’s footsteps.”, Bonnie expressed.
As Bonnie herself is in a mixed space between geology, organic chemistry, and biology, she believes in the importance of interdisciplinary collaboration.
“Interdisciplinary cooperation should be at the forefront of every single collaboration.”, she added.
Transition from Australia to the US
Bonnie, who has only been in the US for two months, described her recent move as “fresh and recent”. Despite the challenges of adjusting to a new country, Bonnie is thriving in her role as a researcher working on deep ocean hydrothermal vents with her principal investigator Dr. Laurie Barge as part of the inVADER project. She finds the work and transition to be both challenging and rewarding and feels that her experiences at JPL and working with Laurie are strengthening her abilities as a scientist in a unique and exciting way.
Message to the scientific community
Bonnie says, “I am excited to meet everyone, and I am hoping that people give some honest feedback when we send out surveys.”
Bonnie welcomes ECC members to get in touch with her regarding any topic they may want to discuss.