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Dr. Catherine Walker

Assistant Scientist
Applied Ocean Physics & Engineering

Office Phone: 508-289-3848
Location: Bigelow (Village Campus)

NASA Website

Research Interests

My research interests are broad, but mostly center on surface/subsurface processes involving ice and water, both on Earth and on other planets and moons. 

  1. Ice-ocean interactions
  2. Antarctic coastal change
  3. Ice shelf rifting processes and iceberg calving
  4. Ocean Worlds science and Earth analogues
  5. Europa (moon of Jupiter) ridge and fracture formation
  6. Glacier change in the Americas
  7. Remote sensing methods
  8. Laser altimetry and topography change
  9. Polar oceanography and ecosystem change
  10. Planetary surface processes and water-rock interactions

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I am also newly involved in studying how the changing ocean affects marine life and behavior. In particular, I am interested in ways we can use animals to inform on how ecosystems are changing. While biotic factors play a significant role in the movement ecology of different species, permanent and transitory abiotic factors, for example bathymetry, temperature, salinity and ocean currents, are also thought to strongly influence marine animal movements. Essentially, we can use what the animals tell us, through movements and behavioral changes, as sentinels of change, which can be paired with satellite observations to understand large scale change in the oceans.

Some Recent Publications

Walker, C. C., J. N. Bassis, J. N. and Schmidt, B. E. (2021). Propagation of vertical fractures through planetary ice shells: The role of basal fractures at the ice-ocean interface and proximal cracks. The Planetary Science Journal, Vol. 2, No. 4, doi:10.3847/PSJ/ac01ee.

Walker, C. C., Becker, M. K., & Fricker, H. A. (2021). A high resolution, three-dimensional view of the D-28 calving event from Amery Ice Shelf with ICESat-2 and satellite imagery. Geophysical Research Letters, 48, e2020GL091200. doi:10.1029/2020GL091200.

Buffo, J. J., Schmidt, B. E., Huber, C. & Walker, C. C. (2020). Entrainment and dynamics of ocean-derived impurities within Europa's ice shell. Journal of Geophysical Research: Planets, 125, e2020JE006394. doi:10.1029/2020JE006394

Walker, C. C. and Gardner, A. S. (2019). Evolution of ice shelf rifts: Implications for formation mechanics and morphological controls, Earth and Planetary Science Letters, 526,115764, doi:10.1016/j.epsl.2019.115764.

Walker, C. C. and Gardner, A. S. (2017). Rapid drawdown of Antarctica’s Wordie Ice Shelf glaciers in response to ENSO/Southern Annular Mode-driven warming in the Southern Ocean (2017), Earth and Planetary Science Letters, 476, 100-110, doi:10.1016/j.epsl.2017.08.005.

Other Professional Experiences

NASA Goddard Space Flight Center/University of Maryland (current)
Visiting Research Scientist, Cryospheric Sciences Lab/ICESat-2 Project Science Office
Greenbelt, MD

NASA Headquarters
Senior Management Fellow, Office of the Chief Scientist
Washington, DC

Caltech/NASA Jet Propulsion Laboratory
NASA Postdoctoral Fellow, Sea Level and Ice | Earth Sciences Section
Pasadena, CA (Supervisor: Alex S. Gardner)

Georgia Institute of Technology
Postdoctoral Fellow, School of Earth and Atmospheric Sciences
Atlanta, GA (Supervisor: Britney E. Schmidt)

University of Michigan
Graduate Student Research Assistant, Atmospheric Oceanic and Space Sciences
Ann Arbor, MI (Advisor: Jeremy N. Bassis)

Wonderful Internship Experiences!

Caltech/NASA Jet Propulsion Laboratory, Pasadena, CA (2013)
JPL Graduate Research Fellowship, Planetary Geophysics and Geosciences Group

Caltech/NASA Jet Propulsion Laboratory, Pasadena, CA (2010)
JPL Graduate Research Fellowship, Planetary Ices Group

NASA Goddard Space Flight Center, Greenbelt, MD/Tucson, AZ (2008)
Summer Aerospace Workforce Development Program, Planetary Magnetospheres Laboratory

NASA Goddard Space Flight Center, Greenbelt, MD (2007-2008)
Academic year research intern, Optical Design and Analysis Group

Florida Institute of Technology/NASA Kennedy Space Life Sciences, Melbourne, FL (2007)
Graduate Student Researcher, Department of Physics and Space Sciences

The NASA Academy, Goddard Space Flight Center, Greenbelt, MD (2007)
Research Associate, Optical Design and Analysis Group

Inst. for the Study of Earth, Oceans & Space, UNH, Durham, NH (2006-2007)
Data Analyst, NASA’s STEREO Mission, Space Science Center

Inst. for the Study of Earth, Oceans and Space, University of New Hampshire (2006)
Research & Discover Intern, Space Science Center

Inst. for the Study of Earth, Oceans and Space, University of New Hampshire (2005)
Research Intern, NASA’s Wind Mission, Space Science Center

Students, Postdocs, and All Around Fantastic Colleagues

  • Chase Chivers (WHOI Postdoctoral Scholar, 2022-present)
  • Melisa Diaz (WHOI Postdoctoral Scholar, 2020-2022)
  • Joanna Millstein (MIT/WHOI Joint Program Student, 2nd generals project)
  • Bailey Fleugel (MIT/WHOI Joint Program Student, 2nd generals project)
  • Jordan McDavid (PEP Student, 2022)
  • Camryn Kluetmeier (Summer Student Fellow, 2021)
  • Zoe Screwvala (Summer Student Fellow, 2020)


Ph.D.: Atmospheric, Oceanic and Space Sciences. 2013. University of Michigan, Ann Arbor, MI.

B.A.: Astronomy/Physics, Geology. 2007. Mount Holyoke College, South Hadley, MA.


I am originally from North Andover, Massachusetts where I grew up with my twin sister, two dogs and my parents. I saw Apollo 13 when I was 10 years old and decided I wanted to be an astronaut when I grew up. I haven't given up yet!

I received my Bachelor's degree in Astronomy (and a minor in Earth Sciences) from Mount Holyoke College in South Hadley, Massachusetts. I went on to get my Ph.D. in Atmospheric Oceanic and Space Sciences from the University of Michigan in Ann Arbor, where I worked with my advisor Dr. Jeremy Bassis to study fractures in ice shelves around Antarctica with an emphasis on how they can help us understand fracture formation in ice shells of Ocean Worlds throughout the solar system.

I next moved to Georgia Tech, where I worked as a postdoctoral scholar with Dr. Britney Schmidt, who I continue to collaborate with on various fun projects. Mostly, we spent time studying ice-ocean interactions on Europa, a moon of Jupiter, and ice-ocean interactions here on Earth (in Antarctica and Greenland).

In 2015 I became a NASA Postdoctoral Fellow at the Caltech/NASA Jet Propulsion Lab, where I worked for three years in the Sea Level and Ice Group. During my time there, I learned a lot about Earth remote sensing. I was also able to work on planetary science projects and some spacecraft mission architecture studies (TeamX).

In 2018 I moved to NASA Goddard Space Flight Center as a Visiting Asst. Research Scientist in the Project Science Office for the ICESat-2 mission, which is a satellite laser altimeter that launched into orbit in 2018. I continue to work with colleagues at NASA Goddard to understand the changing cryosphere using ICESat-2's observations!

I arrived at WHOI in 2019 and I'm excited for the next chapter of polar/ocean/planetary exploration! Others who would like to join, please reach out!