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Dr. Kirby Runyon

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Research Scientist

Currently resides in MD
krunyon [at]
Areas of Expertise
Targets: Asteroids, Charon, Dwarf planets, Earth, Icy satellites, Io, Kuiper Belt, Mars, Moon, Pluto, Titan, Trans-Neptunian objects, Venus
Disciplines/Techniques: Education/Public Outreach (EPO), Field Work, Geology, Geomorphology, Impacts, Mapping, Remote sensing, Volcanism
Missions: LRO, MRO, New Horizons
Mission Roles: Mission operations, Mission science team, Requirements generation and flow down
Instruments: Cameras

Research Interests

Hello! I'm a planetary geologist with research interests in geomorphology and stratigraphy using remote sensing and laboratory experiments. The coolest laboratory method I use is reduced gravity parabolic flight for stuyding the geology and dynamics of impact crater ejecta emplacement. Relatedly, I'm fascinated with astronaut-enabled science on and near the Moon. My top research topics include

  • Large basin chronostratigraphy on the Moon with implications for early Earth's environment;
  • Artemis astronaut-enabled geology on the Moon;
  • Aeolian bedforms and abrasion on Mars, Venus, and Titan;
  • Icy dwarf planet geologic characterization;
  • Mission Design and ConOps, especially astronaut-in-the-loop for robotic asssets;
  • STEM Engagement ("Ignore the IAU! Dwarf planets are planets, too!" "Zero G is fun!" "Space exploration isn't just for nerds, geeks, and dorks!" Dialog on science and faith)

Professional History

Research Scientist, Planetary Science Institute, 2022-present. See research interests above.

CEO, Planex - Planetary Experience Consulting LLC, 2022-present. My company focused on public speaking, space edu-tourism, and scientific consulting for other companies. Note that all NASA grants are done through Planetary Science Institute, not Planex.

Senior Staff Scientist and Postdoctoral Associate, Johns Hopkins APL, 2017-2022. I'm proud of the work I got to do on missions and mission concepts, especially New Horizons, Interstellar Probe, and Neptune Odyssey. I pushed hard for the exploration of the ~130 dwarf planets beyond Neptune. 

PhD, Planetary Geology, Johns Hopkins University, 2017. Though I was a student at the main campus in Baltimore, I "embedded myself" in the planetary exploration group down the road in APL's planetary exploration group.

MS, Planetary Geology, Temple University, 2011. 

BA, Physics, Houghton College, 2008. I'm a terrible physicist (math is hard!), so I switched gears to geology following my physics undergrad. How many geologists are "phailed physicists?"

Honors and Awards

Houghton College Young Alumnus of the Year, 2018.

NASA Group Achievement Award, 2015, New Horizons.

Winning PI on NASA Lunar Data Analysis Program grant, “Lunar Impact Melt Deposit Stratigraphy,” Federal ID no. 80NSSC22K1338, awarded 2022.

Winning PI on NASA Solar System Workings grant, “Low-Gravity Assessment of Crater Ejecta Emplacement,” Federal ID no. 80NSSC21K0150, awarded 2020.

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