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Kirby Runyon

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Planetary Geomorphologist
  • PhD, Planetary Geology
    2017, Johns Hopkins University
  • MS, Planetary Geology
    2011, Temple University
  • BA, Physics
    2008, Houghton College

As a planetary geomorphologist, I seek to understand the evolution of planetary landscapes and the associated near-surface processes. I mainly accomplish this through analysis of remote sensing imagery and laboratory experiments. Recent key areas of focus are in quantifying the movement of aeolian bedforms on Mars using repeat orbital imagery; constraining ejecta-regolith interactions through large-scale laboratory experiments; analysis of sand grain movement on Titan through wind tunnel experiments; and constraining the lunar stratigraphic timescale with high resolution orbital imagery.

I am a science team affiliate on the New Horizons mission to Pluto, Charon, and the Kuiper Belt and a science team collaborator on the HiRISE (High Resolution Imaging Science Experiment) camera currently in orbit around Mars. I recently (summer, 2020) completed my role as project scientist for a mission concept to send an orbiter to Neptune, and I am the planetary science working group lead for the Interstellar Probe mission concept.

I am also interested in the ways in which future astronauts would enable planetary surface field geology on the Moon, asteroids, and Mars, and toward this end am interested in field geology research in analog terrestrial environments.

Notable Awards and Leadership

Year(s) Description
2018 Houghton College Young Alumnus of the Year
2016 NASA New Horizons Group Achievement Award
2013-2017 APL Graduate Student Fellowship Award

Scholarly Publications

Venus Exploration in the New Human Spaceflight Age

Acta Astronautica, 2021
Noam R. Izenberg, Jr. Ralph L. McNutt, Kirby D. Runyon, Paul K. Byrne, Alexander MacDonald, (2021), Venus Exploration in the New Human Spaceflight Age, Acta Astronautica , 180, 100--104, https://doi.org/10.1016/j.actaastro.2020.12.020

Interstellar Probe: A Mission to the Heliospheric Boundary and Interstellar Medium for the Next Decade

2021

Landslides on Charon

Icarus, 2020
Chloe B. Beddingfield, Ross A. Beyer, Kelsi N. Singer, William B. McKinnon, Kirby Runyon, Will Grundy, S. Alan Stern, Veronica Bray, Rajani Dhingra, Jeffrey M. Moore, K. Ennico, C.B. Olkin, Paul Schenk, John R. Spencer, H.A. Weaver, L.A. Young, (2020), Landslides on Charon, Icarus , 335, 113383, https://doi.org/10.1016/j.icarus.2019.07.017

Impact Melt Facies in the Moon's Crisium Basin: Identifying, Characterizing, and Future Radiogenic Dating

Journal of Geophysical Research: Planets, 2020
K. D. Runyon, III D. P. Moriarty, B. W. Denevi, B. T. Greenhagen, G. Morgan, K. E. Young, B. A. Cohen, C. H. Bogert, H. Hiesinger, L. M. Jozwiak, (2020), Impact Melt Facies in the Moon's Crisium Basin: Identifying, Characterizing, and Future Radiogenic Dating, Journal of Geophysical Research: Planets , 125, 1, https://doi.org/10.1029/2019je006024

Interstellar Probe: Pushing the Frontier of Space Science

2020
Pontus Brandt, Kathleen Mandt, Elena Provoronikova, Casey Lisse, Kirby Runyon, Abigail Rymer, Ralph McNutt, Michael Paul, (2020), Interstellar Probe: Pushing the Frontier of Space Science , https://doi.org/10.5194/egusphere-egu2020-19605

Magnetospheric Studies: A Requirement for Addressing Interdisciplinary Mysteries in the Ice Giant Systems

Space Science Reviews, 2020
Kollmann, P., Cohen, I., Allen, R. C., Clark, G., Roussos, E., Vines, S., ... & Cartwright, R. (2020). Magnetospheric Studies: A Requirement for Addressing Interdisciplinary Mysteries in the Ice Giant Systems. Space Science Reviews, 216(5), 1-26. http://dx.doi.org/10.1007/s11214-020-00696-5.

Pluto's Far Side

Icarus, 2020
Stern, S. A., White, O. L., McGovern, P. J., Keane, J. T., Conrad, J. W., Bierson, C. J., ... & Moore, J. M. (2020). Pluto's far side. Icarus, 113805. http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.icarus.2020.113805

Craters as sand traps: Dynamics, history, and morphology of modern sand transport in an active martian dune field

Icarus, 2020
Roback, K. P., Runyon, K. D., & Avouac, J. P. (2020). Craters as sand traps: Dynamics, history, and morphology of modern sand transport in an active martian dune field. Icarus, 113642. http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.icarus.2020.113642

Reconstruction of the sand transport pathways and provenance in Moreux crater, Mars

Planetary and Space Science, 2020
Cardinale, M., Pozzobon, R., Tangari, A. C., Runyon, K., Di Primio, M., & Marinangeli, L. (2020). Reconstruction of the sand transport pathways and provenance in Moreux crater, Mars. Planetary and Space Science, 181, 104788.

Exploring Trans-Neptunian Objects with Interstellar Probe

2020

Interstellar Probe: Humanity's Journey Into Interstellar Space Begins

2020

The reclassification of asteroids from planets to non-planets

Icarus, 2019
Philip T. Metzger, Mark V. Sykes, Alan Stern, Kirby Runyon, (2019), The reclassification of asteroids from planets to non-planets, Icarus , 319, 21--32, https://doi.org/10.1016/j.icarus.2018.08.026

The nature and origin of Charon's smooth plains

2019
Beyer, R. A., Spencer, J. R., McKinnon, W. B., Nimmo, F., Beddingfield, C., Grundy, W. M., ... & Robbins, S. (2019). The nature and origin of Charon's smooth plains. Icarus, 323, 16-32.

Prebiotic Chemistry of Pluto

Astrobiology, 2019
Cruikshank, D. P., Materese, C. K., Pendleton, Y. J., Boston, P. J., Grundy, W. M., Schmitt, B., ... & Summers, M. E. (2019). Prebiotic chemistry of Pluto. Astrobiology, 19(7), 831-848.

Recent cryovolcanism in Virgil Fossae on Pluto

Icarus, 2019
Cruikshank, D. P., Umurhan, O. M., Beyer, R. A., Schmitt, B., Keane, J. T., Runyon, K. D., ... & McKinnon, W. B. (2019). Recent cryovolcanism in Virgil Fossae on Pluto. Icarus, 330, 155-168.

Investigation of Charon's Craters With Abrupt Terminus Ejecta, Comparisons With Other Icy Bodies, and Formation Implications

Journal of Geophysical Research: Planets, 2018
Stuart J. Robbins, Kirby Runyon, Kelsi N. Singer, Veronica J. Bray, Ross A. Beyer, Paul Schenk, William B. McKinnon, William M. Grundy, Francis Nimmo, Jeffrey M. Moore, John R. Spencer, Oliver L. White, Richard P. Binzel, Marc W. Buie, Bonnie J. Buratti, Andrew F. Cheng, Ivan R. Linscott, Harold J. Reitsema, Dennis C. Reuter, Mark R. Showalter, G. Len Tyler, Leslie A. Young, Catherine B. Olkin, Kimberly S. Ennico, Harold A. Weaver, S. Alan Stern, (2018), Investigation of Charon's Craters With Abrupt Terminus Ejecta, Comparisons With Other Icy Bodies, and Formation Implications, Journal of Geophysical Research: Planets , 123, 1, 20--36, https://doi.org/10.1002/2017je005287

Preliminary laboratory investigations of ejecta emplacement dynamics and morphology with planetary applications

Planetary and Space Science, 2018
Kirby D. Runyon, Olivier S. Barnouin, (2018), Preliminary laboratory investigations of ejecta emplacement dynamics and morphology with planetary applications, Planetary and Space Science, 160, 39--55, https://doi.org/10.1016/j.pss.2018.03.014

Dunes on Pluto

Science, 2018
Matt W. Telfer, Eric J. R. Parteli, Jani Radebaugh, Ross A. Beyer, Tanguy Bertrand, François Forget, Francis Nimmo, Will M. Grundy, Jeffrey M. Moore, S. Alan Stern, John Spencer, Tod R. Lauer, Alissa M. Earle, Richard P. Binzel, Hal A. Weaver, Cathy B. Olkin, Leslie A. Young, Kimberly Ennico, Kirby Runyon, The New Horizons Geology, Geophysics and Imaging Science Theme Team‡, (2018), Dunes on Pluto, Science, 360, 6392, 992--997, https://doi.org/10.1126/science.aao2975

Patterns in Mobility and Modification of Middle- and High-Latitude Southern Hemisphere Dunes on Mars

Journal of Geophysical Research: Planets, 2018
Maria E. Banks, Lori K. Fenton, Nathan T. Bridges, Paul E. Geissler, Matthew Chojnacki, Kirby D. Runyon, Simone Silvestro, James R. Zimbelman, (2018), Patterns in Mobility and Modification of Middle- and High-Latitude Southern Hemisphere Dunes on Mars, Journal of Geophysical Research: Planets , 123, 12, 3205--3219, https://doi.org/10.1029/2018je005747

An integrated model for dune morphology and sand fluxes on Mars

Earth and Planetary Science Letters, 2017
K.D. Runyon, N.T. Bridges, F. Ayoub, C.E. Newman, J.J. Quade, (2017), An integrated model for dune morphology and sand fluxes on Mars, Earth and Planetary Science Letters , 457, 204--212, https://doi.org/10.1016/j.epsl.2016.09.054

Craters of the Pluto-Charon system

2017
Robbins, S. J., Singer, K. N., Bray, V. J., Schenk, P., Lauer, T. R., Weaver, H. A., ... & White, O. L. (2017). Craters of the Pluto-Charon system. Icarus, 287, 187-206.

Martian sand sheet characterization and implications for formation: A case study

2017
Runyon, K. D., Bridges, N. T., & Newman, C. E. (2017). Martian sand sheet characterization and implications for formation: A case study. Aeolian research, 29, 1-11.

The Pluto system: Initial results from its exploration by New Horizons

2015
Stern, S. A., Bagenal, F., Ennico, K., Gladstone, G. R., Grundy, W. M., McKinnon, W. B., ... & Young, L. A. (2015). The Pluto system: Initial results from its exploration by New Horizons. Science, 350(6258), aad1815.

High-priority lunar landing sites for in situ and sample return studies of polar volatiles

Planetary and Space Science, 2014
Lemelin, M., Blair, D. M., Roberts, C. E., Runyon, K. D., Nowka, D., & Kring, D. A. (2014). High-priority lunar landing sites for in situ and sample return studies of polar volatiles. Planetary and Space Science, 101, 149-161.