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Tanya Harrison - Arizona State University. Toronto, ON, CA

Tanya Harrison Tanya Harrison

Research Scientist, School of Earth and Space Exploration | Arizona State University

Toronto, ON, CANADA

Professional Martian working on rocks and robots on the Red Planet.





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Tanya Harrison is a Research Scientist with the Space Technology and Science ("NewSpace") Initiative at Arizona State University, where she works on commercial space projects and martian geomorphology research. She is also a Science Team Collaborator on the Mars Exploration Rover (MER) Opportunity.

Tanya received her Ph.D. in Geology with a specialization in Planetary Science and Exploration from the University of Western Ontario's Centre for Planetary Science and Space Exploration (CPSX). From 2008 until 2012, she was on the science operations team for NASA’s Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter (MRO) Context Camera (CTX) and Mars Color Imager (MARCI) at Malin Space Science Systems (MSSS). She was also a science team collaborator for the Mars Science Laboratory (MSL) rover Mast Cameras (Mastcam), Mars Hand Lens Imager (MAHLI), and Mars Descent Imager (MARDI). While this work was exciting, she made the decision after 4 years to return to graduate school and get her Ph.D.

She holds a B.Sc. in Astronomy and Physics from the University of Washington, and a Masters in Earth and Environmental Sciences from Wesleyan University. Her work in astronomy has involved cooling mechanisms of interstellar dust clouds, diffuse interstellar bands, the metallicity of the old, metal-rich cluster NGC 6791, and the metallicity and lithium abundances of the recurrent novae T Coronae Borealis and RS Ophiuchi.

Tanya has also been active in education and public outreach, getting involved with organizations such as The Planetary Society, Expanding Your Horizons, Girl Scouts, Norwescon, The Mars Society, and The National Space Society.

In her spare time, Tanya is a professional photographer and the owner/photographer behind Station Toronto.

Industry Expertise (1)


Areas of Expertise (12)


Space Exploration

Mission Operations


Remote Sensing




Women in Science

Women in Science and Engineering

Women in STEM

Women in STEM Careers

Accomplishments (13)

Geological Society of America Paul Pellas-Ryder Award (professional)


Award given for the best student paper in planetary science published in 2015

Amelia Earhart Fellowship (professional)

2014 and 2015; Ph.D. fellowship for women in aerospace fields (2-time awardee)

Geological Society of America On to the Future Award (professional)


University of Western Ontario Research Western Award (professional)


Vanier Canada Graduate Scholarship (professional)

2014; Canada's most prestigious doctoral scholarship

NASA Group Achievement Award (professional)

2013; Presented to the Mars Science Laboratory Mast Camera, Mars Hand Lens Imager, and Mars Descent Imager instruments team

Lunar and Planetary Institute Career Development Award (professional)


NSERC CREATE Technologies and Techniques for Space Exploration Ph.D. Fellowship (professional)


NSERC CREATE Canadian Astrobiology Training Program Ph.D. Fellowship (professional)


University of Western Ontario Graduate Research Scholarship (professional)


NASA Group Achievement Award (professional)

2011; Presented to the Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter Context Camera and Mars Color Imager science team

NASA Connecticut Space Grant Scholar (professional)


Washington Promise Scholar (professional)


Education (3)

University of Western Ontario: Ph.D., Geology (specialization in Planetary Science and Exploration) 2016

Wesleyan University: Master of Arts, Earth and Environmental Sciences 2008

University of Washington: Bachelor of Science, Astronomy and Physics (Dual Major) 2006

Affiliations (3)

  • Web Editor Intern, The Planetary Society
  • Owner, Tanya Harrison Photography
  • Owner, Station Toronto

Languages (1)

  • English

Media Appearances (33)

Why do Earthlings care so much about Mars?

The Globe and Mail  print


Appeared in both the print and online Globe and Mail outlets.

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Can We Really Colonize Mars?

Techdirt  online


Elon Musk got plenty of attention recently for announcing his plans to colonize Mars. But that's not exactly a new idea—so we wondered if it was really a different, exciting and realistic plan, or just a reiteration of the standard far-flung dream. To answer that question, we brought in three experts: Amy Shira Teitel (a space and flight historian and creator of YouTube's Vintage Space videos), JPL's Fred Calef (a Mars geologist and "keeper of the maps" for Mars rovers), and the New Space Initiative's Tanya Harrison (who worked on Curiosity and several other Mars missions). The result was a fascinating discussion about Mars and whether or not we're actually headed there any time soon.

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Gullies on Mars

WeMartians  online


Increasingly, Mars is appearing to us as a living, breathing world with dynamic features. One such feature that has captivated planetary scientists around the world is the occurrence of Martian Gullies, channels carved into the surface as if by water, in a world where flowing water is not exactly common. We talk with Tanya Harrison, a planetary scientist and geologist from the University of Western Ontario. She tells us all about gullies on Mars, how they might be formed, and what scientists are doing about it to learn more in the search for life on Mars.

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Live Interview about Mars

AM650 CKOM  radio


Not available online

Children of This Universe

Western Worlds (University of Western Ontario)  radio


Co-host Alyssa Gilbert talks to Tanya Harrison of Western University. Join co-hosts Raymond Francis, Alyssa Gilbert, Zhengyi Hu and Parshati Patel in the round table discussion after the interview.

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Will the real culprit behind Mars' gullies please stand up?

Astronomy Magazine  online


A NASA press release recently suggested Mars' gullies were formed solely by carbon dioxide. The truth is much murkier.

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LPSC 2016: Martian Geomorphology

The Planetary Society  online


Scientists showcased a wide range of features and processes on Mars' surface at this year's Lunar and Planetary Science Conference.

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A Workhorse at Mars

The Planetary Society  online


The Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter (MRO) Context Camera (CTX) is almost a silent star at Mars. The latest MRO data release brought the total number of available CTX images to over 70,000, covering well over 90% of the Red Planet at a stunning resolution of 6 meters per pixel.

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Help Map Mars' South Polar Region!

The Planetary Society  online


The science team of NASA's Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter wants your help in mapping out the weird and wonderful features of Mars' south polar region!

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Canadian Mars Analogue Mission: Field Report, Week 2

The Planetary Society  online


Tanya Harrison wraps up the final week of Mars sample return analogue mission operations at the Canadian Space Agency.

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Canadian Mars Analogue Mission: Field Report, Week 1

The Planetary Society  online


Tanya Harrison reports on Canada's efforts to simulate a Mars sample return mission here on Earth.

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MAVEN Launches!

The Planetary Society  online


MAVEN launched flawlessly and pretty much exactly on schedule. Congratulations to NASA, the MAVEN team, and United Launch Alliance for a picture perfect launch!

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MAVEN NASA Social: Day 2

The Planetary Society  online


Bright and early this morning, we NASA Social folks met at the Kennedy Space Center Visitors Complex for a tour of the space shuttle Atlantis. This is the first shuttle I've seen in person, and it was a stunning sight to see.

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MAVEN NASA Social: Day 1

The Planetary Society  online


I am at the MAVEN launch at Kennedy Space Center for a "NASA Social" event. These events are geared towards space enthusiasts of all backgrounds who are active on social media to increase public awareness and excitement about NASA.

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CTX and MARCI—The OTHER Cameras on Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter

The Planetary Society  online


"What?" you might say, "There are cameras other than HiRISE?" Yes indeed, there are. There are two other cameras aboard MRO: the Context Camera (CTX) and Mars Color Imager (MARCI).

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Tanya Harrison: Being proactive helps you stand out from the crowd

Women in Planetary Science  online


Tanya Harrison discusses her career path in planetary science.

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How Mars 2020 Became The Last Defense Of The Martian Past

NOW.Space  online


Interview with Tanya Harrison about the Mars 2020 rover landing site selection process.

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Tanya Of Mars Gets Real About Rocks, Research, And Women In STEM

NOW.Space  online


Shannon Stirone
Dr. Tanya Harrison, also known on Twitter as “Tanya of Mars,” lists herself as a professional Martian, and she sort of is in a way. Tanya is a planetary scientist currently studying the changing geological features on the surface of Mars. She’s also working at Arizona State University’s NewSpace Initiative, a program designed to help budding commercial space companies learn how to explore the solar system. At ASU NewSpace, Tanya works with lead investigator Jim Bell, consulting on prospective space missions to the Moon and of course, Mars.

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Powerful #GirlsWithToys Campaign Proves Once And For All That Women Have A Place In STEM

The Huffington Post  online


Here’s yet another reminder that women totally kick ass in any field they want.

Shrinivas Kulkarni, astronomy and planetary science professor at the California Institute of Technology, was featured in an interview with NPR on Saturday. While speaking on astronomers, the professor said, “many scientists ... are what I call ‘boys with toys.’ I really like playing around with telescopes. It’s just not fashionable to admit it.”

The comment, which failed to acknowledge his female counterparts in the field, didn’t go unnoticed. Women took to the Internet to remind Kulkarni that “boys” aren’t the only ones in STEM. Using the #girlswithtoys hashtag, female scientists and engineers shared pictures of themselves or others with tools and equipment.

Some posed next to rovers, while others took selfies with their lab equipment. A few were pictured next to some “toys” that were a little beyond our understanding.

The #girlswithtoys campaign is stunning, powerful and will make you want to bust out the Bunsen burner.

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13 Things That Prove You Shouldn’t Mess With Women In Science

Buzzfeed  online


A response to the #girlswithtoys Twitter movement.

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The Canadian Women Who Rule The #GirlsWithToys World

The Huffington Post  online


In the highly reactive world of the Internet, it's easy for outrage to overtake education. But every once in a while, something sparks a social movement that makes you feel like you're really learning something. And if you start looking through the hashtag #girlswithtoys, it's impossible not to come away inspired.

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Female scientists spark #GirlsWithToys campaign to highlight STEM careers & combat gender stereotypes

Inhabitots  online


You don’t mess with women in science. Someday, people will learn that. In an interview with NPR that took place earlier this month, Caltech astronomer Shrinivas Kulkarni made a casual comment that scientists are “boys with toys,” and that notion has gotten the attention of many women working in fields of science and engineering. Within just a few days, the hashtag #GirlsWithToys was trending on Twitter, featuring female scientists, engineers, astronomers, and the like showing off the “toys” they use to perform amazing feats of science.

Here, Tanya Harrison shows off her toys, tweeting: "I play with Mars rovers. #girlswithtoys"

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Women around the world prove science isn't just for 'boys with toys'

Mashable  online


Female scientists have joined together to disprove one astronomer's thesis: science is just "boys with toys."

Shrinivas Kulkarni, an astronomer who teaches astrophysics at the California Institute of Technology, made waves this weekend after he was quoted by NPR as saying, "Many scientists, I think, secretly are what I call 'boys with toys.'"

That casual remark, included in an otherwise unremarkable interview, quickly set off a powerful reaction from women (and men) in the science community who took to Twitter to highlight how tone deaf it is to continue talking as though women have no role in the field.

Using the hashtag #girlswithtoys, scientists from around the world shared dozens of images of women "playing" with microscopes, telescopes, Mars rovers, water pumps and more.

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Astronomer calls scientists “boys with toys,” gets schooled by the Internet

New York Times  online


“Many scientists, I think, secretly are what I call ‘boys with toys’.” Astronomer and Cal Tech professor Shrinivas Kulkarni probably had no idea what an Internet firestorm he started with an off-the-cuff remark during an NPR interview on Saturday. While his remarks were probably not ill-intentioned, they served as a reminder of the difficulties women face in STEM fields, and how their achievements and contributions are often casually ignored or dismissed. So Twitter decided to teach the professor a friendly lesson. Using the hashtag #GirlsWithToys, female scientists across the globe tweeted photos of themselves with their “toys” – i.e., the incredible scientific equipment they helped develop or operate every day.

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#GirlsWithToys Celebrates Women In STEM Fields, Sharing Stories Of Ladies Who Slay At Science

Bustle  online


There have been a lot of strides for women in STEM fields in the last decade. I get to see it all the time in my computer wizard sister, who not only codes for a living, but was fully operational on the desktop computer before she could speak in full sentences. But girls who were not as fortunate to have support in their calling need all the encouragement they can get, which is why the trending hashtag #GirlsWithToys is so important. Its aim is to fire back at the notion of male scientists as "boys with toys," and celebrate the women with successful STEM careers as well.

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#girlswithtoys: women remind Twitter they are scientists too

Wired  online


Female scientists from all over the world have taken to Twitter to post pictures of themselves with tools and equipment from their workplaces alongside the hashtag #girlswithtoys. The pictures are being posted in response to an unfortunate, off-the-cuff comment made by CalTech professor Shrinivas Kulkarni during an NPR interview. "Many scientists, I think, secretly are what I call 'boys with toys'," said Kulkarni, a professor of astronomy and planetary science. While the comment was a blunder by Kulkarni rather than a targeted attack, for many it also exposes the ingrained sexism that goes unacknowledged in the science and technology industries. If nothing else it perpetuated the myth that science and tech are men's pursuits.

To remind Kulkarni and the rest of the world that scientists are not just "boys with toys", however, the female scientists of Twitter struck back using the #girlswithtoys hashtag as their calling card. The resulting slew of pictures serves as a reminder of the role women are playing in science and technology, but also provides an insight into some of the awesome toys they do get to play with.

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Western University preps for Mars

CHCH News  tv


Next month NASA will start taking applications for astronauts looking to be the first to set foot on the planet Mars. Meanwhile, a joint program between the Canadian space agency and Western University has made London Ontario ‘Mission Control’ for a simulated mission to the red planet.

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Proof! Bio Station Alpha is Just an Image Artifact

Universe Today  online


It’s time for another episode of “Conspiracy Theory of the Week.” This one involves a supposed secret space station on Mars. The You Tube video showing “Bio Station Alpha” went viral and was even reported on some mainstream media outlets. The station is supposedly a 700 ft x 150 ft structure on Mars and by some accounts is colored white with blue and red stripes. It was found on Google Mars by an “armchair astronaut” and breathless conspiracy bloggers have touted this as the most important discovery on Mars yet, and “proof!” that NASA is hiding their activities. In reality, this is not a space station, a Mars base or any type of structure – created or natural — on the surface of the Red Planet.

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17 Amazing Reasons to Why We Should Be Excited About Space

Brown Spaceman  online


What NASA or space project are you most excited about and why?

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Ofte var jeg den eneste jenta på tech-treff og fikk spørsmål om jeg var "kjæresten til noen"  online


Interview about the #girlswithtoys movement, published in Norwegian

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Gullies on the Wall of an Unnamed Crater in Utopia Planitia

University of Arizona  online


Mars captioned image release

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Students controlling practice space mission

106.9 The X  online


A group of students from across the country ran a Mars rover simulation mission at Western University. Made up of 35 students, ranging from undergraduates to Post Doctoral Fellows contributed to the analogue mission.

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Vanier celebrates the nation’s finest

University of Western Ontario  online


Seven Western graduate students have been named among 166 nationwide recipients of the Vanier Canada Graduate Scholarship, each receiving $50,000 annually for up to three years. Vanier scholars are selected based on leadership skills and high standard of scholarly achievement in the social sciences, humanities, natural sciences, engineering and/or health sciences.

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Event Appearances (11)

Invited Talk

Lucasfilm  San Francisco, CA


Invited Talk

Planet  San Francisco, CA


Keynote Speaker

Students for the Exploration and Development of Space (SEDS) Canada Ascension  London, ON, Canada


Invited Talk

Zonta International Meeting  Stratford, ON, Canada


Invited Speaker

University of Western Ontario Staff and Leaders Conference  London, ON, Canada


Invited Speaker

Royal Astronomical Society of Canada (RASC) Meeting  London, ON, Canada


Invited Speaker

University of Western Ontario Curiosity Rover Landing Event  London, ON, Canada


Invited Speaker

San Diego Astronomy Association Meeting  San Diego, CA


Invited Speaker

CascadiaCon  Seattle, WA


Invited Speaker

VikingCon  Bellingham, WA


Invited Panelist

Norwescon 22  Seattle, WA