Dr. Robert R. Herrick

Research Professor

Geophysical Institute, University of Alaska Fairbanks, 2156 Koyukuk Dr., Fairbanks, Alaska 99775-7320

Phone: 907-474-6445

Email: rrherrick@alaska.edu


Professional background


  • Ph.D. Geophysics, Southern Methodist University, 1993
  • M.S. Geophysics, University of Houston, 1988
  • B.S. Geophysics, Texas A & M, 1985
  • B.S. Physics, Texas A & M, 1985


  • July, 2004 - present: Research Professor, Geophysical Institute, University of Alaska Fairbanks
  • 1993 - 2004: Staff Scientist at the Lunar and Planetary Institute (LPI), Houston
  • 1989 - 1992: Teaching and research assistant at SMU, Dallas
  • 1985 - 1988: Senior Geophysicist at Exxon, Houston

Primary Research Interests

Relationship of interior processes to surface geology

Most of my work in this area has focused on the planet Venus. I like to combine imagery, topography, and geoid data to try and understand the big picture of how interior processes shape the surface now and over time. Past projects in this topic area have included examining the global relationships on Venus between the patterns of the geoid, rift systems, large shield volcanoes, coronae, and tesserae; exploring the "life cycle" of large shield volcanoes on Venus; and examining the global pattern of impact craters on Venus and how they are resurfaced by subsequent volcanism.

Impact cratering

Impact craters occur throughout the solar system; for most solid bodies cratering is the dominant geologic process. Many aspects of the mechanics of the crateringprocess are poorly understood, in part because a large impact on a solid body has never been observed. One of my research areas is to compare and contrast impact craters on the various planets and moons, essentially using them to study the effects of different surface gravities, target properties, and the presence or absence of an atmosphere. I also have an interest in impact structures on Earth. These structures provide unique insights about the cratering process that cannot be gained by observing planetary craters from orbit. I enjoy opportunities to see these structures in person and on a few occasions have conducted geologic and geophysical field studies of them.

Selected Publications

  • Herrick, R. R., and B. M. Hynek, Investigating target versus impactor influences on Martian crater morphology at the simple-complex transition, Meteoritics and Planetary Science, 52, 1722-1743, 2017.
  • Herrick, R. R., D. L. Stahlke, and V. L. Sharpton, Fine-scale Venusian topography from Magellan stereo data, EOS, 93, 125-126, 2012.
  • Herrick, R. R., and M. E. Rumpf, Postimpact modification by volcanic or tectonic processes as the rule, not the exception, for Venusian craters, J. Geophys. Res 116, E02004, doi:10.1029/2010JE003722, 2011.
  • Herrick, R. R., and K. K. Hessen, The planforms of low-angle impact craters in the northern hemisphere of Mars , Meteoritics and Planetary Science, 41, 1483-1495, 2006.
  • Herrick, R. R., J. Dufek, and P. J. McGovern, Evolution of large shield volcanoes on Venus, J. Geophys. Res., 110 , E01002, doi:10.1029/2004JE002283, 2005.

Click here for complete list

Outreach & Education

I strongly feel that every scientist should spend some effort communicating their work to the general public and working to improve general science literacy (the citizenry does pay our salaries, after all). I personally find outreach to be a challenging and rewarding task. Over the years I was very involved in the planning and development of LPI's outreach program, and I was manager of the E/PO department for a year. I have guest-lectured about the planets to a wide variety of groups and age ranges, and sometimes the youngest people ask the most insightful questions.

I currently oversee UAF?s contribution to a major outreach effort led by Goddard Space Flight Center called the Space Science Education Consortium. One of our primary contributions is to set up live broadcasting of the launches at Poker Flat Research Range (details at their Facebook page). I also developed an ongoing program to take a digital portable planetarium around the state to share astronomy and planetary science with rural Alaskan communities. Details of the program are available here.

Occasionally I teach a course at UAF. Materials from a graduate course on planetary remote sensing are here, and materials from an undergraduate course on the solar system are here.

I have also taught courses on the solar system as adjunct faculty at University of Houston - Clear Lake, Universidad Nacional Autonoma de Mexico (UNAM), and Rice. Materials from the sophomore-level course on the solar system that I taught at Rice can be found here.

In the course of my research I developed some software for viewing stereo pairs and selecting match points. The software works with IDL and is available here.



I married my wife Keiko, in 2009, and we had a son, Griffin, in 2013.

Houston to Fairbanks bike ride

To make the move from Houston to Alaska a little more interesting I decided to ride up by bicycle. The trip took 79 days. I took a laptop with me and posted a journal on the web while I was riding up. If you'd like to check that out, go here.


Sports are my primary hobby. I was a swimmer in high school and swam at Masters (old people) meets for several years. Swimming is the only sport I'm really good at, but I'll play almost anything and get into a new sport every few years or so. Over the years I have participated competitively at some level in triathlons (I've done one Ironman), running (three marathons), cycling, swimming, softball, tennis, volleyball, soccer, sculling, kayaking, bowling, and racquetball. I also like hiking, alpine and nordic skiing, snowboarding, and anything that can be done in or on the water.

last updated 23 January 2018 (but some parts are still out of date)