Department of planetary Sciences
Planetary Science Institute
Hansen graduated from Carleton College; she earned an M.S. from the University of Montana, and PhD from UCLA. She served as assistant to full Professor at Southern Methodist University before moving to the University of Minnesota Duluth where she is the McKnight Presidential Endowed Professor of Earth and Planetary Sciences. Hansen participated in field-based research with the USGS in Alaska, Arizona, California and Washington. She has also conducted field work in Antarctica, Australia, Minnesota, and Yukon, and she has conduct ‘remote’ field studies across much of Venus.
Dr. Hansen is a global geologist interested in the dynamic evolution of planets; her work focuses on Earth and Venus, but draws on studies of Moon, Mars, Mercury, and Jupiter’s and Saturn’s moons with the goal of gaining insight into large-scale tectonic processes of planetary bodies. Hansen’s recent interests focus on the geologic and tectonic processes of the Archean Earth, including formation of granite-greenstone belts and Earth’s continents, and the geological and geodynamic evolution of Earth’s sister planet Venus. Specific topics on Venus include: crustal plateau formation, deformation belt formation, coronae evolution, circular low formation, Venus evolution, lowland processes, Artemis superplume development, the formation of Ishtar Terra, tessera-terrain evolution, and mechanisms of heat global transfer. Hansen’s Venus research is ‘field-based’ in that her investigations are rooted in regional relations gleaned from detailed geologic mapping and structural analysis of the Venusian surface. This approach follows on Hansen’s training as a boots-on-the-ground geologist, in which the rock record forms the foundation. On Venus, Hansen employs NASA Magellan Mission data, with the goal to develop a comprehensive understanding of the global evolution of Venus through time. Venus preserves a unique and critical record of geodynamic processes through time that is, overall, a more complete geologic surface record than on Earth. Despite being similar in size, density, bulk composition, and distance from the Sun, Earth’s sister Venus never developed plate tectonics or a global water cycle. Today these siblings are extremely different but, like sisters, they were likely similar during their early years. Hansen’s research explores Earth and Venus in a powerful compare and contrast, using Venus’ geologic record to potentially fill in missing gaps in Earth’s early history; and using our rich understanding to Earth's geodynamic processes as clues to understand Venus. Discovery of the nature of once active but now extinct tectonic processes that shaped Venus provides insight about operative processes during early Earth evolution.