Professor Penelope King

Senior Fellow
ARC Future Fellow

Dr. Penny King's research group examines surface and interior processes on planetary bodies. The group aims to understand the fundamental aspects of how materials in the solar system behave. Knowing how materials behave under different conditions allows us to predict planetary environments (in the past and future) and to make better tools to explore our solar system, the deep Earth, and to understand climate change.  Dr. King has published over 60 papers and edited one book.

Professional Experience

  • ARC Future Fellow – Research School of Earth Sciences – Australian National University 2014-18

  • Fellow – Research School of Earth Sciences – Australian National University 2012-

  • Research Professor - Dept. Earth & Planetary Sciences - Univ. New Mexico (UNM) 2008-2012

  • Senior Research Scientist III – Inst. Meteoritics – UNM 2007-2011

  • Asst. & Assoc. Prof. (Tenured) – Dept. Earth Sciences – Univ. Western Ontario (UWO) 1999-2007

Visiting and adjunct positions

  • Adjunct Prof., Physics Dept.and Special Graduate Faculty, School of Env. Sci. – Uni. Guelph, Canada 2011-
  • Adjunct Research Professor – Dept. Earth Sciences – UWO, Canada 2007-12
  • Visiting Scholar – Dept. Earth & Planetary Sci., Univ. Tennessee, Knoxville – USA 2005
  • Visiting Assistant Professor – Dept. Geology – ASU – USA 1999
  • Adjunct Professor – Dept. Geology – Mesa Community College 1999


  • ARC Future Fellowship 2014-18
  • NASA Group Award: MSL (Mars Science Laboratory) APXS (alpha particle X-ray spectrometer) Instrument Development and Science Team 2013
  • Mineralogical Society of America Distinguished Lecturer 2005
  • Premier's Research Excellence Award (Ontario) 2002
  • Canada Foundation for Innovation (New Opp.) & Ontario Innovation Trust awards 2000

Research interests

Dr King's current research focuses on the origin and evolution of planetary surfaces; and the roles of volatiles, pH, and gases on minerals and melts/glasses at high and low temperatures.  She is particularly interested in the interface between volcanic and sedimentary rocks and the atmosphere.  Their group uses techniques in micro-analysis (especially infrared spectroscopy), performs high and low temperature experiments, and examines geology in the field.

Laboratory facilities

Available Projects

  • Evolution of the salts in the solar system
  • Development of new techniques using infrared spectroscopy to explore the solar system
  • Effect of temperature and gases on the mid-IR spectra of materials
  • Evaluating environmental conditions using low temperature minerals


  • Campbell, J.L., Perrett, G.M., Gellert, R., King, P.L., Nield, E., Pradler, I., in review.  Refinement of the Compton-Rayleigh scatter ratio method for use on the Mars Science Laboratory alpha particle X-ray spectrometer: II - Extraction of invisible element content. Nucl. Instr. Methods Phys. Res. B
  • Glibin, V.P. and King, P.L., 2015. Prediction of the thermodynamic functions of mixing of binary oxide melts in the PbO–SiO2, Al2O3–SiO2 and CaO–Al2O3 systems by structure-based modification of the quasi-chemical model, Calphad, 49, 19-34, doi:10.1016/j.calphad.2015.02.001.
  • Berger, J.A., King, P.L., Spilde, M.N., Wright, S.P., Kunkel, T.S., and Lee, R.J., 2015. Effect of halite coatings on thermal infrared spectra. Journal of Geophysical Research – Solid Earth, 120, doi: 10.1002/2014.JB011712.
  • Henley, R.W., King, P.L., Wykes, J.L., Renggli, C.J., Brink, F.J., Clark, D.A., Troitzsch, U., 2015. Formation of porphyry copper deposits through sustained SO2 flux and chemisorption.  Nature Geoscience, 8, 210-15. doi:10.1038/ngeo2367.
  • Bristow, T., Bish, D., Vaniman, D., Morris, R., Blake, D., Grotzinger, J., Rampe, E., Crisp, J., Achilles, C., Ming, D., Ehlmann, B., King, P.L., Bridges, J., Eigenbrode, J., Sumner, D., Chipera, S., Moorokian, J.M., Treiman, A., Morrison, S., Downs, R., Farmer, J., Des Marais, D., Sarrazin, P., Floyd, M., Mischna, M. and McAdam, A., 2015.  The origin and implications of clay minerals from Yellowknife Bay, Gale crater, Mars. American Mineralogist, 100, 824-36. doi: 10.2138/am-2015-5077CCBYNCND.
  • Lane, M.D., Bishop, J.L., Dyar, M.D., Hiroi, T., Mertzman, S.A., Bish, D.L., King, P.L., Rogers, A.D., 2015. Mid-infrared emission spectroscopy and visible/near-infrared reflectance spectroscopy of Fe-sulfate minerals. American Mineralogist,100, 66-82. doi: 10.2138/am-2015-4762
  • Newsom, H.E., Mangold, N., Kah, L.C., Williams, J., Arvidson, R.E., Stein, N., Ollila, A.M., Elston, W.E., Bridges, J., Schewenzer, S., King, P.L., Grant, J.A., Pinet, P., Bridges, N.T., Calef, F., Wiens, R.C., Vaniman, D.T., Berger, J., Garvin, J.B. & the MSL Science Team, 2015.  Gale crater and impact processes – observations during Curiosity’s first 360 Sols on Mars. Icarus, 249, 108-128. doi: 10.1016/j.icarus.2014.10.013
  • Blaney, D.L., Wiens, R.C., Maurice, S., Clegg, S.M., Anderson, R.B., Kah, L.C., Le Mouélic, S., Ollila, A., Bridges, N., Tokar, R., Berger, G., Bridges, J.C., Cousin, A., Clark, B., Dyar, M.D., King, P.L., Mangold, N., Meslin, P.-Y., Newsom, H.E.,  Schröder, S., Rowland, S., Johnson, J., Edgar, L., Gasnault, O., Forni, O., Schmidt, M., Goetz, W., Stack, K., Sumner, D., Fisk, M. and Madsen, M.B., 2014.  Chemistry and texture of the rocks at Rocknest, Gale Crater: Evidence for sedimentary origin and diagenetic alteration. Journal of Geophysical Research. DOI: 10.1002/2013JE004590.
  • Burne, R.V., Moore, L.S., Christy, A.G., Troitzsch, U., King, P.L., Carnerup, A.M. & Hamilton, J., 2014.  Stevensite in the modern thrombolites of Lake Clifton, Western Australia: A missing link in microbialite mineralization? Geology, doi: 10.1130/G35484.1

  • ​Berger, J.A., King, P.L., Gellert, R., Campbell, J.L., Boyd, N.I., Pradler, I., Perrett, G.M., Edgett, K.S., Schmidt, M.E., Lee, R.E.H., Van Bommel, S.J.V. and the MSL Science Team, 2014. MSL APXS titanium observation tray measurements: laboratory experiments and results for the Rocknest Fines at the Curiosity Field Site in Gale Crater, Mars. Journal of Geophysical Research – Planets. DOI: 10.1002/2013JE004519, Accepted 6/04/2014.

  • McLennan, S.M., 48 authors including King, P.L. and The MSL Team, 2013. Elemental Geochemistry of Sedimentary Rocks in Yellowknife Bay, Gale Crater, Mars. Science, doi:0.1126/science.1244734.

  • de Moor, J.M., Fischer, T.P., Sharp, Z.D., King, P.L., Wilke, M., Botcharnikov, R.E., Cottrell, E., Zelenski, M., Marty, B., Klimm, K., Rivard, C., Ayalew, D., Ramirez, C. and Kelley, K.A., 2013.  Sulfur degassing at Erta Ale (Ethiopia) and Masaya (Nicaragua) volcanoes: Implications for the degassing processes and oxygen fugacities of basaltic systems. Geochemistry, Geophysics, Geosystems, 14, doi: 10.1002/ggge.20255.

  • Stolper, E.M., 15 authors including King, P.L. and the MSL Science Team, 2013. The Petrochemistry of Jake_M: A Martian Mugearite. Science, 341, doi:10.1126/science.1239463

  • King, P.L. & Larsen, J.F., 2013. A new micro-reflectance IR spectroscopy method for analyzing volatile species in basaltic, andesitic, rhyolitic and phonolitic glasses. American Mineralogist, 98, 1162-1171.  Editor's pick: Notable paper

  • Lee, R.J., Ramsey, M.S. and King, P.L., 2013. Development of a novel laboratory technique for thermal emission spectroscopy of melts. Journal of Geophysical Research – Solid Earth, 118, 1–16, doi:10.1002/jgrb.50197.

  • de Moor, J.M., Fischer, T.P., King, P.L., Botcharnikov, R.E., Hervig, R.L., Hilton, D., Barry, P., Mangasini, F., Ramirez, C., 2013. Volatile-rich silicate melts from Oldoinyo Lengai volcano (Tanzania): implications for carbonatite genesis and eruptive behavior. Earth and Planetary Science Letters, 361, 379-390.

  • King, P.L, Sham, T.K., Gordon, R. & Dyar, M.D., 2013. Microbeam X-ray analysis of Ce3+/Ce4+ in Ti-rich minerals: A case study of titanite (sphene) with implications for multi-valent element substitution in minerals. American Mineralogist, 98, 110-119.

  • Vernazza, P., Delbo, M., King, P.L., Izawa, M.R.M., Olofsson, J., Lamy, P., Cipriani, F., Binzel, R.P., Marchis, F., Merín, B. and Tamanai, A., 2012. High surface porosity as the origin of emissivity features in asteroid spectra. Icarus, doi: 10.1016/j.icarus.2012.04.003.

  • Hyde, B.C., King, P.L, Dyar, M.D., Spilde, M.N. & Ali, A.-M.S., 2011. Methods to analyze metastable and microparticulate hydrated and hydrous iron sulfate minerals. American Mineralogist, 96, 1856-1869.

  • Izawa, M.R.M., Flemming, R.L., King, P.L., Peterson, R.C. & McCausland, P.J.A., 2010. Mineralogical and spectroscopic investigation of the Tagish Lake carbonaceous chondrite by X-ray diffraction and infrared reflectance spectroscopy. Meteoritics and Planetary Science, 45, 675-698, doi: 10/1111/j.1945-5100.2010.01043.x.

  • Izawa, M.R.M., King, P.L., Flemming, R.L., Peterson, R.C. & McCausland, P.J.A., 2010. Mineralogical and spectroscopic investigation of enstatite chondrites by X-ray diffraction and infrared reflectance spectroscopy. Journal of Geophysical Research – Planets, 115, doi:10.1029/2009JE003452.

  • Lee, R.J., King, P.L. & Ramsey, M. S., 2010. Analysis of synthetic quartzofeldspathic glasses using laboratory thermal infrared spectroscopy. Journal of Geophysical Research – Solid Earth, 115, B06202, doi:10.1029/2009JB006672.

  • Russell, S.D.J., Longstaffe, F.J., King, P.L. & Larson, T.E., 2010. The oxygen-isotope composition of isolated olivine and chondrules from the Tagish Lake carbonaceous chondrite, Geochimica et Cosmochimica Acta, 74, 2484–2499.

  • King, P.L. (invited) & McLennan, S.M., 2010. Sulfur on Mars. Elements, 6, 107-112, doi:10.2113/gselements.6.1.107.

  • Foster, I.S., King, P.L., Hyde, B.C. & Southam, G., 2010. Characterization of halophiles in natural MgSO4 salts and laboratory enrichment samples: Astrobiological implications for Mars. Planetary & Space Science, 58, 599–615.

  • Dufresne, C.D.M., King, P.L., Dyar, M.D. & Dalby, K.N., 2009, Effect of SiO2, total FeO, Fe3+/Fe2+, and alkali elements in basaltic glasses on mid-infrared spectra, American Mineralogist, 94, 1580-1590.

  • Lane, M.D., Bishop, J.L., Dyar, M.D., King, P.L., Parente, M. & Hyde, B.C., 2008. Mineralogy of the Paso Robles Soils on Mars. American Mineralogist, 93, 728-739.

  • Mongrain, J., Larsen, J.F. & King, P.L., 2008. Rapid H2O exsolution, gas loss, and bubble collapse observed experimentally in K-phonolite melts. Journal of Volcanology & Geothermal Research, doi: 10.1016/j.jvolgeores.2008.01.026.

  • Klimm, K., Holtz, F. & King, P.L., 2008. Fractionation vs. magma mixing in the Wangrah Suite A-type granites, Lachlan Fold Belt, Australia: experimental constraints. Lithos, 102, 415-434.

Professional activities

  • Associate Editor Geochimica et Cosmochimica Acta 2012-14
  • Contributing Editor Elements magazine, A Life in Science column 2012-
  • Science Co-Investigator Alpha-Particle X-ray Spectrometer, Mars Science Laboratory mission, 2007-
  • International Mars Exploration Program Analysis Group ESA-NASA Committee for Mars Sample Return Planning 2010-11
  • USA National Research Council Space Studies Board, Decadal Survey Panel 2009-10
  • Mineralogical Society America Councilor and awards committees 2008-11
  • Geochemical Society Goldschmidt Conference International Program Committee 2008
  • Association of Women in Science award adjudicator 2005-2009
  • Mineralogical Association Canada Councilor 2005-08; awards adjudicator 1999-2006
  • Geological Association Canada Conference co-organizer (initial) – Comparative Planetology 2006-07; Councilor – Volcanology & Igneous Petrology 2001-04; Award adjudicator 2002
  • Canadian Space Agency Member of the Space Exploration Advisory Committee and Meteorite & Impacts Advisory Committee
  • USA National Science Foundation – EAR Geochemistry & Petrology Panel
  • USA NASA – Planetary Geology & Geophysics Panel, Cosmochemistry Panel
  • Editor and Short Course Organizer: King, P.L., Ramsey, M. & Swayze, G. (eds.), 2004. Molecules to Planets: Infrared Spectroscopy in Geochemistry, Exploration Geochemistry and Remote Sensing.  Mineralogical Association of Canada, Short Course, 33, 284 p.

Student research accomplishments

Current teaching

Penny is currently teach the first semester, first year course The Blue Planet: An Introduction to Earth Systems Science – EMSC1006.  This course may also be taken at the postgraduate level: EMSC6107Blue Planet is a fun course!  It provides an introduction to Earth Systems Science, a new field of science that investigates how chemical, physical, and biological processes interact to shape and regulate Earth's environment. Students from both science and non-science backgrounds are welcome. In addition, this is a foundation course for students interested in or wanting to pursue earth, marine or water sciences.

She also teaches Special Topics and supervise Summer Research Scholars with recent projects including “Weathering of basalts”, “Reaction of marble with SO2”, “Formation of mineral crusts on aboriginal rock art” and “Alteration of ordinary chondrites”. 

Honours Students

  • Shannon McConachie Thermal (mid-) infrared laboratory studies of materials found in meteorites
  • Rachel Kirby Investigating Silicate Inclusions in the Miles IIE Iron Meteorite
  • Leo Pure The Application and Calibration of Infrared Geothermometry in Basaltic Glasses