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Dr Alex Barrett

Profile summary

Professional biography

I have primarily worked on planetary science research, with a few stints as a science writer.

I studied interdisciplinary environmental science at undergraduate and masters level, completing degrees at Lancaster University finishing in 2010. The focus of my undergraduate and masters research was on landscape geomorphology, planetary science, and volcanology. This involved both remote sensing and analogue experiments. 

I studied for a Ph.D. at the Open University between 2010 and 2014. This project involved a mixture of field, laboratory and remote senisng work, aimed at constrainign the distribution or possible periglacial landforms on the martian northern plains. HiRISE images were used to survey the martian northern plains, and landforms of interest were compared to terrestrial analogues. I made use of Structure from Motion photogrametry to document comparable field sites in iceland during two field campaigns in 2012 and 2013. 

Since 2017 I have been working on and off on several OU projects, including further research into martian cold climate analogues, use of Structure from Motion, and since 2018 Machine Learning. 

Throughout 2018 I compiled and labelled training data for the NOAH-H (Novelty or Anomaly Hunter - HiRISE) project to classify the ExoMars landing site in Arabia Terra, Mars. Further analysis work on this project is ongoing. This then led into the NOAH-L (LROC) project aimed at applying the same techniques to detecting impact melt around young lunar craters. I have been working full time on this project since the start of 2020. 

Research interests

I am a planetary Geomorphologist with a background in interdisciplinary environmental science. I am interested in using remote sensing techniques to understand the geomorphology of the moon and Mars, and  what this tells us about the past and present environments on those worlds. My Ph.D. research involved identifying periglacial landscapes on Mars, by means of remote sensing, field, and laboratory work. I have studied how terrestrial cold climate environments can serve as analogues to inform our understanding of Mars, and interpret satelite images of other worlds. 

The current focus of my research is on the intersection between Machine Learning and remote sensing geomorphology.  I have been compiling training datasets for AI studies since 2018, initially with a focus on the ExoMars landing sites in Oxia Planum. My current project is focused on mapping impact melt flows around young lunar craters. I study the applicability of machine learning techniques to different science tasks, and research how to effectively translate science questions into systems of classification which can be applied using deep learning networks. 

Impact and engagement

I am an enthusiastic proselytiser of science, and believe that no topic is too technical to be understood by a lay audiene if taught in the correct manner. I wrote a "guess the planet" blog throughout 2017, and contributed to the National Energy Foundation's YouGen renewable energy blog throughout 2016 and 2017. 

External collaborations

I am presently working with parteners in industry to develop Machine Learning tools, and bridge the interdisciplinary gap in translating scientific questions into classification tasks which can be approached by AI. 


NOAH-H, a deep-learning, terrain classification system for Mars: Results for the ExoMars Rover candidate landing sites (2022-01-01)
Barrett, Alexander M.; Balme, Matthew R.; Woods, Mark; Karachalios, Spyros; Petrocelli, Danilo; Joudrier, Luc and Sefton-Nash, Elliot
Icarus, 371, Article 114701

Jezero crater, Mars: application of the deep learning NOAH-H terrain classification system (2022)
Wright, Jack; Barrett, Alexander M.; Fawdon, Peter; Favaro, Elena A.; Balme, Matthew R.; Woods, Mark J. and Karachalios, Spyros
Journal of Maps ((Early Access))

The Aeolian Environment of the Landing Site for the ExoMars Rosalind Franklin Rover in Oxia Planum, Mars (2021-04)
Favaro, E.A.; Balme, M.R.; Davis, J.; Grindrod, P.M; Fawdon, P.; Barrett, A.M. and Lewis, S.R.
Journal of Geophysical Research: Planets, 126, Article e2020JE006723(4)

The distribution of putative periglacial landforms on the martian northern plains (2018-11-01)
Barrett, Alexander M.; Balme, Matthew R.; Patel, Manish R. and Hagermann, Axel
Icarus, 314 (pp. 133-148)

Where should the ExoMars rover land? (2018-10-01)
Barrett, Alexander
Astronomy & Geophysics, 59(5) (pp. 5.12-5.16)

Clastic Polygonal Networks Around Lyot Crater, Mars: Possible Formation Mechanisms From Morphometric Analysis (2018)
Brooker, L. M.; Balme, M. R.; Conway, S. J.; Hagermann, A.; Barrett, A. M.; Collins, G. S. and Soare, R. J.
Icarus, 302 (pp. 386-406)

Clastic patterned ground in Lomonosov crater, Mars: examining fracture controlled formation mechanisms (2017-10)
Barrett, Alexander M.; Balme, Matthew R.; Patel, Manish R. and Hagermann, Axel
Icarus, 295 (pp. 125-139)