|Alma mater||University of Colorado Boulder|
|Institutions||National Cave and Karst Research Institute|
NASA Astrobiology Institute
Penelope J. Boston is a speleologist. She is associate director of the National Cave and Karst Research Institute in Carlsbad, New Mexico, and founder and director of the Cave and Karst Studies Program at New Mexico Institute of Mining and Technology in Socorro. Among her research interests are geomicrobiology of caves and mines, extraterrestrial speleogenesis, and space exploration and astrobiology generally.
In the mid-1980s, Boston (then a graduate student at the University of Colorado Boulder) was one of the founders of the Mars Underground and helped organize a series of conferences called The Case for Mars. She was the last director of the Nasa Astrobiology Institute before the Institute was suspended.
She has a B.S. in microbiology, geology, and psychology, and a M.S. in microbiology and atmospheric chemistry. She completed her Ph.D. from University of Colorado Boulder in 1985. During 2002–2004, she was Principal Investigator on the Caves of Mars Project, which, among other things, studied the effects on mice of an atmosphere rich in argon, and "flat crops" that might be grown in Martian caves.
Her interest is in extremophiles (organisms which prefer or thrive in the extremes of altitude, cold, darkness, dryness, heat, mineralized environments, pressure, radiation, vacuum, variability, or weightlessness) which may be found in caves and karst on Earth, and she thinks should be looked for in equivalents of other objects in space from asteroids to planets.
An only child of theatrical parents, she writes poetry reflective of her world travel and uncommon specialty. In 2010 she was featured in Symphony of Science. She continues to work with NASA on the Atacama Field Expedition.