In Memoriam: Katrina Edwards

Katrina J. Edwards, March 15, 1968 - October 26, 2014

Katrina J. Edwards, March 15, 1968 – October 26, 2014

The astrobiology community deeply mourns the passing of Katrina Edwards, a geomicrobiologist and very bright light in many of our lives. Please see the blog set up by her family for more information on her life and work, and to contribute remembrances of Katrina.

Katrina Jane Edwards passed away peacefully on October 26, 2014, after a long illness. She was born March 15, 1968, in Columbus, Oh., the third of five children raised by Timothy and Sandra Edwards and big sister Laura Edwards. Katrina completed her secondary education at Columbus Alternative High School. She spent several years assisting her father and siblings in general airport operations at the Delaware Municipal Airport, eventually becoming chief flight instructor. Katrina then received her undergraduate degree from The Ohio State University and went on to earn her Ph.D. from the University of Wisconsin-Madison.

Lava erupts onto the seafloor at NW Rota-1, creating a cloudy, extremely acidic plume. Credit: WHOI

Lava erupts onto the seafloor at NW Rota-1, creating a cloudy, extremely acidic plume.
Credit: WHOI

Katrina was bright, vibrant and at the helm of her chosen field. A gifted scientist, she was professor of biological sciences, earth sciences and environmental studies at the University of Southern California. Prior to that, she was associate scientist in marine chemistry and geochemistry at Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution.

A pioneer in oceanographic research, Katrina’s discoveries centered on life forms beneath the ocean floor, also called “intraterrestrial life.” As an innovator in geomicrobiology, Katrina worked with other scientists on integrated ocean drilling, including spearheading and leading an international deep biosphere project in the mid-Atlantic. She also headed the U.S. National Science Foundation-supported Fe-Oxidizing Microbial Observatory Project on Loihi Seamount. In 2012, she was recognized with the A.G. Huntsman Award for Excellence in Marine Science and was the third woman to receive this distinction in the foundation’s 32-year history. Perhaps her most significant professional accomplishment was “raising” the next generation of geomicrobiologists through teaching and mentoring a multitude of students and post-doctoral professionals on expeditions and in her classes and research labs.

Katrina was preceded in death by her sister Laura Ruth Edwards, who died in 2005. She will be missed mightily by her three children (Ania, Katya, and Nakita Webb), siblings (Ben, Melanie, and Nina Edwards), cousins, many nieces and nephews, and parents (Timothy and Sandra Edwards). She is survived by them—along with the many friends and colleagues who loved her spontaneity and sense of humor and respected her undeniable genius. Her strength and spirit live on especially in her children—as well as all who came to know her during her 46 years.

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