Title: Professor of Biology
Area of Study: Astrobiology, Coastal Science and Policy, Planetary Protection
Office: Flanagan 161A
Address: c/o ICSP, Flanagan Suite 250
East Carolina University
Greenville, NC 27858
Dr. John D. Rummel is a Professor of Biology, and was formerly (2008-2013) the Director of the Institute for Coastal Science and Policy at ECU. His interests are in ecosystems and population and community ecology, generally, and in astrobiology and biological contamination in specific. He has spent over 26 years directly involved in the development and implementation of policies designed to protect other solar system bodies from contamination by Earth organisms, and to protect the Earth's biosphere from potential life elsewhere.
Immediately prior to his arrival at ECU in 2008, Dr. Rummel was the NASA Senior Scientist for Astrobiology, based in Washington, DC, responsible for leading all aspects of NASA's program to understand the origin, evolution, and fate of life in the Universe. He re-entered the astrobiology world in 2006, after serving from 1997 as the NASA Planetary Protection Officer, ensuring that NASA's planetary exploration missions did not contaminate other worlds and that missions returning samples to Earth would be safe from biological hazards. Previously at NASA Headquarters from 1986-1993, Rummel held posts as the Deputy Chief, Mission From Planet Earth Study Office and as the Exobiology Program Manager and SETI Program Scientist in both the Life Sciences and Solar System Exploration Divisions. During that time he also served as the Life Sciences Branch Chief for the Gravitational Biology, Life Support, and Biospheric Research Programs, and for the first time as the NASA Planetary Protection Officer. Among other accomplishments, he led the US teams responsible for defining joint exobiology and life support activities with the Soviet Union/Russia from 1987-1993.
Rummel left NASA from 1994-1998, to work as the Director of Research Administration and Education at the Marine Biological Laboratory (MBL) in Woods Hole, Massachusetts. There he was responsible for the MBL's year-round and summer research efforts, its fellowship program, and the MBL's world-famous program in advanced biological education. He remains a member of the MBL Corporation, and a summer visitor to the Laboratory.
For his work at NASA Headquarters, Dr. Rummel has been the recipient of numerous performance and achievement awards, and was made a Fellow of the American Association for the Advancement of Science "for leadership in fostering NASA-sponsored life science research." He is also the recipient of the Life Sciences Award from the International Academy of Astronautics, "for significant and lasting contributions to the advancement of the astronautical sciences."
His research interests have included ecosystems ecology, community ecology, and evolutionary biology, and he maintains an active interest in the ecology and biogeography of deep sea hydrothermal vents, and the potential for life elsewhere in the universe. Dr. Rummel first came to NASA (Ames Research Center) in 1985 as a National Research Council Research Associate, conducting research on microbial ecology and on the modeling of Controlled Ecological Life Support Systems. He was awarded a Doctorate by Stanford University in 1985 for his research in community ecology and evolution, and was an undergraduate at the University of Colorado in Environmental Biology. Before attending graduate school, he served on active duty for five years as a Naval Flight Officer.
Dr. Rummel presently served as the Chair of the Panel on Planetary Protection of the International Council for Science's Committee on Space Research (COSPAR), from 1999 until 2014. COSPAR, based in Paris, maintains a consensus international policy on planetary protection to help space-faring nations to conduct solar system exploration in a way to minimize the potential for harmful biological contamination. He is currently a member of the NASA Advisory Council's Planetary Protection Subcommittee.