Darlene Lim

Principal Investigator

Darlene Lim

Expertise: Limnology
Affiliation:Bay Area Environmental Research Institute/NASA Ames Research Center
PhD (Geobiology) University of Toronto, Canada
MSc (Geobiology), University of Toronto, Canada
BScH (Biology), Queen's University, Canada


Darlene Lim is a geobiologist based at the NASA Ames Research Center, and actively involved in the development of operational concepts for human scientific exploration of our solar system. Darlene founded the Pavilion Lake Research Project (PLRP) in 2004. She is currently the Principal Investigator (PI) of PLRP, and the Deputy PI of the NASA SSERVI ‘Field Investigations to Enable Solar System Science and Exploration’ (FINESSE) research program. Both programs are focused on real (non-simulated) science and exploration activities that seamlessly blend field science research with the development of human exploration tools, technologies and concepts that serve to directly inform various NASA Design Reference Missions.

Darlene has spent nearly 20 years leading field research programs around the world. She has conducted research in both the Arctic and Antarctic, and in various underwater environments where she has spent hours piloting submersibles as a scientist and explorer. Her field experience has included numerous NASA field programs such as: the Haughton Mars Project (HMP) (2000-2008) in the Canadian High Arctic, the 2010 International Lunar Surface Operation (ILSO)-In-situ Resource Utilization (ISRU) analog field test in Hawaii (a joint NASA-CSA program focused on lunar ISRU system integration and hardware testing), the 2011 (N15) and 2012 (N16) NASA Extreme Environment Mission Operations (NEEMO) programs in Florida, the 2012 ISRU- Regolith and Environment Science and Oxygen and Lunar Volatiles Extraction (RESOLVE) field test, and the Mojave Volatiles Prospector (MVP) field program (2013-2014).

The multi-disciplinary PLRP team includes scientists, engineers, astronauts and operations experts from various institutions, agencies and commercial entities around the world. Over the years, Darlene has had the joy and privilege of leading this team through engineering development cycles and complex field deployments that have involved the coordination of on-site and remote science teams, submersible and robotic underwater exploration activities. Darlene has served on a number of NASA MEPAG (Mars Exploration Program Analysis Group) committees and is currently the MEPAG Goal IV (Prepare for Human Exploration) Co-Chair. She is also the Founder of the Haven House Family Shelter STEM Explorers' Speakers Series, which enables researchers to teach science and engineering subjects to homeless children in the San Francisco Bay Area.

Major Science Goals at Pavilion Lake

Darlene has been focused on characterizing the limnology of Pavilion and Kelly lakes, and, in particular, what aspects of their physiochemistry enable the development of microbialites in these lakes. However, on a day-to-day basis, Darlene’s goal is to help everyone do their jobs to the best of their ability so that together, the PLRP team can figure out why there are microbialites in Pavilion and Kelly lakes, and how the microbialites are built. Plus, she’s super keen to leverage this scientific mission for the purposes of identifying best practices for human scientific exploration on Earth and beyond. Within her lifetime, Darlene would love to see humans permanently extend their presence beyond Low Earth Orbit. Her goal is to help generate operational know-how that will facilitate science and exploration throughout this voyage.