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Weekly Space Hangout

Jun 25, 2021

This week we are very pleased to welcome Dr. Jane Shevtsov, Mathematical Biology Instructor at UCLA, to the WSH. Her project proposal, Making Soil for Space Habitats by Seeding Asteroids with Fungi, is one of NASA's 2021 NIAC Phase I selections.

Jane is a systems ecologist who teaches math for life sciences at UCLA and is developing ways of using fungi to make soil for space habitats with TransAstra Corporation.

Jane has a BS in Ecology, Behavior and Evolution from UCLA and a PhD in Ecology from the University of Georgia. As a graduate student, she studied ecological networks, developing a new computational method for tracking stocks and flows in them and conducting field research on species interactions in the Smoky Mountains. She then started working at UCLA, helping develop a new math curriculum for life science majors that focuses on making and analyzing models of biological systems. She co-authored the textbook Modeling Life: The Mathematics of Biological Systems, which was published in 2017.

Jane has always been interested in space and applying ecology to life support systems, since this is just designing ecosystems. As a student, she interned at Kennedy Space Center twice, working in the Space Life Sciences Lab. In 2018, she met Joel Sercel of TransAstra at a local science fiction convention and ended up outlining a bioregenerative life support system for a large space habitat. She then got the idea of using fungi to break down carbonaceous asteroids to make soil, which was funded by NASA's NIAC program. She is currently conducting that research and developing other ideas for applying systems ecology and biomimicry to space travel. She is also interested in the social and political aspects of space exploration and how we might go into space as a unified human species.

To learn more about her NIAC proposal, visit the project's NASA webpage (

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