Richard Barker |
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Richard Barker

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is a UW-Madison researcher investigating plant responses to spaceflight using custom imaging platforms and cloud-based data analysis. He currently is a Co-Investigator on three NASA grants and has been involved in the planning and launch of multiple AstroBotany experiments to the International Space Station (ISS). As part of the GeneLab project with NASA, he built the TOAST (Test of Arabidopsis Space Transcriptome) database to support the goal of democratizing space life science research. He was selected to be a representative of the American Academy of Science at the Future Leaders in Space Science Congress in Beijing 2016-2017 and is currently co-chair of the NASA Advanced Plant Working group.

He has recently co-founded CoSE—The Collaborative Science Environment to develop research project educational experiences using recent advances in plant imaging technology. The goal is to have students investigate patterns identified by the Gilroy NASA APEX5 experiment performed on the International Space Station in December 2017. Richard’s previous inter-disciplinary research programs have tackled real-world issues such as the future of food and farming and the natural variation of plants to salinity in agro-ecosystems. Over recent years, Richard and his mentor Prof. Simon Gilroy have developed a custom AstroBotany research project based program at UW-Madison involving numerous Wisconsin students. Their investigation into the genetic response of a plant to stressful environments is allowing them to engineer plants that are resistant to some of the stresses experienced during long-duration space missions.

Community engagement and performance art have always been a way of life for Richard, starting in his youth as a fire juggler at music festivals in the UK. This energy and passion was then directed to skateboarding, snowboarding, breakdancing and the Brazilian martial art "Capoeira". Now he turns his attention to using the journey to Mars to inspire students with tales of AstroBotany and help students network with the NASA space life science research community.

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