Astronaut candidate's profile

The candidates participating in the astronaut selection process all have unique journeys and outstanding qualities and skills. You can read their remarkable profiles here.

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Astronauts wanted
Heather Mariash

Mariash, Heather

Where were you born?
Edmonton, Alberta, Canada

Where do you currently live?
Utrecht, Netherlands

Education

  • Bachelor's, environmental biology – University of Alberta
  • Master's, sustainable development of inland waters – University of Jyväskylä
  • Ph.D., Arctic freshwater ecology – University of Jyväskylä

The astronaut candidates during the second series of aptitude tests. (Credit: Canadian Space Agency, MCpl Chris Ringius, DND)

The astronaut candidates during the second series of aptitude tests. (Credit: Canadian Space Agency)

The astronaut candidates during the second series of aptitude tests. (Credit: Canadian Space Agency, Cpl Anthony Chand, DND)

The astronaut candidates during the second series of aptitude tests. (Credit: Canadian Space Agency, MCpl Chris Ringius, DND)

Photo of the astronaut candidate during the aptitude tests. (Credit: Canadian Space Agency)

Photo of the astronaut candidate during the aptitude tests. (Credit: Canadian Space Agency)

Photo of the astronaut candidate during the aptitude tests. (Credit: Canadian Space Agency)

What is your current job?

NSERC Visiting Fellowship in Canadian Government Laboratories, National Wildlife Research Centre - I am a project leader for a joint USA and Canada federal initiative to study the effects of overabundant geese on freshwater ecosystems and associated wildlife in the Canadian Arctic.

Why do you want to become an astronaut?

The next-generation space missions, such as explorative travel to Mars, are focused on having 100% closed loop life support systems. As a biologist, and explorer at heart, I want to be part of developing and testing life support systems and biosphere concepts, including water and waste capabilities, small-scale crop production, molecular and physiology research that will help support life in space. This research will also contribute innovative solutions that address current societal challenges of living sustainably on Earth. Ultimately becoming a Canadian astronaut would be a tremendous opportunity to increase biologic system knowledge through experiments in microgravity and conduct exploratory and observational science for the improvement of life on Earth.

What motivated you to study in your field?

I am curious about extreme living conditions such as those found in the polar regions. I am specifically intrigued by the range of coping mechanisms organisms can develop to deal with these potentially life-threatening environments. It is my conviction that studying extreme environments will give us a better understanding of physiological mechanisms used by organisms to survive and adapt. These research results will also provide coping solutions for future climate change-induced living conditions.

Think back to a teacher who had a positive impact on your life. What did she/he do to influence you?

The most memorable teachers were the ones whose enthusiasm and passion for their subject were infectious! My undergrad aquatic ecology teachers H. Proctor and Stef Neufeld inspired me to become a research scientist, with their in-depth knowledge, dedication, and enthusiasm about biodiversity. Together they brought the classroom to the edge of their seats and pushed us, as students, to think for ourselves, learn to question, and push the limits of what we think we can accomplish.

What do you like best about your job?

The multidisciplinary and international aspects of being a researcher are very rewarding. Working with researchers across disciplines creates a very dynamic and creative process that helps pose interesting research questions and find intriguing solutions. Being able to work and study in these extreme environments is a challenge that drives my personal and professional development. Also my time working and living in the Arctic has been incredible; I have had the privilege of working with different communities across the circumpolar Arctic. In addition to studying biology in the North, I have had the unique opportunity to experience first-hand how human Arctic communities deal with these extreme environments and the societal challenges they precipitate.

Which living person do you most admire? OR Who are your heroes in real life?

People I admire mainly fall into two categories: athletes pushing the limits of what is humanly possible and researchers pushing the frontier of knowledge that inspires us to look beyond convention. In my opinion Tommy Caldwell and Alex Honnold have shown by their major mountaineering (Fitzroy Traverse) and climbing achievements (Dawn Wall, soloing El Sendero Luminoso) that physical boundaries are, to a large degree, set by our mental conditions. Since science is not only my job but also my passion, I admire numerous people. Amongst them is David Schindler, a Canadian freshwater ecologist whose impressive achievements in science and advocacy have contributed to improved water quality across Canada and internationally. He is best known for putting the spotlight on the harmful effects of nitrogen and phosphorus in lakes, but has since contributed to numerous high-impact climate change and conservation studies.

What is your favourite sci-fi movie?

No answer.

What is your motto?

"'Tis the set of the sails and not the gales that determines the way they go." -W. Garfield Weston

What is the best career advice you've ever received?

What is your most treasured possession?

What is your favourite place on Earth?

What do you consider your greatest achievement?

What is your favourite book?