Jill Tarter holds the Bernard M. Oliver Chair for SETI (Search for Extraterrestrial Intelligence) at the SETI Institute in Mountain View, CA where she also serves as director of the Center for SETI Research. She served as Project Scientist for NASA’s SETI program, and has conducted a number of observational programs at radio observatories worldwide. Since funding for NASA’s SETI program was cut in 1993, she has served in a leadership role to secure private funding to continue the the exploratory science.
Her work has brought her wide recognition in the scientific community, including the Lifetime Achievement Award from Women in Aerospace, two Public Service Medals from NASA, and many other awards. She was elected as a fellow of the American Association for the Advancement of Science in 2002 and a California Academy of Sciences Fellow in 2003. In 2004, Time Magazine named her one of the Time 100 most influential people in the world, and in 2005 Tarter was awarded the Carl Sagan Prize for Science Popularization at Wonderfest, the San Francisco Festival of Science. Tarter is very involved in childhood science education: In addition to her leadership at NASA and SETI Institute, she has spearheaded the creation of two curriculum development projects funded by NSF, NASA, and others. The first, the Life in the Universe series, created 6 science teaching guides for grades 3-9, which were published in the mid nineties. Her second project, Voyages Through Time, is an integrated high school science curriculum on the fundamental theme of evolution in six modules: Cosmic Evolution, Planetary Evolution, Origin of Life, Evolution of Life, Hominid Evolution and Evolution of Technology.
In this conversation with D.J. Grothe, Jill Tarter discusses the possibility of life elsewhere in the universe, why the search for it is important, the implications for religious belief of such a discovery, recent cuts in science funding, the emerging field of astrobiology, and the need for teaching evolution in the public schools, among other subjects. She also talks about the new Carl Sagan Center for the Study of Life in the Universe, which was announced earlier in the week.
Also in this episode, Tom Flynn asks Did You Know? about the search for extra-terrestrial intelligence.