Unwinding with Alison Olcott: Dinosaur Hunter and Mars Explorer

Do aliens exist on Mars? Possibly. But how do humans actually go about answering that question? One option is to examine rocks to understand the types of  life-forms, like squishy things, that roamed the earth billions of years ago.

That’s what Alison Olcott does in her role as associate professor of paleobiogeochemistry in the Department of Geology at the University of Kansas. And while playing on Google Maps one day, Alison found that the rocks she needed to study are found not far from KU, in the Gypsum Hills of Kansas. Who knew Kansas and Mars were so similar!

In this episode of Unwinding we chat to Alison Olcott about science communication and squishy things, undergraduate research and Jurassic Park, barbies and why chemistry is not as hard to understand as you think!

It’s Unwinding with Alison Olcott, Dinosaur Hunter and Mars Explorer:


Unwinding is a podcast that tells the human stories driving the minds and talents of the University of Kansas. In each episode we sit down with KU researchers in a favorite or familiar setting to chat about what they’re working on, why they’re passionate about it, why it matters, and what makes them tick as humans. You may find us on campus, running the trails, on a farm, at a coffee shop or down at the pub. Wherever the location, the conversation explores the fascinations and motivations that produce new discoveries.

Unwinding is a collaboration between The Commons at KU and KU’s College of Liberal Arts & Sciences. The Commons is a catalyst for unconventional thinking, interdisciplinary inquiry, and unexpected discoveries across the sciences, arts, and humanities. The College of Liberal Arts & Sciences is the heart of KU. It’s home to more than 50 departments, programs and centers, offering more than 100 majors, minors and certificates. A collaborative and creative community, the College is committed to making the world better through inquiry and research.


Music: Lee Rosevere‘s “Let’s Start at the Beginning” and “Alien’s – Deep Dark by Deep Dark.