Hi, I’m Parke! I’m an astrophysicist currently working with Evgenya Shkolnik's group at Arizona State University. I research planetary systems with stars smaller than the Sun, focusing on the space environment these stars provide to their planets. Yearly, I co-instruct a class called Wilderness Astronomy that I created with fellow astro-outdoorsperson Melodie Kao. In the odds and ends of my time, I climb cliffs, wander through wildernesses, cultivate evergreen trees, and putter around in my little plane. All these things are joined by one grand theme: a love for the feeling of being overcome with awe, whether through imagining alien worlds, soaring in an endless sea of air, clinging to the face of a mountain, or disappearing into a vast wilderness.
My research focuses on low-mass stars and their planets. No planetary systems are more numerous or longer lived than those with low mass stars. I work to characterize the environments these stars provide for their planets over their lifetimes. This includes exploring methods to observationally constrain stellar space weather, especially coronal mass ejections. On the planetary side of my research, I recently published an attempt to empirically test if the scarcity of planets with radii near 1.8x Earth's could be a direct result of atmospehric erosion by stellar radiation. (My test and those others have published remain inconclusive.) In the past, I have contributed to observations of planets actively blowing off their atmospheres under the intense radiation of their host star, and I hope to conduct similar observations in coming years to learn more about planetary atmospheric escape.
If searching for my publications, note that online databases sometimes mistake my last name as "Parke Loyd" instead of simply "Loyd."
In 2019, I teamed up with fellow astrophysicist and wilderness backpacker Melodie Kao to create the outdoor learning course Wilderness Astronomy that we now offer annually. In this introductory undergraduate level course, we lead students on a week-long backpacking trip in the otherworldly backcountry terrain of Arizona. What they see and feel as they hike becomes a canvas for teaching planetary science, and what they see in the dark, unpolluted skies at night becomes a canvas for teaching astronomy. This is an impactful way to learn planetary science and astronomy. However, our goals reach beyond instilling facts and concepts. We want students who feel curious but intimidated to realize they have the capacity and agency to engage in both a physical exploration of our planet and an intellectual exploration of the cosmos. Meanwhile, we hope that we leave with them indelible memories of awe-inspring experiencies that are tied to "aha" moments about how planets, stars, and the cosmos work.
The course was recently featured in an article by ASU Now.