2009 Annual Science Report

NASA Ames Research Center Reporting  |  JUL 2008 – AUG 2009

EPO Activity: Ames Team EPO: Early Habitable Environments and the Evolution of Complexity

Project Progress

The Ames team continued to forge its strong partnership with Lassen Volcanic National Park by reinforcing the connections between microbiology and astrobiology. The hydrothermal features in this park are key research targets for NASA’s astrobiology research program and they illustrate compelling aspects of astrobiology education and outreach. Team members, high school students, educators, and park rangers participated in fieldwork and collected data from thermal features for NASA astrobiologists, classroom lectures, and public talks. The students examined hydrothermal features in the park and generated a database of temperature, pH, GPS coordinates, photos, and geochemical analyses that will be hosted on the NASA Ames team website. The team developed the first of ultimately four or more astrobiology-interpretive trailside signs. These signs will be located at hydrothermal sites that best illustrate the most compelling aspects of astrobiology research in Lassen. The Ames team supported the implementation by Lassen Park of a Junior Park Astrobiology program for fifth through 12th graders during the upcoming school year.
Participants: Dave Des Marais, Linda Jahnke, Mike Kubo, Niki Parenteau, ARC; Ranger Steve Zachary, Lassen Volcanic National Park, CA; Dave Michael, Red Bluff High School, CA

The Ames team has partnered with Oklahoma’s Choctaw Nation to provide Native American students and their teachers access to NASA astronomers, scientists and astrobiology curriculum interactive seminars using NASA’s Digital Learning Network. The lectures encompassed topics such as cosmochemistry and astrobiology. In addition, the team has begun to partner with teachers at the Choctaw Nation’s Jones Academy and Hartshorne High School to help them incorporate astrobiology, astrochemistry and other astronomical topics into their science curriculum.
Participants: Andy Mattioda, ARC; Brad Spears, Jones Academy, Upward Bound Math & Science Program, OK; Mike Reddick, Harshorne High School, OK.

Using NASA’s Digital Learning Network (DLN), the Ames team conducted a series of interactive, distance-learning seminars with the Upward Bound Math & Science program of the Choctaw Nation of Oklahoma. The seminars covered a variety of research areas in Astrobiology including the modeling of planetary atmospheres, astronomical studies in astrochemistry, the search for biosignatures, and the discovery and photographing of exoplanets. The Choctaw Nation’s Upward Bound Program assists economically disadvantaged students — gifted in the areas of math and science, and whose parents do not have college degrees — in identifying career opportunities in the Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematical fields. The seminars were recorded and are posted on the Ames team EPO web page.
Participants: Dawn Cardace, Colin Goldblatt, Stefanie Milam, Marilyn Vogel, Kerri Cahoy, Andrew Mattioda, Greg Pitzer (all ARC)

The entire Ames team has pursued diverse EPO activities that included efforts in high-impact venues. Team members implemented a graduate-level astrobiology course at the University of California at Santa Cruz and they continued an undergraduate astrobiology and space exploration course at Stanford University. Team members gave numerous lab tours and demonstrations to students and educators, they made presentations to K-12 classrooms, universities, museums, planetariums, national parks, scientific conferences and the media. Team members also participated in National Public Radio interviews and were filmed for shows on the Discover Channel and National Geographic.