2010 Annual Science Report

Montana State University Reporting  |  SEP 2009 – AUG 2010

EPO Activity: GK12 Programming

Project Progress

Library Astrobiology Events – ABRC has created an Alien Night party for libraries. Alien Night is a dynamic family event designed to teach the public about astrobiology and the research happing in Montana. ABRC is currently piloting the materials for the event at rural libraries around Montana and collecting evaluation. Early in 2011, the materials will be put on a website so that libraries, schools and informal educators can all access and use them. At Alien Night families will find out the answer to the question “Yellowstone hot springs and aliens: what’s the connection?” At the event children will come face-to-face with some Sea Monkeys and learn about their travels in space, make some microbial Shrinky Dinks, hear a fun alien story, and find out what scientists really think aliens might look like. Kids can also check out some alien-related computer games, and search for their own alien to take home. Alien night has already been hosted at libraries including several on Reservations that serve overwhelmingly Native American populations. Evaluations have been very good so far with the event earning high marks on its educational and entertainment value.

Kidsville: MSU Science Zone – ABRC is a primary sponsor of MSU Science Zone, a monthly science column that is distributed to 50,000 K-5 students and teachers via Kidsville News, a national publication with a regional Montana edition. ABRC faculty contributed features asking questions such as “What is life?”, “How can we find out if aliens exist?” and “Would Mars be a good place to visit?” Each feature explains science in accessible language and includes a hands-on activity to try at home. All past SciZones are archived online along with other youth outreach activities at http://eu.montana.edu/outreach/.

Expanding Your Horizon – ABRC and the Thermal Biology Institute provided a day of workshops at Expanding Your Horizons in Bozeman. This is a nation-wide program held primarily for girls to promote women in science. Graduate student Dana Skorupa and Hot Science coordinator Monica Brelsford provided hands on workshop experiences with extreme life found in Yellowstone’s thermal features. The students were intrigued with microscopic life and their abilities to function in acid and high temperature environments.

Astronomy Day 2010 – Montana State University’s Astrobiology E/PO team used a tankful of tiny Sea Monkeys to engage visitors at Astronomy Day in Bozeman on April 24. About 1,400 people attended the 2010 Astronomy Day. ABRC was a major sponsor of the event, along with the Museum of the Rockies, Southwest Montana Astronomical Society, and MSU’s Extended University and Solar Physics Research Group. The centimeter-long Sea Monkeys helped spark the conversation about “alien” life. Sea Monkeys (which are actually a species of brine shrimp) are hardy creatures that have flown on the space shuttle and other missions. Astronomy Day visitors learned that astrobiologists study similarly hardy micro-organisms that live in the acidic hot springs of nearby Yellowstone National Park. E/PO staff told kids and adults that by knowing more about organisms that thrive in “extreme environments” like Yellowstone’s hot springs, astrobiologists can better understand what life forms might survive on other planets or moons.