Students Monitor Hydrothermal Features in Lassen Volcanic National Park
The Lassen Astrobiology Student Internship Program, a collaboration between NAI’s Ames team, Lassen Volcanic National Park, and Red Bluff High School, will wrap up its first year of activity in August. Nine high school students and their chemistry teacher, with training from NAI scientists and under the supervision of a park ranger, have made eight field trips to various sites within the park throughout the course of the school year. They monitored field sites and made seasonal measurements of temperature, pH, and water chemistry of the hydrothermal features. PBS station KNPB, Reno, NV, interviewed the students while sample collections were underway. A feature presentation about the program was aired in June.
The year culminated in a special event at Red Bluff High School where Ames team PI Dave Des Marais gave a public lecture entitled, “Astrobiology Program: Environment, Life, Lassen, and Students.” The student interns were awarded certificates of achievement and then described their field work in a lively presentation to an audience of 100 parents, school board, and community members. A reporter from Red Bluff’s newspaper, the Daily News, covered this event and a story ran the following day.
The Astrobiology Internship Program will continue next year, expanding to include more frequent communication between the students and their NAI mentors via videoconferencing. The end product of the intern’s research will be an online, relational database including hydrothermal feature physical characteristics: pH, temperature, GPS coordinates, digital photos, and water analysis. This database, as it builds over the years, will be a valuable resource for extreme environment analogue research in support of NASA missions.