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2009 Annual Science Report

Arizona State University Reporting  |  JUL 2008 – AUG 2009

EPO Activity: EPO: Astrobiology Outreach - Arizona and Beyond

Project Progress

One of the major goals of the Follow the Elements education and public outreach plan is to engage the community beyond ASU and beyond the NAI, using a variety of presentation formats and media venues.

A particularly notable outreach event was the involvement of several members of our team in the Origins Symposium held at ASU on April 3-9, 2009. This event brought 70 notable researchers to the ASU campus for a series of scientific and public symposia for broadcast and webcast (detailed information can be found here: The event was organized as part of the ASU Origins Initiative, led by collaborator Lawrence Krauss. PI Ariel Anbar, co-I Kip Hodges and collaborators Phil Christensen and Paul Davies served on the symposium program committee. A number of researchers known in the astrobiology community from beyond ASU were integrated into this program, including Barry Blumberg, Richard Dawkins, Douglas Erwin, Alex Halliday, Antonio Lazcano, John Mather, Steven Mojzsis, David Stevenson, J. Craig Venter, Peter Ward, Edward Young,

A number of ASU team members were involved in panels during the Origins Symposium. Anbar chaired a panel on planetary origins and participated in NPR’s Science Friday on a panel that also included Davies, former NAI Director Barry Blumberg, and noted astrobiologist Peter Ward ( Other ASU team members who served as Origins panelists or speakers included Co-Is Steve Desch, Everett Shock and Hodges, collaborator Christensen, and collaborator Jade Bond.

ASU team members gave many other presentations, interviews and briefings to the international, national and local community. A selection of these presentations includes:

February 11, 2009 – Frank Timmes – Invited lecture – East Valley Astronomy Club – White dwarf supernova: Cosmology & astrobiology implications.
February 20-24, 2009 – Ariel Anbar, Jim Elser, Hilairy Hartnett, Susanne Neuer, Everett Shock, Janet Siefert, and Mexican collaborator Valeria Souza – Presentation to ~ 100 high school students in Cuatro Cienegas, Mexico
March 18, 2009 – Mike Pagano – Invited lecture – Arizona Science Center – The year of Astronomy series.
April 2009 – Mikhail Zolotov – Washington University – Colloquium on aqueous processes on marian history.
April 11, 2009 – Patrick Young – Invited lecture – Arizona Science Center – Element theme presentation.
April 27, 2009 – Jack Farmer – Interview – Eastern Sierra Institute for Collaboration Education – Mono Basin.
April 30, 2009 – Jack Farmer – Briefing – National Research Council – NCR report on planetary protection implications of Mars sample return.
May 2, 2009 – Patrick Young – Invited lecture – Arizona Science Center – Planets,people, and other products of stellar evolution.
May 12, 2009 – Jack Farmer – Interview – New Scientist Magazine – Planetary protection for Mars
May 15, 2009 – Jack Farmer – Invited lecture – East Valley Astronomy Club – Astrobiology
June 2009 – Mikhail Zolotov – Invited lecture – University of Leicester – The enigma of enceladus: observation and modeling.
June 2009 – Mikhail Zolotov – Invited lecture – Lunar and Planetary Institute – Workshop on modeling martian hydrous environments.
July 14, 2009 – Ariel Anbar – Interview – New Scientist Magazine – Dawn of the animals
August 18, 2009 – Jack Farmer – Interview – BBC – Life on Mars project
August 27, 2009 – Jack Farmer – Interview – Space Week – NASA efforts to explore for life in the solar system.

Of special note, in July, 2009, graduate student Jessica Corman and undergraduate Drew Bryck spent time being interviewed by two reporters during their field project along the Río Mezquites, Cuatro Ciénegas, Mexico. This interaction resulted in two articles printed in regional Mexican newspapers, one in Zócalo Saltillo (Investigan especies únicas or Study of endemic species, and one in Rué 57 (Investigan estadounidenses comportamiento de estramatolitos or US study of the behaviour of stromatolite communities).

The video will be available shortly.

The ASU School of Earth and Space Exploration has partnered with the Arizona Science Center in downtown Phoenix, to present hands-on activities in their International Year of Astronomy (IYA) series of programs in 2009. Each events highlights a unique astronomy theme each month ranging from the history of the universe to Mars exploration. Astrobiology staff and scientists working with the Follow the Elements project, attended four events and showcased information on the project (Figure 1) and also presented hands-on activities including puzzles (Figure 2), coloring sheets (Figure 3) and touchable specimens. Visitors were able to ask questions and interact with ASU scientists (Figure 4). During the event on May 2, 2009, Dr. Patrick Young, Follow the Elements collaborator, presented a public lecture on astrobiology and his research on stellar evolution. ASU will continue to attend all the upcoming events through December 2009. It is our goal to further develop a partnership with the Science Center with the hopes of attending future outreach events and presenting public lectures.

Finally, we are exploring novel approaches to public outreach. For example, at the end of Year 1 PI Anbar and co-I Taylor developed a brief “teaser trailer” of ASU’s astrobiology-related research (Attachment 1). We have used this video successfully in some outreach events at the start of Year 2 and expect to develop more such resources.