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2009 Annual Science Report

Arizona State University Reporting  |  JUL 2008 – AUG 2009

EPO Activity: EPO: Reconnaissance for Virtual Field Trips

Project Progress

Field studies are an integral part of the Follow the Elements project and also present a unique opportunity to engage the public. We plan to use images and video captured in the field to create four Virtual Field Trips (VFT’s), three associated with the Earth-based research that is part of this NAI project and a fourth related to the search for life on Mars and beyond. Virtual Field Trips will engage students not only in the classroom but also at home, either alone or with their families.

We are partnering with Dr. Carol Oliver, University of New South Wales and the Australian Centre for Astrobiology, to create the following Virtual Field Trips: 1) Yellowstone National Park, 2) Field research in ecology and chemistry that at Cuatro Ciénegas in Mexico, 3) Laboratory research on samples collected at Yellowstone and Cuatro Ciénegas, and 4) Extraterrestrial life, with video commentary from leading Mars scientists and imagery from the Mars Exploration Rovers.

The two main field areas that the ASU research team will visit are: 1) Yellowstone National Park, Wyoming and 2) Cuatro Ciénegas, Mexico. We completed one field season at Yellowstone National Park in July-August 2009 (Figure 1). Over 30 researches, students and staff attended this trip to study the hot springs in select areas within the Park. Wendy Taylor (EPO Lead) accompanied the research team to begin collecting images and video clips for use in the virtual field trip project. We intend to return in the summer of 2010 to continue the science and media field projects. Image galleries have been collected with some images posted on the ASU astrobiology website (see the website report for more details). A preliminary trip to Cuatro Ciénegas, Mexico took place in February 2009 to survey research areas (Figure 2) and work with partners from the University of Mexico. As part of this visit, the researchers were involved in an outreach event in a local community and school (Figures 3-4). Fieldwork will continue in 2011 and 2012.