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2010 Annual Science Report

NASA Ames Research Center Reporting  |  SEP 2009 – AUG 2010

EPO Activity: Astrobiology Student Intern Program at Lassen Volcanic National Park

Project Progress

The Ames Team continued to forge its strong partnership with Lassen Volcanic National Park and Red Bluff High School by reinforcing the connections between microbiology and astrobiology.

Team members, high school students, educators and park rangers participated in fieldwork and data collection from Lassen’s thermal features for NASA astrobiologists and the National Park Service, and in 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 analysis, which will be hosted on the NASA Ames Team website. This database is a valuable resource for extreme environmental analog research in support of missions to Mars and beyond.

The intern program expanded this year to include field trips to additional sites, and increased participation between students and Ames Team members via interactive lectures using the NASA Digital Learning Network. The team presented structured training to the students, teachers and park rangers in a series of classroom/field exercises with the purpose of introducing astrobiology, teaching how to do scientific research, addressing field safety and the use of field equipment.

The Lassen Astrobiology Student Intern Program provides a dynamic, hands-on learning environment for high school students who are beginning to focus on their career paths. This authentic data collection and analysis field experience allows students to piece together a story about how water and volcanoes interact. Lassen is a valuable resource to NASA because of its parallels with volcanoes and hydrothermal activity on Mars. The park provides access to many extreme environments that host microbial communities.

The first of ultimately four or more astrobiology interpretive trailside signs was completed for installation in Lassen Volcanic National Park. Created in partnership between Lassen and the Ames Team, the signs will be located at hydrothermal sites that best illustrate the most compelling aspects of astrobiology research in Lassen.