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2010 Annual Science Report

NASA Jet Propulsion Laboratory - Icy Worlds Reporting  |  SEP 2009 – AUG 2010

EPO Activity: Astrobiology of Icy Worlds EPO Activities

Project Progress

In FY10, the Astrobiology of Icy Worlds E/PO team conducted classroom visits, public lectures, lab tours, student internships, website development, design work on a set of Icy Worlds trading cards, participation in the Astrobiology Science Conference, and teacher professional development.

Classroom Visits:
Kevin Hand and Rachel Zimmerman Brachman visited a high school astrobiology class at West High School in Torrance, California on January 6, 2010.

Kevin Hand led a distance learning teleconference with high school classrooms in Vermont on January 7, 2010.

Tom Painter gave presentations in Telluride, Colorado in February 2010. He spoke at Telluride High School in Telluride, Colorado, Ridgeway Junior/Senior High School in Ridgeway, Colorado, and Ouray School (K-12) in Ouray, Colorado.

Steve Vance gave a colloquium and guest classroom lectures at East Carolina University, collaborating with Carnegie.

Public Lectures:
Kevin Hand gave a JPL “Science 101” presentation to JPL staff on the topic of “Ocean Worlds of the Outer Solar System.” The talk was attended by several hundred people, and recorded and archived for future viewing.

Max Coleman gave presentations at Rotary Clubs, the La Canada Public Library, and other public talks.

JPL Tours:
Max Coleman led a JPL tour for West High School students on January 20, 2010.

Rohit Bhartia helped organize a JPL tour for USC Geobiology International Summer School. 28 graduate students came to JPL over 2 days. Students really enjoyed the program. There will be a similar program next year, with more involvement from the Icy Worlds E/PO team at JPL.

Summer Interns:
The Icy Worlds NAI team had several summer interns this year.

Kevin Hand had four summer interns, including Andrew Park, Jr. who interned with him last summer also.

Paul Johnson had several interns over the summer working on Icy Worlds work, including Hugh Kim and Jason Young, both of whom are Caltech postdocs, and four undergraduate students via JPL’s Undergraduate Student Research Program: *Colin Fitzgerald, University of Colorado *Diana Bolser, University of Missouri *Victoria Chernow, Harvard University *Dawn Lipscomb, University of Texas at San Antonio

NAI funding supported an undergraduate summer student at Wheaton College in 2009. The student used Wheaton’s high-performance cluster computer to simulate the flow of hydrothermal plumes in Europa’s ocean, and built software tools to analyze and visualize the model data. The student’s work was presented at AGU fall 2009, and a journal article on this work is in preparation.

Alison Murray helped organize a two-week summer school.

Heather Adams helped Susan Kelly with the Peaks and Potentials Yellowstone Lake Ecology Summer Camp at Montana State University in June 2010. Part of Heather’s participation entailed giving a presentation on “Extreme lake ecology” which included our astrobiology work at Barrow. Of course, we also have the upcoming project at Hardin.


The Icy Worlds NAI website is under development by Raytheon, the team that has developed all of the Solar System Exploration webpages for JPL/NASA.
The URL for the development site for the Icy Worlds NAI website (currently in wireframe form) is:!Assets/wireframes/Icy_Worlds_Wireframes/Home.html *The URL for the website, when it’s ready to launch, will be

Teacher Professional Development:
Nikki Chambers, a high school teacher at West High School in Torrance, California, gave a presentation about teaching high school astrobiology at the California Science Teachers Association (CSTA) conference in Palm Springs, California in October 2009. At CSTA, she met Rachel Zimmerman-Brachman, and this led to a year-long collaboration between the Icy Worlds E/PO team and Nikki Chambers’ class. Nikki made connections in the NAI community, invited Icy Worlds team members to speak in her astrobiology class, arranged a JPL tour for her advanced students, presented at the Astrobiology Science Conference, came to JPL Open House, made connections that led to participation in HISTAR in Hawaii, and brought back what she learned to share with her students. We plan to maintain a close relationship with Nikki’s class again this year, and we hope to establish similar relationships with other high school astrobiology teachers in the coming year.

The Icy Worlds E/PO team participated in a day-long Astrobiology training for Houston-area teachers following the Astrobiology Science Conference, in collaboration with E/PO leads from all of the current NAI teams.

The Icy Worlds E/PO team participated in a two-day Astrobiology professional development for Solar System Educators at NASA Ames in July 2010. Teachers from 23 states participated in the training.

Additional NAI Funds to Support Native American Students:
Susan Kelly at Montana State University wrote a successful proposal to support a project linking Icy Worlds NAI team members with E/PO programs for Native American students on Crow and Blackfeet reservations in Montana.

Television Coverage:
An hour-long National Geographic Explorer special on Europa called “Journey to an Alien Moon” included many Icy Worlds team members, including Kevin Hand, Brad Dalton, and Robert Pappalardo.

E/PO at AbSciCon:
All NAI E/PO Leads participated in an Astrobiology E/PO workshop about planning effective astrobiology E/PO workshops. Most of the NAI E/PO Leads participated in a teacher training about astrobiology in Houston for local science teachers on the day after AbSciCon.

Icy Worlds Trading Cards:
Trading cards are almost ready to go to print. We’re awaiting one final round of edits by the Icy Worlds NAI team before we’ll be ready to print and distribute the trading cards.

Eyes on the Solar System:
Funded by Solar System Thematic Outreach, Radioisotope Power Systems, and several planetary missions, Eyes on the Solar System will change the way people learn about the solar system, including the icy worlds of our solar system. This interactive computer visualization shows all of the planets, moons, and small bodies in the solar system, along with many of the missions to these planets and moons. Students, scientists, and the public can follow along with missions from 1950 to 2050.

Additional EPO Activities:

UCR Grad Student: Megan Rohrssen (University of California, Riverside)

I. Graduate student training: PH.D. Student Paula Matheus-Carnevali who is being supported in part by the Icy Worlds program joined the project in late August 2009. She’s received training in gas chromatography analytical technique at UNR and in anaerobic microbial technique – in particular approaches for working with strict anaerobes such as methanogens at UNLV from Dr. Brian Hedlund’s research group. Paula presented the results from the Mt. Conness field campaign at UNR in September 2010.

Matheus-Carnevali, P. and A.E. Murray. Structure of the microbial community in the snow fields of Mt. Conness, CA. UNR Graduate Seminar. Sept. 2010.

II. NASA Space Grant summer course: Nevada Geobiology. CoI Murray participated as an instructor in this Geobiology field course in July 2010. She led a section investigating the geobiology of cold environments, and led field trips to Wheeler Peak, in the Great Basin National Park in eastern Nevada, and to the Sierra Crest, near Donner Summit in California. Snow samples collected were analyzed in the lab using similar procedures to our Mt. Conness field program, and these sites will be included in a growing study of Western US snow fields to describe the snow microbial communities.

III. Public seminar:
Murray, A.E. Microbe Planet: Life on Earth, Extreme Environments, and Astrobiology. Co-hosted by the Squaw Valley Institute and the Tahoe Center for Environmental Studies, Sept. 10, 2010.

Plans for 2011:
In 2011, we plan to complete, print, and start distributing Icy Worlds trading cards, complete the first version of the website and post it online, conduct classroom visits, public lectures, and teacher professional development, and support the Icy Worlds NAI. Icy Worlds NAI E/PO will continue to partner with other NAIs to leverage opportunities such as teacher professional development, conference participation, etc.

Publications and Conference Presentations:

TEACHING ASTROBIOLOGY AS A HIGH SCHOOL SCIENCE COURSE. N. M. Chambers and R. Zimmerman-Brachman, Astrobiology Science Conference, Houston, TX April 2010.

Press Releases and Media Coverage:

NASA Goes Deep in Search of Extreme Environments, July 20, 2010. Full article:
(Also published in Astrobiology Magazine, July 25, 2010.) Full article:

Could Jupiter Moon Harbor Fish-Size Life? By Victoria Jaggard, National Geographic News, November 16, 2009. Full article:

Expedition to Mid-Cayman Rise identifies unusual variety of deep sea vents, e! Science News, July 20, 2010. Full article:
Where in the World is Europa?,, by Charles Q. Choi, August 19, 2010. Full article:
Some Parts of Earth Are Similar to Jupiter’s Moon Europa, by Charles Q. Choi, Astrobiology Magazine Contributor on, posted: 16 August 2010. Full article:

Noemie Goff-Pochat looks to the stars for senior thesis, by David Perelman ’11 / Wire Staff and Olympia Sonner ’10 / Editor in Chief, The Wheaton Wire, Issue date: February 24, 2010. Full article:

Rare arctic springs hold clues to Jupiter’s moon: Europa’s cracks, ridges may reveal details about hidden underground ocean, by Charles Q. Choi, on, updated March 25, 2010. Full article:

BBC News – Could life exist on Jupiter moon?‎, by Emma Harding, BBC Radio 4, BBC News, February 4, 2010. Full article: