Early Habitable Environments and the Evolution of Complexity Principal Investigator - David J. Des Marais

EPO - National Park Service

Sandy Dueck, Lead Co-Investigator

Lassen Astrobiology Student Intern Program

Students Trained in Fieldwork Collect Data for Astrobiology Team

The NAI Ames Team and Lassen Volcanic National Park have partnered with Red Bluff High School to collect field data for astrobiology. Students are trained in fieldwork in order to provide a valuable research database for environments relevant to Mars exploration. Lassen is a useful analog of hydrothermal features on Mars and of our own biosphere here on Earth.

In September 2008, nine high school students from Red Bluff High School in Tehama County, California, were selected to participate in the Astrobiology Student Internship Program, a partnership between the Ames Team and Lassen National Park. Ames Team members Dave Des Marais, Linda Jahnke, Niki Parenteau, and Mike Kubo, plus Lassen Ranger and Education Specialist Steve Zachary, and Red Bluff chemistry teacher Dave Michael began working together to train the science- and engineering-minded juniors and seniors in field work and sample collection techniques.

The student interns' initial training started with practice sessions using data collection equipment in a classroom laboratory. The students are conducting general thermal feature/water surveys at Lassen, over a one-year period in three primary localities within the national park: Sulphur Creek, Cold Boiling Lake, and in the future, Bumpass Hell.

Lassen Student Interns

With guidance, the astrobiology interns have hiked and snowshoed throughout Lassen doing digital documentation, and measuring pH and temperature of all thermal features encountered and analyzing approximately four water samples per site. Examples include an initial sample from local surface runoff before it encounters thermal features (i.e. boiling springs) and additional samples as pH decreases as water exits the thermal feature.

The end product provided from the student research will be an Excel database including thermal feature physical characteristics: pH, temperature, coordinates, digital documentation, and water analysis. It is anticipated that this material will provide a valuable resource for extreme environment analog research in support of NASA missions.

The Astrobiology Student Intern program engages high school students in research opportunities with NASA scientists and the National Park Service at Lassen. The program provides valuable hands-on astrobiology training to the next generation at the stage when they are focusing on career paths.

The Yellowstone Park Foundation, Yellowstone National Park, Lockheed Martin Corporation, and the NAI Ames Team have developed a strong and effective long-standing partnership that supports scientists and engages park visitors in exploration and scientific discovery. This successful partnership has led to major park products. A combined Lockheed/NASA Astrobiology Institute grant financed the development of eight wayside exhibits. Located throughout the park, these sites best illustrate the most compelling aspects of astrobiology research in Yellowstone National Park.

The Ames Team coordinated the effort to finance the first color "Yellowstone Resources and Issues" guide (2005), which has since been updated annually and is used as a textbook to train Park interpretive staff and is also sold in National Park Service bookstores. The Ames Team contributed Chapter 4, "Life in Extreme Heat."

The Ames Team continues to work with the National Park Service developing astrobiology-related content as requested.

Visit Yellowstone National Park's website at www.nps.gov/yell/.

See Old Faithful via Live Webcam at Yellowstone National Park.

---Sandy Dueck, Lead Co-Investigator

Educational Resources
National Park Service: Lassen Volcanic National Park and Yellowstone National Park
California Academy of Sciences
Choctaw Nation's Jones Academy
NASA Digital Learning Network
University of California, Santa Cruz, Astrobiology Course