Education and Outreach: November 2008

The pilot-test of an NAI-supported curriculum entitled Astrobiology: An Integrated Science Approach will help kick-off the State of Maine's new Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics (STEM) Initiative. This initiative is the subject of a press conference to be given by Maine's Governor, The Honorable John E. Baldacci, on November 17th.

The curriculum was developed with significant input from the NAI Ames Team led by Dave Des Marais, who will speak at the press conference. Much of the team's research in astrobiology is captured in the curriculum.

A new collaboration between NAI and the American Society for Microbiology (ASM) enabled the production of a special astrobiology-themed event at this year's NABT 2008 Professional Development Conference, held in Memphis, TN, October 15-18th. ASM's K-12 Committee Chair graciously invited NAI to join them in making astrobiology the theme of the day-long event that ASM hosts at NABT each year. E/PO Leads from NAI's MBL and IPTAI teams, in collaboration with exobiology researcher Brad Bebout from NASA Ames, joined several astrobiologists from ASM's ranks in sharing lectures and classroom materials about microbial life in extreme environments. NABT supported the event by advertising it in their newsletter and highlighting it in the conference program.

Scientists from the NAI Ames Team have teamed with rangers from Lassen Volcanic National Park to create the Lassen Astrobiology Internship Program. Ten high school sophomores from the rural areas around the park will hike - and later on in the year, snowshoe - to three locations within the Park several times throughout the 2008-09 school year, collecting water samples and other data at various locations. The samples will be analyzed, and the data provided to researchers on the NAI Ames Team to increase their knowledge about the microbial populations in the diverse hydrothermal areas and extreme environments within the Park.

The NASA Graduate Student Researchers Program (GSRP) is an Agency-wide fellowship program (also called GSRP Training Grants in what follows) for graduate study leading to masters or doctoral degrees in the fields of science, mathematics, and engineering related to NASA research and development. This twelve month award strongly encourages a research experience at the NASA center extending the GSRP Fellowship.

The Lewis and Clark Fund for Exploration and Field Research in Astrobiology, a partnership between NAI and the American Philosophical Society (APS), is now accepting applications for astrobiological field studies for 2009. Graduate students, postdoctoral students, and junior scientists and scholars are eligible to apply for travel and related expenses, up to $5000. For more information, please see

Source: NAI Newsletter

The next Astrobiology Graduate Student Conference (AbGradCon) will be held July 17 - 20 2009 at the University of Washington in Seattle. The primary objective of AbGradCon is to improve the future of astrobiology research by bringing together in a unique setting the early-career astrobiologists (graduate students and post-doctoral fellows within 2 years of finishing their Ph.D.) who will lead such research in the years to come. The conference is unique in that it is a student-led meeting, from the organization to the presentations. AbGradCon strives to remove the "pressures" of typical scientific meetings by providing a relaxed atmosphere in which presentations and round-table discussions are fostered along with numerous social activities. AbGradCon will also be hosted in the virtual world of Second Life at the NASA CoLab Sun Amphitheater.

For more information:

Source: NAI Newsletter

The NAI-MIRS Program provides opportunities for researchers from qualified minority institutions to initiate joint partnerships with NAI researchers in the field of astrobiology. The NAI-MIRS program provides summer sabbaticals, follow-up support, and travel opportunities for faculty and students from minority institutions. The application deadline for summer 2009 is March 16. For more information, visit

Source: NAI Newsletter

Starting January 1, 2009, a new 4-year program will investigate hydrothermal systems on the Mid-Cayman Spreading Center (MCSC) under NASA's ASTEP program - a joint collaboration between Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution (WHOI), NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL), the Marine Biological Laboratory (MBL) and Duke University Marine Laboratory (DUML). The results of the work will be used to plan astrobiological exploration of any planetary body that can host hydrothermal circulation (for example, Europa).

NASA announces a call for graduate fellowship proposals to the NASA Earth and Space Science Fellowship (NESSF) program for the 2009-2010 academic year. This call for fellowship proposals solicits applications from accredited U.S. universities on behalf of individuals pursuing Master of Science (M.Sc.) or Doctoral (Ph.D.) degrees in Earth and space sciences, or related disciplines. The purpose of NESSF is to ensure continued training of a highly qualified workforce in disciplines needed to achieve NASA's scientific goals. Awards resulting from the competitive selection will be made in the form of training grants to the respective universities.

Dina Bower: Advisor: Andrew Steele, Carnegie Institution of Washington, NAI CIW Team Topic: Experimental Investigations on the Effects of Diagenesis on the Formation of Fe,Ti-oxides (Pseudorutile) in Microfossils: Using Minerals as Biosignatures in Ancient Rocks

Mark Claire: Advisor: Jim Kasting, Pennsylvania State University and NAI VPL Team
Topic: Biogenic Sulfur - From Biospheres to Biosignatures

Source: NAI Newsletter