Interested in exploring the variety of geoscience research conducted at NC State? Geoscientists in the Department of Marine, Earth, and Atmospheric Sciences are hosting a series of open house events to make their labs and work spaces accessible to students in middle and high school. See below for descriptions of upcoming open house events. For descriptions of previous open house events, please click here. All open house events begin in Jordan Hall, in room 1132, on the NC State campus (see map below).


February 22nd, 2018 | 5:00 P.M. to 7:00 P.M.  | Violent Storms, Melting Glaciers, and Tiny Plankton

Registration Required, See Application Below

Our next open house event features three scientists who study ice in glaciers, microscopic organisms in the oceans, and violent storms in the atmosphere. Join us to learn how the chemistry of water can tell us about melting rates of glaciers, how researchers figure out what’s going on in violent thunderstorms, and how much oceanic food webs rely on some of the smallest organisms in the oceans.

Dr. Carli Arendt is a glacial hydrologist who uses the chemistry of meltwater to investigate the rates and magnitude of climate change in glacial environments. Students will learn about the importance of these massive freshwater reservoirs and explore how geochemistry can be used to assess the ‘health’ of glacial systems. Students will compare and interpret water chemistry data from glaciers in Alaska, Canada, and Greenland to make predictions about the melting rates of these glacial systems.

Atmospheric scientists study a range of weather patterns that affect our everyday life, from winter storms to tornadoes. For storms and tornadoes, researchers from NC State venture out into the field to experience the storms first hand, trying to understand why some storms produce tornadoes while others that seemingly similar do not.  Dr. Brice Coffer is an atmospheric scientist and will describe and show how researchers approach studying violent severe weather like tornadoes, including storm chasing, taking observations using mobile radars and weather balloons, and using high-resolution computer model simulations to create virtual thunderstorms.

As a marine scientist, Dr. Astrid Schnetzer and her Plankton Ecology Lab, chase some of the smallest organisms in the ocean. Marine phytoplankton (such as algae) and zooplankton (such as shrimp) are essential components of oceanic food webs (no plankton, no whales). These microscopic creatures are diverse and range from single-celled algae to bioluminescent gelatinous jellies. We will explore some of these fascinating organisms using high-power microscopy and automated dynamic imaging – let’s see what’s in a teaspoon of seawater!


March 29th, 2018 | 5:00 P.M. to 7:00 P.M.  | One Million Snowflakes, Ancient Climates, and the Color of Water

Registration Required by Wednesday, March 28th, See Application Below

Paleontologists and sedimentologists like Dr. Ethan Hyland are working to understand how Earth’s climate has changed in the past, and what affects that might have had on life and evolution. Dr. Hyland reconstructs what Earth was like 75 million years ago by analyzing fossils and interpreting sedimentary rocks. This information can help scientists predict future changes to global climate and their effects on key ecosystems. Students will examine a fossil collection and perform experiments simulating sample preparation in order to understand how scientists predict important past climate parameters like temperature and atmospheric carbon dioxide concentrations.

Why is snowfall prediction so uncertain? Official predictions often overestimate or underestimate the actual snowfall. Meteorologists face a tough challenge in their forecasts as snow particles can vary in size, density, and shape between storms and even during different periods of the same storm. In this activity, students will examine pictures of snowflakes from a database of over one million images collected as part of a research project lead by atmospheric scientist Dr. Sandra Yuter. Students will try to predict which types of snow particles are most common and will learn how different snow particle shapes and sizes are related to the arrangement of atmospheric layers with different moisture content and temperatures.

Ever wondered why streams, lakes, rivers, or seawater have different colors to them? This is because of the organic matter that is present in water and originates from algae, soils, and other sources gives rise to water’s color. In this activity, students will measure the light absorbed by different natural water samples using techniques developed by marine biogeochemist Dr. Chris Osburn. Students will then compare measurements made in the laboratory with measurements made by satellites and will learn how different colors of natural waters inform us about water quality, marine biology, and ocean chemistry.


April 26th, 2018 | 5:00 P.M. to 7:00 P.M.  | Deadly Landslides, Digital Landscapes, and the Health of Freshwater Clams

Registration Required by Wednesday, April 25th, See Application Below

Gravity never sleeps.  Landslides cause $1-2 billion in damages and dozens of fatalities each year in the U.S.  Geologist Dr. Karl Wegmann was involved in the government response to the 2014 Oso Landslide disaster in Washington that resulted in 43 fatalities and destroyed 49 homes. He will demonstrate how students can interpret landscapes and geologic deposits by using a combination of high-resolution (LIDAR) topographic maps, satellite images, and results from radiocarbon dating to determine the average number of years between landslides. Students will estimate the likelihood of another Oso-like disaster and steps that scientists, public officials, and citizens can take to minimize future risk.

Geospatial scientists study landscape patterns and how they change due to natural forces and human activities. They process data collected by satellites, airplanes, drones or even smartphones and create digital representations of the landscapes and environment around us. Dr. Helena Mitasova will demonstrate how her team works with these data and simulations of earth surface processes using Tangible Landscape – an interface that allows users to interact with geospatial simulations using 3D sand models of studied landscapes. Multiple users can alter the physical model by hand so the students can collaborate on solving various geospatial problems such as managing surface water flow or storm surge flooding. The system is coupled with immersive virtual environment with realistic 3D rendering so students will be able to plant protective vegetation and then step into the redesigned landscape.

Have you ever walked in a stream? You may have seen a few fish but may not have realized that the stream is full of other critters; some microscopic, some you may have confused with rocks. Dr. Jay Levine, a veterinarian and stream biologist will help students explore the rich diversity of life in freshwater streams. Students will perform experiments to determine the time it takes for freshwater clams to clear algae and leaf debris from water and will characterize, count and sketch the microscopic life they can see through the lens of a microscope.