March 29th, 2018 | 5:00 P.M. to 7:00 P.M. | One Million Snowflakes, Ancient Climates, and the Color of Water
Our next open house event features three scientists who study fossils and rocks, snowflakes in our atmosphere, and constituents in our waterways. Join us to find out how we can learn about our Earth’s past through fossils and rocks, why forecasting snow is so difficult, and what the color of water can tell us about the quality of our waterways.
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.
February 22nd, 2018 | 5:00 P.M. to 7:00 P.M. | Violent Storms, Melting Glaciers, and Tiny Plankton
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!
November 30th, 2017 | 5:00 P.M. to 7:00 P.M. | Digital Landscapes, Ocean Gliders, and Atmospheric Aerosols
Our second Fall (2017) open house event featured three scientists who study aspects of the land, the ocean and the atmosphere. Join us to learn how physical and virtual models can help better manage landscapes, how remotely controlled ocean gliders give us data on the characteristics of ocean currents, and figure out just what a cry-microscope is and what it can tell us about atmospheric processes.
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.
Dr. Stuart Bishop is a physical oceanographer who conducts research in exciting regions of the ocean using a combination of cutting-edge observations from autonomous ocean gliders, shipboard measurements, and high-resolution models to study large-scale current systems. Students will explore how temperature and salinity vary in the ocean and learn why it’s important to examine these patterns to better understand how the oceans influence the global climate system. Dr. Bishop will describe how ocean drones (gliders) work and how they can be used to remotely collect data from over 5000 miles away in the Pacific Ocean.
Atmospheric Scientists are working to understand how rain forms in clouds. In fact, most rainfall is seeded by tiny ice crystals that randomly appear within the cloud. How the ice crystals form remains a mystery. Atmospheric Scientist Dr. Markus Petters will work with students to experimentally determine how different substances present in the atmosphere aid the freezing of water droplets. Students will perform the droplet freezing experiments using a cry-microscope and relate the observation to the expected altitude of freezing in various cloud types in the atmosphere.
November 9th, 2017 | 5:00 P.M. to 7:00 P.M. | Discovering Earthquakes, Exploring Planets and Finding Lost Graves
Our first open house event for the Fall (2017) featured three scientists who use data from different sources to better understand the Earth below our feet, the potential for dangerous earthquakes and the geologic history of our planetary neighbors.
Geologists can unravel clues to the timing and size of prehistoric earthquakes that occurred before the settlement of earthquake-prone Western states. Understanding the effects of these ancient events on natural environments has implications for the design of hazard prevention programs. Sedimentologist Dr. Lonnie Leithold will discuss how she analyzes layers of sand and clay in lake sediments from Washington State to discover the signal of large earthquakes that generated underwater landslides. Students will engage in experiments to learn about sediment settling rates and we will use a laser particle size analyzer to measure sediment particles deposited after a large earthquake 3100 years ago and make interpretations of the quake’s effect on the local environment.
Students will be introduced to how scientists learn about the formation and geologic history of other planets and moons in our solar system. Planetary geologist Dr. Paul Byrne will share a variety of imagery from his research and guide students through an activity that uses Google Earth to explore some of the differences—and similarities—between Earth and other planets. Students will examine a representative volcano and impact crater on Earth and then test their ability to make predictions for how differences in gravity, rock type, and atmospheric properties will affect the appearances of similar features on the Moon and Mars.
Geoscientists, archaeologists, and forensic scientists working in urban and natural environments may be tasked with discovering hidden features buried several meters beneath Earth’s surface. Geophysicist Dr. Del Bohnenstiehl will demonstrate the use of Ground Penetrating Radar (GPR) that uses radio waves to probe the ground below our feet. Students will have an opportunity to work with the GPR system to collect data and interpret findings. Students will learn about the applications of this work, including a recent study conducted by NC State personnel that identified hundreds of unmarked graves of African-American residents at Raleigh’s historic Oberlin Cemetery as part of the Oberlin Cemetery Project.