AAS 200th meeting, Albuquerque, NM, June 2002
Session 13. Astronomy Education
Display, Monday, June 3, 2002, 9:20am-6:30pm, SW Exhibit Hall

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[13.06] ``To See Cosmology in a Quetzal..."

D.E. Neuenschwander (Southern Nazarene University, Dept. of Physics), L. Finkenbinder (Southern Nazarene University, Dept. of Biology)

High in the Talamanca Mountains of Costa Rica, our university maintains a field station called the Quetzal Education Research Center (QERC), in cloud forest habit of the magnificent Resplendent Quetzal. At these latitudes, where every surface is alive, the astronomical realities that constrain life's options acquire an in-your-face immediacy. Three years ago we began team-teaching a general astrobiology course featuring a 10-day trip to the QERC and other Costa Rican sites, including the Arenal Volcano and Manuel Antonio National Park. This experience places the student smack in the middle of an environment that dramatically shows how stellar evolution provides the energy, materials, and timescale for biological evolution. For example, discussion of tidal forces occurs when we are up to our necks in the tide at Manuel Antonio's beaches; discussions of nuclear reactions that power the Sun are followed with extended forest hikes to see the light-gathering strategies of photosynthetic organisms; as an astronomical system, quetzal DNA is a ``metal," a product of nucleosynthesis. Our time in Costa Rica also features an astronomy education program for the residents of San Gerardo de Dota (in the rural valley where the QERC is located), with presentations at the local school and astronomy ``open house" evenings at the QERC. As one travels the country one also sees the rapid destruction of tropical forest biodiversity. We therefore encourage through astrobiology the formation of another kind of ``ecosystem:" the global network of young people who are valiantly confronting the challenges of environmental sustainability. Solutions to these problems must take into account economic, cultural, and political realities as well as scientific realities. The importance of seeing these immediate problems in terms of astronomical and biological evolution timescales forms another splendid motivation for the study of astrobiology.

If you would like more information about this abstract, please follow the link to web.snu.edu/misc/qerc. This link was provided by the author. When you follow it, you will leave the Web site for this meeting; to return, you should use the Back comand on your browser.

The author(s) of this abstract have provided an email address for comments about the abstract: dneuensc@snu.edu, lfinkenb@snu.edu

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Bulletin of the American Astronomical Society, 34
© 2002. The American Astronomical Soceity.