Summer Camp Volunteering – week 2

The theme for last week’s Howard Count Conservancy’s summer camps was ‘Fantastic Beasts.’ I spent a morning at Mt. Pleasant and the next morning at Belmont. At Mt. Pleasant there were three groups of campers….45 minutes for each. I used the dinosaur and mammal track rock found at NASA Goddard (saw it back when I was in the HOLLIE program) to initiate the conversation about extinct animals and fossils. There were some fossil shells from Calvert Cliffs and some of the campers had been there to explore themselves. I had on my ammonite shaped earrings too.

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Then for some action: Two pans of water, a measuring tape and white board. A person put one foot into each pan (shoes on) and then stepped out and walked normally. The measurement team (usually two campers) measured heal print to heal print to determine the walking stride length. We measured the walking stride of the tallest and shortest in each group (and then everyone else because everyone wanted to know their stride length…or game it and take extra-long steps!). In the oldest group of campers, we measured the running stride (heel first and on toes). It was a great activity to further explore what information can be gleaned from tracks.

We transitioned into evidence of animals living today with some whelk shells and egg cases found on a beach. Some campers were surprised that the whelks were animals that still live in the ocean along the east coast of the US.

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One of the junior counselors had participated in a dinosaur dig in Montana…and shared some pictures for her adventure with the campers.

It was a busy 45 minutes!

At Belmont, there were two groups of campers making Zentangle® tiles. I introduced the session using the NASA Goddard rock, the welk shells and my ammonite earrings….and then showed them patterns for beasts. The first group (younger) made octopus/jelly fish and tracks. The second group experimented with an ammonite type pattern, tracks and shells. The theropod tracks were the most popular. Many made some big therapod tracks and then some small ones (moms with babies). A variation from one camper: a therapod track….then a blank area where the therapod flew….then more tracks. One camper made mammal tracks. Both groups enjoyed adding colors after they made their patterns with the black Sharpie ultrafine pens.


The Zentangle® Method is an easy-to-learn, relaxing, and fun way to create beautiful images by drawing structured patterns. It was created by Rick Roberts and Maria Thomas. "Zentangle" is a registered trademark of Zentangle, Inc. Learn more at

NASA Visitor Center

Back in the early days of HoLLIE classes, we met in the parking lot of the NASA Goddard Visitor Center before going to our class; it was before it opened so I wanted to go back to see the visitor center exhibits. Last week – it happened. It was a cloudy morning with rain in the forecast. The center opens at 10 and I was there a few minutes afterward. There were only a couple of other early visitors.

I decided to do the outdoor Goddard Rocket Garden and Astobiology Walk first – since I wasn’t sure the weather would stay dry. Did you know that grooved pavement used for airport runways and other pavements was the result of a NASA Wallops Island study from the 1960s?


I took a lot of pictures of the astrobiology walk and made a slide show of them below (use the arrows to go through at your own speed).

My favorite displays were the two showing banded iron specimens.

Inside – there was a full-side mechanical prototype of the Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter (LRO). We saw the operational control room for the mission during the HoLLIE class. It’s quite a thrill to know that the mission is ongoing – knowing that my daughter was an undergraduate at Cornell when LRO reached the moon and she helped with some of the initial image calibration since she had developed calibration skills in her part-time job calibrating images from the Mars rover.

There was also an exhibit of the new James Web Space Telescope – comparing its mirror with the one on the Hubble Space Telescope.

There was also a fun exhibit with two cameras and monitors. One was an infrared camera. It picked up the residual heat from ones feet on the carpet as one walked away from its field of view!

I bought a Cassini Grand Finale t-shirt for my daughter at the gift store; she used some data from Cassini for a couple of papers while she was an undergraduate. Hurray for good experiences!

Ten Little Celebrations – February 2018

February 2018 has been busier than usual for me than in previous years since ‘graduation’ from my career (that does sound better than ‘retirement’!). The activity that caused that was the day long HoLLIE (Howard County Legacy Leadership Institute for the Environment) classes once a week. I celebrated 1) after the first one – realizing what a rich learning experience the institute was going to be – and after 2) after the second week when we are at Goddard learning about how and what satellites help us understand the Earth…and having the serendipity add on to the class seeing the big rock with dinosaur and early mammal tracks. I could have counted all 4 days as ‘celebrations’ but decided to choose some other items to add variety to this post.


I celebrated seeing 3) 2 kinds of woodpeckers within about 10 minutes from my office window: pileated and downy and 4) the springtime tussling of male cardinals in the maple tree while the female looked on and stayed out of the way (a sign that winter in waning already).

The old crock pot being replaced by 5) an Instant Pot was a little celebration (because of immediate success using it) and continuing.

Usually I don’t find anything to celebrate in the news…but the 6) successful launch of the Falcon Heavy was something to celebrate. It’s great that there is a heavy lift capability available - a capability we need to further our exploration of space.

Several things came together this month – focusing my attention on how much I’ve enjoyed being a 7) Maryland Master Naturalist…I celebrated the 4-year journey.

I vicariously shared some of my daughter’s experiences this month – 8) celebrating her post doc – teaching – and ‘what next’ search. It’s invigorating to understand how full her life is --- how much we still share so easily.

The weather after mid-month has turned very mild here in Maryland. Earlier I celebrated 9) enough snow to be pretty and that I had 10) no commitments and could stay home on the day it turned icy.

HoLLIE – week 3

The Week 3 of  HoLLIE (Howard County Legacy Leadership for the Environment) class day was last week and it was held at NASA Goddard like the second week. The theme for the day was continued from last week: “what informed citizens need to know about earth systems science.”

The first talk of the day as about ice sheets and included a discussion of the speakers trek to the South Pole last year. Check out her ICESat-2 Antarctic Traverse Blog (The first post is from December 4, 2017. If you want to start with that one and read in chronological order, scroll down to the bottom of this page until you get to ‘Heading South, to New Zealand and Beyond.’ Then after reading the ‘South Pole Station: The Last Stop Before the Traverse’ beginning at the top of the page, click on ‘newer entries’ to read the rest of the of the posts – and again start with the post at the bottom of the page and work up). She spent Christmas at the South Pole!

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She recommended a book that I found could be checked out from Internet Archive when I got home: The two-mile time machine by Richard B. Alley. The book is about the annual rings of ice from cores drilled in Greenland and what they tell us about Earth’s climate over time.

The second talk was about the Land-Based Hydrology Cycle. This talk included what we can learn from satellites but also what measurements are taken on land too (and how much effort that takes…to get even sporadic data). With fresh water being so key to life – the very highs (floods) and very lows (droughts) are major impact all around the world.

The third talk was about the Black Marble project…about what we can learn from looking at the earth at night. Back in April there was good summation of the project – to create the images more frequently so that they could be used more even more applications (like short-term weather forecasting and disaster response): New Night Lights Maps Open Up Possible Real-Time Applications -; take a look at the map of India midway through the article and slide the vertical bar to the see how the northern part of the country was electrified between 2012 and 2016. There is more at

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The fourth talk was about how the Montreal Protocol saved the earth’s ozone layer. I knew the protocol concerned Ozone and CFCs….but didn’t realize any more history than that. The timing of a report that linked CFCs to ozone depletion just before the ‘hole’ was discovered in the ozone layer (a major change from measures of ozone for many years beforehand) over Antarctica made for a dramatic beginning to the conversation. It has been effective because governments engaged industry that provided substitutes (some transitional) that made it possible to move away from compounds that were ozone damaging in the stratosphere.

Next we visited NASA’s Scientific Visualization Studio – seeing some of their recent work on a wall sized screen. Here are some web versions of what we saw in the studio:

NASA's Near-Earth Science Mission Fleet: March 2017

Global Temperature Anomalies from 1880 to 2017

Weekly Animation of Arctic Sea Ice Age with Two Graphs: 1984 - 2016

Previous HoLLIE posts: Week 1, Week 2

HoLLIE – week 2

The second HoLLIE (Howard County Legacy Leadership for the Environment) class day was last week and it was held at NASA Goddard. I was worried about hitting rush hour traffic so left very early since we were to meet in the Goddard Visitor Center parking lot to catch the bus into the facility. The day was sunny and clear…but very cold and breezy. I managed to take this picture of the visitor center (not yet open) without getting out of my car!


The theme for the day was “what informed citizens need to know about earth systems science.” It was the first of two days that our classes will be at Goddard; last week we started with lectures on “understanding the tools and the state of the art in earth science” from the Project Scientist for the AQUA satellite and then got a tour of mission control for several earth science satellites from the Aqua Mission Director. They did a good job of demonstrating the types of data that can be collected, the methods used to collect it, and the ways it has been analyzed. I was surprised to see the LRO (Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter) mission control in the same building. That brought back the memory of my daughter being on the team to do image calibration shortly after it launched during her undergraduate days!


On the way back to our classroom, we stopped by the replica of the big rock found at Goddard that has mammal and dinosaur and mammal tracks. This was not on our agenda originally but was a wonderful serendipity aspect to the day even if it took part of our lunch time. I’d read about it in one of my news feeds and followed the link to the paper…but it was such a thrill to see the exhibit and hear the short lecture. I managed to take a few pictures.

We started the lectures on ‘understanding the science of earth’s cycles’ that will continue in this week’s class. We talked about the oceans and the carbon system in this second class. One of the interesting videos in the lectures is available online: twenty years of global biosphere data mapped on a slowly spinning globe; it easy to see the annual cycles. With the massive amounts of data, visualization becomes an important component.


When I got home an article in one of my newsfeeds talked about climate models that are developing that explain why there might be a linkage between melting of Arctic sea ice (one of the topics for the HoLLIE lectures this week) and droughts in California (How nuclear weapons research revealed new climate threats). It was easier to understand since I had the background of the lectures!

Previous HoLLIE posts: Week 1