2021 Education and Research Symposium

2021 Virtual Alaska Space Grant Program and Alaska NASA EPSCoR Education and Research Symposium - April 2, 2021

Please join us for the opportunity to hear from 2020 awardees on their Alaska Space Grant and Alaska NASA EPSCoR supported research and education projects. 

The meeting will be livestreamed on the Alaska Space Grant Program Facebook page: https://www.facebook.com/akspacegrant

Register for Zoom Link

Printable Agenda

Morning Session

9:10-9:30 AM 

Kyle Alvarado   HEOMD

Electron-fed microbes as nutrition in uncultivated domains

There are a number of threats to global food security, some of which include nuclear winter, abrupt climate change, or super volcanic eruption. These disasters, referred to as global catastrophic risks (GCRs), may prevent conventional agriculture by obscuring the sun, reducing global temperatures, and inhibiting rainfall. Apparent solutions are to store food or grow food using artificial light photosynthesis; which are not cost effective, and would cause billions of people to starve. Alternative foods, such as from electrochemically active bacteria (EAB), are designed to be cost effective and energy efficient. Alternative foods would utilize global markets to scale them quickly enough to feed the global population. Combining alternative foods provides nutrient diversity. Some alternative foods can be used in isolated refuges, or similarly to reduce the cost of space missions. A method for reducing the cost of a space mission is to comparatively lower the mass of current food supply, i.e. dehydrated prepackaged food. This is achieved by using a lower weight food production setup to produce alternative food. Producing vinegar as an alternative food from acetogenic EAB was estimated to have a cost of $6-15 /dry kg to feed people on the Earth. As an alternative space food, EAB was estimated to have a total system mass, proportional to cost, of 1.47-1.52x less than prepackaged food. Preliminary studies suggest that EAB may grow better in space than on the Earth, indicating higher volumetric productivity, lower setup mass, and lower cost. This research directly aligns with NASA Strategic Objectives 2.1 and 4.6, by laying the foundation to develop and consolidate food-supply infrastructure as efficiently as possible in order to maintain human resilience in space.

9:30-9:50 AM

Dr. Robert Herrick   SMD

Mitigating Challenges Associated with Placing a Long-Term Seismometer on Venus

Engineers at our NASA partner, Glenn Research Center, have been working through the challenges in high temperature electronics associated with operating a long duration seismometer on the Venusian surface. While sensor and associated electronics are likely to reach sufficient technical maturity within the next few years, a major design restriction is that the seismometer will have a battery-limited lifetime. Both data transmission and data storage are power-hungry operations, so neither transmitting data continuously nor storing data for later transmission are feasible. Power-dictated data-rate restrictions may also limit the high-frequency response of the seismometer. The starting point for mitigation is using an amplitude trigger to start seismometer transmission for a specified time. Two initial questions that arise from this plan, and the starting point for answers, are as follows:  1) What should the threshold be set to? - Determine best estimate for the nature and level of Venusian seismicity using analogs from Earth. 2) What should the transmission time be set to, and how interpretable will the returned data be from this operating scenario? - Take real-world continuous records from Venus-analog stations and evaluate what subset of events are captured, and where in the event transmission would occur, using different simulated trigger thresholds, frequency bandwidths and transmission times. For 1), the good news for instrument design is that Venus analog settings such as the African plate, rollback subduction zones, and plate interiors have seismicity levels within about an order of magnitude variation. For 2), we began by analyzing the data from a station in Interior Alaska away from major plate boundaries. Initial results suggest that we can reasonably assess overall seismicity, but pre-triggering bandpass filtering would have a major impact on the efficacy of the triggering and the nature of events recorded. 

9:50-10:10 AM

Dr. Amani Reddy   SMD

A study of change in near-Earth space weather using whistler mode radio sounding (3-30 kHz) from  the IMAGE satellite

"Space weather" is the name given to time-dependent conditions and changes that occur to the magnetospheric plasmas and fields in near-Earth space. These include changes in electron density, temperature, and spatial distributions, from the cold ionosphere/magnetosphere to the very energetic radiation belts. In particular, space weather implies changes that significantly impact technology and society, such as electric power, spacecraft, aviation, and the Global Positioning System (GPS). The Earth's upper atmosphere, including the thermosphere, ionosphere, and magnetosphere,  can be perturbed greatly during space weather related events such as geomagnetic storms.

Knowledge of electron and ion densities along geomagnetic field lines is required to quantitatively understand processes that regulate the coupled ionosphere-magnetosphere response to space weather events. Whistler mode radio sounding experiment from the IMAGE satellite for the first time permitted probing field-aligned electron and ion densities in the near-Earth space (~90 to 5,000 km) [Sonwalkar et al. JGR 2011, doi:10.1029/2011JA016760]. We report variations in plasma parameters, including field-aligned electron and ion densities and O+/H+ transition height (altitude at which O+ density equals H+ density), as a function of geomagnetic storm activity during the 09-24 Sep 2005 period [Reddy and Sonwalkar AGU 2020]. This period included three successive geomagnetic storms: a moderate storm on 10 Sep (Dst,min=-70 nT), a major storm on 11 Sep (Dst,min=-147 nT), and another moderate storm on 15 Sep (Dst,min=-86 nT). As the storm progressed from onset to main and recovery phase, our results showed that: (1) the response of electron density below and above transition height was different for each species; (2) the response of each of the ion species (H+, He+, O+) was different; (3) the recovery time of each species (e, H+, He+, O+) after enhancement/depletion during a storm back to their respective quiet time values was different; (4) O+/H+ transition height increased with L-shell. It increased from 1100 km to ~1500 km at L~1.9 and from ~1400 km to ~1800 km at L~2.7. WM sounding results of electron and ion densities below transition height and transition height agree with near-simultaneous measurements from the DMSP (850 km) and CHAMP (350 km) satellites and other past measurements.

Our results based on the measurements of transition height and H+ and O+ densities and TIMED GUVI measurements of N2 indicate that different physical mechanisms were responsible for changes in plasma parameters during a storm's main and recovery phases. The results presented here on temporal variations in the field-aligned plasma parameters provide novel methods to: (1) test current theories and physics-based models (e.g., SAMI3) of thermosphere-ionosphere-magnetosphere coupling and (2) relate variations in plasma density and composition to those in the thermospheric neutral wind and dynamo electric fields [Reddy et al. JGR 2018, doi: 10.1002/2017ja024348] during geomagnetically active periods.

10:10-10:30 AM              

Dr.  Mohammad Heidari Kapourchali  STMD

Adaptive PV Array Reconfiguration for Optimal Power Extraction during Partial Shading Conditions

Reliable electric power is essential for mankind’s exploration of deep space. Solar panels have historically been the power source of choice for space-based applications; however, partial shading can impede the practical realization of solar power production in these applications. Partial shading of a photovoltaic (PV) array occurs when one or more PV modules are obstructed from collecting otherwise available solar irradiance. The cause of which could be due to changing weather conditions, or particulate obstructions such as snow, ice, ash, or dust. Even if the majority of the individual panels are collecting ample solar irradiance, the presence of just a few partially shaded modules can significantly reduce the overall power production of the array. This effect is of particular concern near the higher and lower latitudes of the Earth where the ecliptic path of the sun causes substantial variation in irradiance patterns, as well as an attenuation of the energy content of t! he light resource as it propagates a greater distance through the atmosphere. Dynamic reconfiguration of PV modules within a larger solar array is known to be an effective method for minimizing the deleterious effects of partial shading. An array that is capable of rapidly and purposefully rearranging its electrical interconnections is empowered to adapt to variable irradiation patterns, failures of constituent solar modules, or even self-regulating power production in response to changing energy demands. This NASA Research Infrastructure Development (RID) proposal seeks to unlock the full potential of photovoltaic arrays under significant non-uniform shading by first, designing and implementing a dynamic and flexible solar PV testbed and then, employing and comparing a suite of dynamic reconfiguration techniques for achieving an adaptive operation. The reconfigurable solar PV test-bed and the data collected from this work will help in understanding the performance of reconfigurable solar PV arrays in extreme northern latitudes and harsh climates with unique irradiance variations.

10:30-10:50 AM

Dr. Kelly Drew and Dr. Bernard Laughlin  HEOMD

Hibernation-like Stasis for Space Emergency Medicine

Drug formulations developed through this project are expected to provide emergency medical responders the means to safely and effectively lower core body temperature during emergency medical transport of astronauts returning to earth or residents of rural Alaska to tertiary care facilities. Targeted temperature management (TTM); i.e., lowering of core body temperature improves survival and decreases morbidity in patients who suffer cardiac arrest, but state-of-the-art procedures for decreasing body temperature are not feasible in rural and remote settings.
We and others have found that hibernating mammals are masters at getting cold, staying cold and rewarming without adverse events. We have identified A1 adenosine receptors (A1ARs) in the central nervous system (CNS) as a switch to turn off shivering, to lower body temperature and to induce a hibernation-like state. Our long-term goal is to develop A1AR agonists as drugs to lower body temperature and induce a hibernation-like state in humans. The objective here, which is our next step in pursuit of this goal is to understand how 6N- cyclohexyladenosine (CHA) in combination with 8-sulphophenyl theophylline and third component can mitigate the cold-defense response and improve the therapeutic value of TTM applied after cardiac arrest.
Hypothesis: Based on published and preliminary data my working hypothesis is that CHA administered in combination with 8-SPT and another drug working through a different mechanism during cooling after cardiac arrest will suppress shivering and improve survival and neurological outcome better than a combination of meperidine and buspirone that are used currently during TTM after cardiac arrest in emergency medicine.
Methods: Rats were randomly allocated to treatment groups (n = 12). They underwent seven minutes of asphyxia and then up to 3 minutes of CPR to resuscitate. Rats that achieved return of spontaneous circulation (ROSC) were either treated 1 or 2 hours after ROSC with either our novel formulation or meperidine and busprione. Rats were cooled for 24 hours at 32°C and rewarmed back to 37°C at a rate of 0.5°C/hr. Core body temperature, oxygen consumption, activity, and seizure-like activity were monitored. Rats underwent neurological evaluations daily up to 7 days.
Results indicate that one treatment was more effective at maintaining core body temperature closer to 32°C and lowering oxygen consumption. There was no difference in survival between the two groups. The incidence and timing of seizures varied between treatment groups where one group had more deaths associated with seizure. Neurological deficits scores varied between groups with one treatment having on average lower deficit scores.
Conclusion: By translating mechanisms underlying central nervous system control of hibernation to a non-hibernating species we expect to refine application of cooling for long-term space travel and TTM. Unfortunately at this time we cannot disclose treatment results or claim superiority over standard of care treatment meperidine and buspirone, until IP is obtained.

11:00 - Noon

Morning Undergraduate Poster Session

  Katherine Sakeagak

       Particle-in-Cell / Fluid Simulation of Atmospheric Pressure Plasma Corona Discharge

  Daniel Fabrizio

       Characterizing Recent Stellar Formation within Nearby Active Galactic Nuclei 

  Zoey Bigelow

       Periodic Boundary Conditions Study of Multipole Plasma Trap Using Particle-In-Cell Simulations

  Theresa Ann Phillips

       Examining the Activity Patterns of Nudibranchs Utilizing a Neural Network

  Cassidy Berger

       A Definitive Study of the Circumnuclear Molecular and Ionized Gas in Seyfert Galaxies

  Thomas Kosten

       Nanopore Next-Generation Sequencing of Critical Host Factors in SARS-CoV-2 Infections

  Julia Ditto

      Visualizing Science: Visually telling the story of rapid climate change in the Arctic


Dr. David Denkenberger   HEOMD

Food from non-biological synthesis on the Earth and in space

Resilient food technologies are essential for human survival in scenarios without conventional agriculture. Scenarios include the Earth in case of global catastrophic risk (GCR) events, such as nuclear winter or abrupt climate change, or during multi-year space missions. An alternative food technology is to produce calories using non-biological synthesis (NBS) systems. NBS uses chemical processes without living compounds, even including enzymes. The NBS methods investigated in this research were to produce fatty acids from petroleum wax on Earth and glycerol from CO2 in space. Within the first year of constructing NBS industrial plants after a GCR, potentially 100% of global fat requirements could be met from petroleum wax. A similar process fed millions of people with fat derived from coal in World War II. The expected retail cost of the product would be in the range of $3-11 /dry kg, which is a cost that most of the global population could afford. The NBS method converting CO2 to glycerol could be used in space or in refuges on Earth to repopulate the Earth if everyone else died. Edible sugars may also be produced from the latter method; however, further research is needed to separate inedible sugars from the mixture.

Three roundtrip manned space missions were analyzed to the International Space Station, the Moon, and Mars; each mission consisted of 5 crew members for 3 years. An equivalent system mass (ESM) technique, developed by the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA), was used to compare traditional prepackaged food and competing microalgae single cell protein (SCP) as space food. This takes into account the mass of the equipment, the mass of the electricity source (nuclear), the mass of the heat rejection system, and the mass of pressurized volume to contain the equipment. Results indicate that the NBS system is significantly less mass, and therefore cost, than prepackaged food and microalgae SCP. This research directly aligns with NASA Strategic Objectives 2.1 and 4.6, by laying the foundation to develop and consolidate food-supply infrastructure as efficiently as possible in order to maintain human resilience in space.

1:30PM - 1:50PM

Megan Brauner   SMD

Microbial Adaptive Mechanisms to Iron Limitations Provide Clues to Early Life

Iron is an abundant element found in various parts of the universe. All living organisms require iron for various metabolic processes. Early Earth contained an abundance of soluble Fe (II); however, soluble iron became limiting after the Great Oxidation Event (GOE). Organisms had to evolve mechanisms to sequester iron to maintain their metabolic processes. One such method that microbes use is the production of siderophores. Despite the importance of siderophores in maintain soluble (thus bioavailable) iron, there are current knowledge gaps pertaining to evolution of siderophores and the influence of environmental conditions on early Earth. The Kenai river estuary provides a unique analog because bioavailable iron becomes limited as the salinity increases. Samples through the salt gradient of the Kenai River in Alaska were collected when the estuary was frozen, when the ice broke up, and in the summer. Samples were analyzed for major ions and trace metals to determine environmental characteristics of the estuary. DNA was extracted from water and sediment samples and the 16S rRNA gene was PCR amplified for sequencing on an Illumina MiSeq. 16S rRNA gene sequencing detected putative organisms that can produce siderophores in all samples. Extracted DNA from surface water was also used for metagenomic sequencing. Metagenomics revealed the most abundant iron-related gene category of all samples detected was iron acquisition. Siderophore and iron (II)/(III) transport were the two largest functions within the iron acquisition category. Freshwater samples with low sodium (<10ppm) had more iron (II)/(III) transport genes, while almost all samples with higher sodium had none. In general samples with higher sodium (>10ppm) had a greater abundance of siderophore transport and iron storage genes. Of the siderophore transport genes a majority were ExbB and ExbD. Along with TonB both form a complex on the inner membrane and play a role in transporting siderophores across the cell membrane. Microbes are likely involved in maintaining bioavailable iron as salinity increases through an estuary. Further work will identify evolutionary pathways of siderophore genes.

1:50PM - 2:10PM

Mitchel McCloskey  SMD

Devolvement of STEM Students at the APU Aquarium Lab

Funding provided by the Alaska Space Grant Program has supported Student led education and research. Students in our lab, and in collaboration with students at Friday Harbor Laboratories in Washington, have been able to develop the skills needed to use a method for 3D markerless pose estimator that utilizes neural networks (DeepLabCut™). Funds provided by this grant have gone to paying students to assemble, design, and maintain closed life support systems for Animals. These systems will provide future opportunities for student led STEM research projects. Theses systems will also contribute to the ability for our lab to educate and recruit future STEM students at Alaska Pacific University.  While unforeseen complication due to the Covid-19 pandemic have delayed the start date for my original research project exploring octopus sleep behaviors to the start of this summer, we have still made progress significant to NASA.

2:10PM - 2:30PM 

Dr. Shishay Kidanu  SMD

InSAR -based mapping and geophysical investigation of landslides along the Alaska Highway Corridor, Tetlin Junction to Northway Junction, Alaska

The goals of this proposed research are to (1) detect landslide locations along the Alaska Highway corridor from Tetlin Junction to Northway Junction (total length of about 60 km and an average width of about 20 km) using Interferometric Synthetic Aperture Radar (InSAR) and Light Detection and Ranging (LiDAR) data analysis, and (2) produce a Geographic Information System (GIS)-based map and spatial database. The research also will involve a detailed study of two selected landslides to characterize the subsurface geologic materials and understand their failure mechanisms through field surveys and in situ geophysical investigations. Although landslides are common in many areas of the state, this study area is selected for the following reasons. First of all, the Alaska Highway corridor is likely to become the zone of increasing development as it is the major land transportation route to Interior Alaska from the contiguous United States (ADGGA Annual report, 2010). Hence, this corridor requires special attention with respect to landslide hazard and risk assessment. Additionally, geologic and permafrost-distribution maps and reports exist for the corridor, which will be important input information in the landslide inventory and characterization. Finally, the Alaska Highway corridor provides accessibility for fieldwork, which is key for inventory map field-verification and field data collection.2 The results obtained from the research proposed here will be used as a springboard to start a comprehensive inventory map of landslides in the Alaska Highway corridor and subsequent research on landslide susceptibility mapping and hazard prediction modeling.

2:30PM - 2:50PM

Christopher Smith  SMD

Improving remote sensing based boreal wildfire burn severity and risk assessment, interior Alaska

In recent years there has been rapid improvements in both remote sensing methods and satellite imagery that have the potential to massively improve burn severity assessments of the Alaskan boreal forest. In this study we utilized recent pre- and post-fire Sentinel-2 satellite imagery of the Nugget Creek and Shovel Creek Burn Scars located in Interior Alaska to both assess burn severity across the burn scars and test the effectiveness of distinct remote sensing methods such as random forest (RF) and support vector machine (SVM) supervised classification. To train classifiers we collected 52 composite burn index (CBI) plots from the Shovel Creek burn scar and 28 from Nugget Creek. We found that for the Shovel Creek burn scar the RF and SVM supervised classification methods out performed the standard spectral indices used to assess burn severity previously, such as normalized difference vegetation index (NDVI) (83.33% accuracy RF and SVM versus 73.08% accuracy NDVI). However for the Nugget Creek burn scar, NDVI (96% accuracy) outperformed the other indices and supervised classification methods tested. These conflicting findings suggest that the number of CBI plots affects the accuracy of remote sensing methods used. Thus if sufficient field data is collected then supervised classification methods may improve the accuracy of burn severity assessments, whereas with limited field data traditional indices may be better suited.

2:50PM - 3:20PM

Andrew Vu  SMD

Magnetospheric Multiscale Observations of the Evolution of Foreshock Transients and their Substructures

Shocks form when a supersonic flow encounters an obstacle to its path and are ubiquitous in many planetary magnetospheres and larger astrophysical objects such as supernovae and heliospheres. In the case of Earth’s magnetosphere, solar wind particles are slowed down and heated as they pass through the bow shock into the magnetosheath. However, some incoming solar wind particles can be reflected at the bow shock and travel upstream along magnetic field lines to populate the region known as the foreshock. Subsequently, interactions between these suprathermal bow shock reflected particles and the incoming solar wind particles can generate large transient kinetic phenomena that have been frequently observed by satellites. The more significant of these transient events exhibit a core of depleted plasma that has been thermalized and deflected away from the ambient solar wind flow. Also, lower dynamic pressures within cores can deform the bow shock and magnetopause and generate traveling convection vortices, field-aligned currents, ULF waves in the magnetosphere, and trigger aurora brightenings [Sibeck et al., 1999; Jacobsen et al., 2009; Zhao et al., 2017]. Foreshock transient events have been observed to contribute to the efficiency of shock acceleration of energetic ions upstream of the bow shock [Turner et al., 2018], which remains an unsolved problem of shock physics. They are not unique to Earth as they have also been observed at the bow shocks of Mars, Saturn, Venus, and Mercury [Øieroset et al., 2001; Masters et al., 2009; Collinson et al., 2012; Uritsky et al., 2014]. Thus, studying foreshock transients will provide for a better understanding of the interactions between the solar wind and a planetary bow shock and its magnetosphere

3:30PM - 4:30PM

Afternoon Undergraduate Poster Session

Matthew Isada

     Investigation of Magnetized DC Corona Discharge for Atmospheric Pressure and Biomedical Plasma Applications

Monica Keim

      Macroinvertebrate Community Variation near the Lower Eklutna River Dam Removal Site, outside of Anchorage, Alaska

Kaitlyn Houk

       Testing Concept of Self and Abstraction Abilities in Octopuses Using Distorting Mirrors

Michael Martinez

       Biomining the Future, UV Induced Mutagenesis on Shewanella Oneidensis to Promote Rare Earth Element Extraction in Coal

Russell Wong

      Ground Truthing MODIS NDVI Measurements in Remote Areas of Alaska

Aaron Beardsley

      Radiation Biology - Honors Biology - North Pole High School

Cora Lyon

      Next generation sequencing of extremophiles: determining the biological phenotype of Deinococcus radiodurans

Stephanie Rehak

     Discovering Space - STEM Education

Tyler Summers

       Characterizing Aerosols and Air Quality During an Alaska Wildfire using MODIS and GOES Aerosol Retrievals

 Alaska Space Grant Program supported project

 Alaska NASA ESPCoR supported project

SMD – Science Mission Directorate
STMDSpace Technology Mission Directorate
HEOMD – Human Exploration and Operations Mission Directorate
AERO – Aeronautics Mission Directorate