Carbon Dioxide: The Missing Link

When a NASA scientist meets high school students, you may automatically think that it is always the NASA scientist that would be teaching the students. But at the Museum’s Digital WAVE: Warming Winds and Water program, the scientist taught the students, AND the students taught the scientist. At Digital WAVE’s first virtual speaker event of Fall 2011, Dr. Mike Gunson from NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory in California met with Digital WAVE students in Miami to talk about climate change. The event took place in the virtual world of Second Life, and everyone communicated through his or her avatars. Dr. Gunson is an atmospheric scientist and works on the OCO (Orbiting Carbon Observatory) satellite that will map carbon dioxide from space and will “watch the Earth breathe.”

Dr. Gunson speaks to students around the Digital WAVE campfire.

Dr. Gunson talked about how carbon dioxide was “the missing link between soft drinks, forests, ocean acidity, wild fires, cement production, and volcanoes” and how records and observations from ice cores and satellites show how carbon dioxide levels have increased, and how humans have contributed to the problem.

Dr. Gunson explains The Keeling Curve, which shows direct observations of increasing levels of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere since 1958.

Then… students had the opportunity to show Dr. Gunson what they had been working on in virtual worlds. Their avatars led Dr. Gunson’s avatar to where the students are building 3D objects as part of their projects to create virtual climate change exhibits. Getting feedback from a NASA scientist is pretty special. And getting his attention so much so that he asked for an invitation to come back to see their final projects – that’s saying something.

The beginnings of students' virtual exhibit projects on climate change. See the glaciers?

One Response to “Carbon Dioxide: The Missing Link”

  • Jissette Jimenez says:

    As this semester’s mentor i am glad to see the progress of these students. Being able to interact with other people no matter where their location might be is fun. Second life gives a voice to our ideas and creativity when creating models. I can honestly say i am proud of these kids and look forward to mentoring more students in the furture.

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