Nan Crystal Arens, associate professor of geoscience, was invited to speak at the Finger Lakes Forum dinner meeting at Club 86 on Monday, March 18.
The topic Arens addressed was “Changing Images of Mars” in which she explored this history of Mars exploration and the latest findings of the Mars Science Laboratory Curiosity rover, a car-sized robotic rover exploring the Gale Crater on Mars. She also discussed how the HWS community is involved with the Mars exploration.
Hobart alum John Grotzinger ’79, the mission leader and project scientist in charge of the Mars Science Laboratory, is overseeing the task to detect “habitable environments” that may point to the planet’s ability to support life in the past. His work on Curiosity is an extension of Grotzinger’s work studying the early history of environments and life on Earth.
The Curiosity rover, which landed in August 2012, is investigating Martian geology, using a wide range of scientific instruments that can identify minerals and organic compounds in Martian rock. The Curiosity team recently announced evidence of an ancient lake that could have supported life.
In the fall 2012 semester, Arens instructed a First Year Seminar focusing on Mars. The students participated in an extensive research project on Martian glaciers and worked in collaboration with the NASA and Arizona State University Lunar and Planetary Institute’s Mars Student Imaging Project. The research consisted of using geospatial software to access and analyze images of the Martian surface. The study of Martian glaciers continues in Arens’ “Introduction to Geology” course this semester. In this class, students identified landforms similar to those formed by continental glaciers on Earth.
A member of the faculty since 2001, Arens earned her B.S. and M.S. from Pennsylvania State University where she studied Earth science and English as an undergrad, and invertebrate paleontology as a grad student. She went on to earn an M.A. and Ph.D. in biology from Harvard University. She is a member of Phi Beta Kappa.
The Finger Lakes Forum, established in 1923, is a social-educational organization that features a guest speaker at each meeting who discusses various contemporary issues with the club. The Finger Lakes Forum currently has about 65 members and meets on the third Monday of the months October through April.