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Conference Program Preview

Conference Speakers
Plenary Panels
Special Events

The planned line-up of Conference speakers boasts diverse and distinguished scientists, educators and communicators:

Conference Speakers

Charles PetitCharles Petit
MIT Knight Science Journalism Tracker

In just ten years the life of the science journalist has been turned upside down.Media institutions discovered the old ways do not work anymore. Turbulence continues from mass layoffs in Old Media and the rise of a bewildering array of on line news outlets -  some of which barely qualify as producing journalism while others are breathtakingly clever and effective. The struggle of news professionals to find steady footing for both a living and an audience are just small parts of an even larger revolution in how the public learns about science news and gets clues how to use it in their own lives. With the proliferation of news sources has come a wilder, wider spectrum of their reliability. Excellence is not hard to find. But some of the best writers in news, including those using blog or social media to share what they've learned, compete with rumor mills, special interests, and some sources that border on delusional or worse. Combined with the cacophony that has replaced a once somewhat orderly flow of news is  opportunity by scientists themselves as well as their employers - agencies, universities, and businesses - to reach the public directly. Science museums and other sources of informal science education are crowded. Despite the uncertainty of what is to come, reporters continue to take up the science beat. Newcomers remain exhilarated by its challenges and rewards. And as ever, a solid share of the public is hungry for news from the world of science.

Charles Petit has for more than 40 years covered science as a staff writer for newspapers and magazines, as well as freelanced to a wide variety of outlets. He is a former president of the National Association of Science Writers, is vice president of the Council for the Advancement of Science Writing, and is lead writer for the Knight Science Journalism Tracker, a site that provides daily critiques of how news media are handling science. He has won awards for his work from the American Inst. of Physics, American Association for the Advancement of Science, and the American Geophysical Union. He has a degree in astronomy from the University of California, Berkeley, and continues to keep a special spot in his heart for astronomy news. 

Sheila TobiasSheila Tobias
Science Teaching as a Profession: Why it Isn't and How it Could Be

Sheila Tobias has made an art and a science of being an outsider to science and mathematics. Hers is a household name for such books as Overcoming Math Anxiety, They're not Dumb, They're Different, Breaking the Science Barrier, and Rethinking Science as a Career. Tobias will speak about her latest book, Science Teaching as a Profession: Why it isn't. How it could be, a wide-ranging inquiry into how secondary science teachers are faring in the post No Child Left Behind regime -- and what it will take to stem the attrition of the most able and best trained among them. Tobias will also review teacher-generated accountability techniques that are more compatible with the profession's own goals and values and that can be recommended as a replacement for high-stakes testing.

Educated in history and literature at Harvard/Radcliffe, Tobias earned a master's in history and an M.Phil at Columbia University and eight honorary doctorates, the most recent from Michigan State University and Worcester Polytechnic Institute. In 2009, Tobias and Anne Baffert, a local Tucson secondary chemistry teacher, solicited on-line feedback from working science teachers as to how the new accountability regime is affecting their autonomy and their satisfaction as teachers. That book, Science Teaching as a Profession. Why it isn't. How it could be, was published in 2010 by the National Science Teachers Association Press. Their most recent publication on the subject was a guest editorial, "Empowering Science Teachers" that appeared in Science on May 4.

Michael MannMichael Mann
The Hockey Stick and the Climate Wars: Dispatches From The Front Lines

A central figure in the controversy over human-caused climate change has been “The Hockey Stick,” a simple, easy-to-understand graph Michael Mann's colleagues and he constructed to depict changes in Earth’s temperature back to 1000 AD. The graph was featured in the high-profile “Summary for Policy Makers” of the 2001 report of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), and it quickly became an icon in the debate over human-caused (“anthropogenic”) climate change. Mann will tell the story behind the Hockey Stick, using it as a vehicle for exploring broader issues regarding the role of skepticism in science, the uneasy relationship between science and politics, and the dangers that arise when special economic interests and those who do their bidding attempt to skew the discourse over policy-relevant areas of science. In short, Mann attempts to use the Hockey Stick to cut through the fog of disinformation that has been generated by the campaign to deny the reality of climate change. It is his intent, in so doing, to reveal the very real threat to our future that lies behind it.

Dr. Michael E. Mann is a member of the Penn State University faculty, holding joint positions in the Departments of Meteorology and Geosciences, and the Earth and Environmental Systems Institute (EESI). He is also director of the Penn State Earth System Science Center (ESSC). Dr. Mann received his undergraduate degrees in Physics and Applied Math from the University of California at Berkeley, an M.S. degree in Physics from Yale University, and a Ph.D. in Geology & Geophysics from Yale University. His research involves the use of theoretical models and observational data to better understand Earth's climate system.

Dr. Mann has received a number of honors and awards including NOAA's outstanding publication award in 2002 and selection by Scientific American as one of the fifty leading visionaries in science and technology in 2002. He shared the Nobel Peace Prize with other IPCC authors in 2007. In 2012 he was inducted as a Fellow of the American Geophysical Union and was awarded the Hans Oeschger Medal of the European Geosciences Union.

Plenary Panels

Confronting Misconceptions: Advancing Your Learners' Scientific Reasoning

Communicating and teaching about science most effectively requires that we investigate what our audience understands and is learning, otherwise we are just telling about science. Panelists Page Keeley (Maine Mathematics and Science Alliance) and Ed Prather (University of Arizona Center for Astronomy Education) discuss with Mary Dussault (Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics) processes and strategies to uncover student ideas, and approaches to using such information to better design instruction for learners in a variety of settings, from K-16 classrooms to informal education/outreach venues.


Mary DussaultMary Dussault is an Instructional Systems Specialist at the Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics (CfA), where she directs a number of national astronomy and science education projects. Through her exhibition and curriculum development work at the CfA, and her prior work at Boston's Museum of Science, Dussault has over 25 years of experience researching, developing, and evaluating inquiry- based science learning experiences for a variety of settings: afterschool programs and interactive museum exhibitions, classroom environments, and teacher professional development programs. She earned her Bachelor’s degree in astronomy from Wellesley College, and a Master’s degree in History of Science from Harvard University Extension School.

Page KeeleyPage Keeley is the Senior Science Program Director at the Maine Mathematics and Science Alliance (MMSA). She directs projects and authors publications in the areas of leadership, professional development, linking standards and research on learning, formative assessment, and mentoring and coaching. She has directed 3 major National Science Foundation-funded projects including the Northern New England Co-Mentoring Network, PRISMS- Phenomena and Representations for Instruction of Science in Middle School, and Curriculum Topic Study- A Systematic Approach to Utilizing National Standards and Cognitive Research. In addition to NSF projects, she has directed state MSP projects including TIES K-12- Teachers Integrating Engineering into Science K-12 and a National Semi-Conductor Foundation grant, Linking Science, Inquiry, and Language Literacy (L-SILL). She also directs the Maine Governor’s Academy for Science and Mathematics Education Leadership.

Edward PratherDr. Edward E. Prather is an Associate Professor at Steward Observatory, and the Department of Astronomy, at the University of Arizona. He is Executive Director of the NASA (JPL Exoplanet Exploration Public Engagement Program) and NSF funded Center for Astronomy Education (CAE) at the University of Arizona. Ed has led several research programs to investigate students’ conceptual and reasoning difficulties in the areas of Earth, astronomy, astrobiology, physics, and planetary science. The results from this research have been used to inform the development of innovative instructional strategies proven to intellectually engage learners and significantly improve their understanding of fundamental Earth and space science concepts. Ed is Research Director and Co-I of the NSF CCLI Phase III Centers grant that funds the Collaboration of Astronomy Teaching Scholars (CATS) Program.

Doomsday 2012 and Cosmophobia: Challenges and Opportunities for Science Communication

Movies, “documentaries,” books, blogs and websites are doing their best convince many in the public that some kind of catastrophe awaits us around the winter solstice of 2012, and that its cause will be an astronomical or geophysical event. Some people are seriously worried, others are mildly concerned, while others are cynical about both the scare mongers and the scientists who rebut these suggestions. "Doomsday 2012" represents both a challenge and opportunity for science communication and education. Panelists will explore the basic ideas of the 2012 scenario, including rogue planets, end of the Mayan calendar, celestial alignments, pole shifts, asteroid strikes and solar catastrophes. They will also consider what is being done and could be done in the months remaining to us -- to help the public understand what is real, what isn't and how the scientific method allows us to decide. Q&A to follow, and a guide to other resources will be distributed. (The discussion will continue in two other sessions after this panel.)


Kristine LarsenKristine Larsen is Professor of Physics and Astronomy at Central Connecticut State University where she also teaches classes in debunking pseudo-sciences. In recent years she has presented on the 2012 phenomenon to numerous professional and public groups. She is also a contributor to the website

Bryan MendezBryan Méndez is an Astronomer & Education Specialist at the Center for Science Education at the UC Berkeley Space Sciences Laboratory where he conducts programs for the public through the web and museums, develops classroom materials for K-12 students, and conducts professional development for science educators. He has a B.S. in physics and astronomy and a B.M.A. in saxophone performance from the University of Michigan, and a Ph.D. in astrophysics from the University of California at Berkeley. Bryan is bicultural, of Mexican and European backgrounds, and strives to foster diverse perspectives in his work.

David MorrisonDavid Morrison is the Director of the Carl Sagan Center for the Study of Life in the Universe at the SETI Institute and is the Senior Scientist at the NASA Lunar Science Institute. Dr. Morrison is one of the founders of the multidisciplinary field of astrobiology, and he is also an authority on asteroids and the asteroid impact hazard. He has written extensively about the struggle against pseudoscience, such as the denial of evolution and global warming, and today he is one of the most outspoken scientists exposing the hoax of doomsday 2012.

Mark VanStoneMark Van Stone, an autodidact calligrapher, won a Guggenheim Fellowship to study the history of written forms in 1988. He earned his doctorate in Maya hieroglyphs in 2005 at the University of Texas, coauthored "Reading the Maya Glyphs" with Michael D. Coe in 2001, and wrote and published "2012: Science and Prophecy of the Ancient Maya" in 2010. Currently, he teaches art history at Southwestern College, in Chula Vista, California.

Andrew FraknoiModerator Andrew Fraknoi is the Chair of the Astronomy Program at Foothill College, Senior Educator at the Astronomical Society of the Pacific, and the Founding Co-editor of Astronomy Education Review.  A Fellow of the Committee for Skeptical Inquiry, he has written and lectured over several decades on techniques and resources for dealing with the astronomical pseudo-sciences.  His hobby is compiling bibliographies, and he will distribute a guide to "Doomsday 2012" resources at the conference.

Sharing Our Stories: Project Evaluation from a Cross-Cultural Perspective 

In this plenary panel session, each panel member will discuss the world view that they each bring to the "table" (e.g. the evaluation strategies used in Native, Latino/Hispanic, and European American cultures), how they work to reflect the worldview of multiple cultures, and what lessons learned/best practices can be drawn from their work that will help all of us broaden our thinking with respect to program evaluation and working with different audiences with different cultures and knowledge systems. That is, conference attendees will gain an understanding of key elements that one has to think about in designing a program evaluation that incorporates multiple world views, including the potential challenges to watch out for, suggested ideas to solve them, and emerging best practices in evaluating cross-cultural science E/PO programs. This brings us back to one of the ASP's goals for this conference – building awareness of cultural similarities and differences. And we learn about evaluation in the process.


Salvador AcevedoSalvador Acevedo is President of Contemporánea, and he has spent more than 15 years designing and implementing successful communication strategies as an audience engagement consultant, executive and researcher. Contemporánea’s strategies are rooted in people’s needs, perceptions and values. Being bilingual and bicultural, he has helped organizations and corporations build bridges with multicultural communities, aiding in their development and business opportunities. In November 2010, Mr. Acevedo was invited as the keynote speaker of the Changing Demographics Forum and Workshops, organized by the Washington State Arts Council, with support from the Wallace Foundation.

Salvador earned a Master’s degree in Communications from Universidad Iberoamericana in Mexico City, a diploma in marketing from University of California, Berkeley, and is certified by Research in Values and Attitudes, Inc. (RIVA, Inc.) as qualitative marketing researcher. He received the 2008 Latino Business Leadership Awards, by Wells Fargo, the San Francisco Business Times and the San Francisco Hispanic Chamber of Commerce. 

David BegayDavid Begay, Ph.D., is founding co-director of Indigenous Education Institute. He is also co-developer of the Navajo constellation cylinder for portable star lab. Administratively, he held the offices of Dean of Instruction, Assistant Vice-President of Academic Affairs, and Assistant to the President of Dine’ College (formerly Navajo Community College). Dr. Begay has presented seasonally-related Navajo astronomy to local communities aimed at providing self-identity, self-awareness, and self-determination. He presented star shows using the portable planetarium in Alaska, Hawaii, Washington, Arizona, New Mexico, and California to students and for teacher training. In addition, he presented cultural astronomy in England, Wales, Australia, New Zealand, South Africa, and Norway.

He currently works with NASA educational outreach programs on several projects. He is an adjunct professor at the Northern Arizona University, Flagstaff, Arizona in the Department of Physics and Astronomy. He is also an Associate Research Professor with the University of New Mexico in the Department of Pharmacy, Community Environmental Health Program. He is Navajo and lives in Ganado, Arizona.

Carole MandrykCarole Mandryk is currently engaged in research and evaluation of formal (K-12, postsecondary), and informal (OST) STEM education projects as an independent research consultant. With a B.A. in Anthropology from Beloit College, an M.A. in Anthropology and Museum Training from George Washington University, and a PhD in Quaternary Studies from the University of Alberta, Carole has taught and conducted research at Harvard University, the University of Hawaii at Manoa, and George Mason University's Center for Climate Change Communication. Though originally her research dealt with understanding human-environment relationships of the past, the coming climate change crisis has shifted her focus to anticipating and preparing for the future, and in particular to be keenly interested in climate literacy, and the urgency of communicating climate science to the public.

Shelly ValdezDr. Shelly Valdez is a member of the Pueblo of Laguna Tribe, located in central New Mexico, and Hispanic descent. Shelly’s educational background includes a Bachelor of Arts degree in Elementary Education, Master of Arts in Bilingual Education, and Ph.D. in Multicultural Teacher Education focusing on research in the area of Science Education. Shelly has worked in the area of education for 28+ years and currently owns & manages an educational consulting business, Native Pathways, (NaPs), located in central New Mexico. An important component of NaPs focuses is in the area of world views in science, primarily focusing on indigenous science.   

For the past eleven years Shelly has been privileged to work with various communities, programs and corporations in the area of evaluation. A few programs she has worked on evaluation with include: World Hope Foundation, National Science Foundation (NSF-ISE programs), National Institute of Health (NIH), Kellogg Foundation, Laguna Department of Education, Indigenous Educational Institute (IEI), New Mexico Tribal Coalition of Educators (CENAC), NASA, Hopa Mountain Organization, Institute for Learning Innovation (ILI), New Mexico State University, and Montana State University.

Laura PeticolasModerator Dr. Laura Peticolas is Director of the Center for Science Education and a Senior Fellow at the Space Sciences Laboratory at the University of California, Berkeley. She received her B.A. in mathematics and physics at the University of Oregon Honors College and her Ph.D. in physics studying the aurora at the University of Alaska, Fairbanks. She spent 3 years as a post-doctoral fellow at the space sciences laboratory continuing her study of Earth's aurora with some efforts computer models of the Martian aurora before transitioning to primarily the profession of education and outreach. She has had over 8 years experience in the education and outreach profession, co-leading and leading many NASA science mission education and public outreach programs and NSF informal science education programs. As part of these efforts, she has trained hundreds of teachers in space science concepts using researched-based educational best practices and shared the excitement of NASA space science missions with students and the public. She is currently deputy lead of NASA's Mars mission, MAVEN, is lead of NASA's Heliophysics Education and Public Outreach Forum, and is the PI of an NSF informal science education grant working to engage Native American and science center educators in science and indigenous ways of knowing.

Special Events

Sunday, August 5
ASP Members Meeting
5:30 – 6:30 p.m.
Free to all ASP Members. No registration to the Conference is necessary

Welcome Reception
Flandrau Science Center
6:30 – 8:30 p.m.
The ASP’s Welcome Reception will feature Sky-Skan’s “Digital Sky” demo. Transportation provided to and from the hotel.

Mars Curiosity Landing Pajama Party
Grand Ballroom Foyer, DoubleTree Tucson – Reid Park
9:30 p.m.
Get comfy and enjoy the Mars Curiosity Landing Party! Watch NASA TV’s live feed of this historic event with complimentary snacks & beverages!

Monday, August 6
Science Night - Public Lecture
7:30 – 9:00 p.m.
The Latest News from Mars
Dr. Philip Christensen, Arizona State University

Dr. Christensen will describe the Mars Science Laboratory's landing site and the landing events, and any initial observations it makes about Gale Crater. He will also touch briefly on the situation and prospects for solar system planetary exploration. (This public talk will be held the day after the Curiosity Mars Rover lands on the surface of the red planet).

Phil ChristensenPhilip R. Christensen is a Regents Professor of geological sciences and the Ed and Helen Korrick Professor in the School of Earth and Space Exploration at Arizona State University. He completed his Ph.D. in Geophysics and Space Physics at UCLA in 1981. His research interests focus on the composition, physical properties and processes, and morphology of planetary surfaces, with an emphasis on Mars and the Earth.

Tuesday, August 7
2011 ASP Awards Banquet
Tuesday evening - 6:30 p.m. Reception followed by a Banquet at 7:15 p.m.

The ASP will present this year’s awards at the Society’s Annual Meeting Awards Banquet on Tuesday, August 7, 2012. The annual ASP awards recognize meritorious work by professional and amateur astronomers, science educators, and those who engage in public outreach.

Advance purchased tickets are required to attend this event. Your ticket will be included with your registration packet. If your pre-purchased ticket is not in your packet, please visit the Registration Desk. Tickets will be available to purchase onsite until end of day August 6.

The ASP cannot issue any refunds to this event.

Wednesday, August 8
The Hubble Roadshow! A Public Event
7:00 PM DoubleTree Hotel, Grand Ballroom, Salon E

Featuring a special screening of the new independent documentary Saving Hubble

A love letter to the world’s most famous telescope, Saving Hubble is also the story of the grassroots movement that saved Hubble from an untimely death. The movie has been previewing around the country. This will be one of the first Hubble Roadshow stops on what the producers hope will be an expansive nationwide outreach tour.

The Hubble Roadshow will be a traveling chautauqua hosting locally unique events that will feature the film, possible observing opportunities (weather permitting), scientists talking about what's new in the worlds of astronomy and technology, opportunities for science learning and outreach, and most importantly, a conversation about human beings' connection to the cosmos and our society's role in exploring this connection.

All suggestions and feedback are welcome, as ours is a nonprofit community model, and we welcome all partners in outreach. Please join us after the event to discuss the possibilities.

Saving Hubble Director

David Gaynes is emerging as a unique voice in the world of independent documentary film. A layman in the field of astronomy, David was inspired to explore the public's connection to space when he heard on the evening news that a necessary repair mission to the Hubble Space Telescope had been canceled. He took a road trip around the United States to find out what Hubble meant to a wide range of people, and spent eight years following the story and crafting Saving Hubble (2012).

His first feature, Keeper of the Kohn (2005), is a portrait of Peter Kohn, a beloved autistic field manager for the Middlebury College lacrosse team, as he cared for his dying friend. It won the Jury Prize for best documentary at the Vail Film Festival. The forthcoming Next Year In Jerusalem tells the story of eight nursing home residents on a pilgrimage to Israel. David was the cinematographer for the award-winning documentary All Me: The Life and Times of Winfred Rembert (2011, Dir. Vivian Ducat).


Saturday, August 4th, 2012

The Kitt Peak tour has been cancelled. If you paid for the tour you will receive a refund. We apologize for the inconvenience.

Steward Observatory Mirror Lab
Thursday, August 9th, 2012

The Steward Observatory Mirror Lab on the University of Arizona campus offers a unique opportunity to experience the ground breaking work being done at our facility The mirror lab is renowned for developing and implementing technologies that enable production of the world’s largest and most challenging ground-based telescope mirrors. The tour provides visitors with a behind the scenes look at cutting-edge optical technology and the revolutionary spin-casting processes involved in making these giant telescope mirrors. Starting with the construction of the mold, to spin-casting, to grinding and polishing, the final result is a light-weight mirror ready for transportation to a mountaintop observatory where it will peer into remote regions of the cosmos; exploring the edges of the universe in an effort to answer a vast array of astronomical questions and make new discoveries.

Our current endeavors include the Large Synoptic Survey Telescope (LSST) and the Giant Magellan Telescope (GMT). The LSST will take time-lapse digital images of the entire night sky every three to four days; providing the widest, fastest and deepest scans ever captured by a single telescope. The GMT is the result of 100 years of astronomical research and telescope building that will open new vistas of exploration for the next generation of astronomers. The GMT will be even bigger and better than the Large Binocular Telescope (LBT)!

Steward Observatory at the University of Arizona is the only place in the world where giant spin-cast telescope mirrors are produced. We look forward to showing you how this is done and how we are changing the way astronomers and telescopes explore the universe today and in the future.

The tour departs from the University of Arizona Mirror Lab lobby (Under the UA football stadium) at 9:00 am and takes about 90 minutes. Tours involve climbing and descending stairs, although an elevator is available if necessary. The cost of the tour is $15. No transportation is provided. The option to sign up for the tour is included in the meeting registration form. If you have already registered for the meeting, you will receive instructions for registering for the tour via email.    


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