This year, for the first time, agencies from across the city, state, and country will come together to celebrate the unique scientific opportunities that make Moab what it is. Groups participating in the first annual Moab Festival of Science will offer presentations on paleontology, geology, astronomy, and many other branches of science.
According to a press release, “The goal of the event is to connect and inspire citizens and visitors of southeastern Utah with the wonders of science, the significance of our regional research to society, and the thrill of scientific discovery."
Sasha Reed from the United States Geological Survey said the USGS decided to take part in the festival for a number of reasons.
“The USGS is a federal agency whose focus is science,” she said. “We believe science provides really useful information in a variety of ways.”
Reed said that the USGS hopes that the activities will give organizers the chance to share how exciting science can be.
“We want the awesomeness of science to be available to everyone,” she said.
She added that outreach events like the festival are a great opportunity to showcase the different facets of science.
“There are a lot of ways to do science and learn,” she said. “One of the great things about Moab is all the science that’s happening in our town ... We’ll have a very wide range of different topics for people to learn about.”
Those different topics will allow the participating organizations to highlight their specialties.
The festival will kick off on Thursday, Sept. 22 with a talk by Seth Jarvis, director of Salt Lake City’s Clark Planetarium. The event will take place at the Moab Information Center, 25 E. Center St., and will be part of the MIC’s lecture series sponsored by Canyonlands Natural History Association.
Jarvis will also take part in a star party, hosted by that National Park Service (NPS) on Saturday night, Sept. 24.
“Dark night skies are an increasingly important part of the Moab landscape, and astronomy has fueled scientific discovery all over the world for centuries. We wouldn’t have many of the wonders of modern science if astronomers hadn’t looked up to the night sky with curiosity,” said Nathan Ament of the NPS. “The rangers of Arches, Canyonlands, and Dead Horse Point know this and are happy to volunteer their knowledge and their telescopes to support a free public astronomy event as part of the Moab Festival of Science. We will also talk about how rare the dark skies over Moab are, and what we can do to help keep them dark.”
“Seth’s energy and enthusiasm are contagious as he will skillfully guide us through the dark night skies,” Ament said. “Rangers will show us the wonders of galaxies, nebulae, planets, and more through their telescopes.”
Due to a limited number of telescopes, this event requires tickets, which are available for free at the Moab Information Center, Grand County Public Library, and the Canyonlands Copy Center. The event will begin at 7:30 p.m. on Saturday at the Bar M Brands trailhead.
In addition to observing the stars, participants will have the chance to plant trees, learn more about plant ecology, and, for the first time, people will be able to attend guided tours of the Department of Energy’s Moab Uranium Mill Tailings Remedial Action (UMTRA) site at the former Atlas Uranium mill site north of Moab.
“In honor of the first Moab Festival of Science, Federal Project Director Don Metzler is opening the Department of Energy Moab UMTRA mill site to public tours for two hours on Friday, Sept. 23,” said Lee Shenton, Grand County’s UMTRA liaison.
Tours will depart from the Lions Park Transit Hub beginning at 10 a.m. Tours will run every 20 minutes until 11:40 a.m. Shenton said the vans will each have one of UMTRA’s top managers on board to answer questions during the 45-minute tour.
“You’ll learn how science is enabling safe removal of 16 million tons of uranium tailings from the pile, how the site is being restored to a natural state, see the system of protective wells along the river front and what it takes to get the tailings and a hundred thousand tons of mill debris up to the disposal cell in Crescent Junction,” Shenton said.
As with the star party, anyone interested in participating in the tour is required to have a ticket. Tickets are available free of charge at the Grand County Public Library, the Moab Information Center and Canyonlands Copy Center. Tour participants must be at least 18, and a U.S. citizen.
Other events will include a Saturday morning story time with Melissa Marsted, the author of “Buzzy and the Red Rock Canyons: Utah’s National Parks,” (see full story on page A5) at the Grand County Public Library, “STEMonstrations” which are hands-on activities and demonstrations at Sun Court on Center Street, and tours of the Mill Canyon Dinosaur Tracksite with BLM paleontologist Rebecca Hunt Foster and Museum of Moab Director John Foster.
“The Festival of Science is about celebrating science and showing the importance of science in education and careers,” Utah State University Program Coordinator Stephanie Dahlstrom said. “We’re hoping to get children as well as adults excited about science learning, to show that science skills are in a whole host of jobs and that it’s ‘cool’ to want a STEM related career.”
More information about the festival, including a full schedule of events, is available at moab-scifest.org.