A-State Science Team Gives Final Report to NASA about Worm Research on Space Station
JONESBORO, Ark. – Members of the SPOCS (Student Payload Opportunity with Citizen Science) project at Arkansas State University presented their final report to NASA Tuesday.
The A-State team and the Stanford University team presented results from their respective projects, both of which were carried in July on NASA’s CRS-25 resupply mission to the International Space Station.
They shared their findings with Krystal Winters, director of the NASA SPOCS program, and other NASA representatives during a Zoom meeting, and also submitted a 24-page scientific report on their results.
A-State's SPOCS team at the International Space Station Processing Facility,
Kennedy Space Center. From left, Maureen Dolan, Claire Greene, Kate Willis,
Hannah Seats, Mason Rhodes, Landon Perdue, Benjamin Whitfield, Jacob Oster
and Shea Harris.
The A-State team includes Benjamin Whitfield of Little Rock, Jacob Oster of Bay, Hannah Seats of Brookland, Claire Green of Conway, Landon Perdue of Brookland, Mason Rhodes of Benton and Katherine Willis of Blue Springs, Mo. Whitfield, Oster and Seats summarized the findings and experience, and the other team members joined in during the question-and-answer session.
While some are engineering majors and others are in biological sciences, the students often have emphasized the enriching educational benefits of the cross-disciplinary project that began in late 2020. They made their project proposal to NASA in December of that year, becoming one of five universities selected for a $20,000 grant to support their proposal. A key aspect of their work was outreach work with young citizen scientists at Nettleton STEAM and Blessed Sacrament Schools in Jonesboro, who they also complimented during Tuesday’s presentation for their involvement.
Their proposal to NASA, "Microgravity Environment Impact on Plastic Biodegradation by Galleria mellonella," was described as an experiment to discover the ability of waxworms to degrade plastics in space. The goal was to help provide answers for a more sustainable environment on earth and future, long-term space travel.
The SPOCS team, the A-State Science Support System, also came to be known as WORMS (Waxworm Organic Recycling Management System) in salute to their project focus.
Tiny cameras in the payload documented the waxworms and their activity in space. After the experiment’s return to earth, the team has analyzed the waxworms’ plastic consumption and output and prepared the report on their findings.
Faculty mentors were Dr. Maureen Dolan, associate professor of molecular biology and director of the biotechnology program, and Shea Harris, outreach coordinator for Arkansas Biosciences Institute at A-State.
The students also recognized several departments and individuals at A-State, including Dr. Drew Fleming, assistant professor of mechanical engineering, for his work, as well as the Honors College and Rebecca Oliver, director, for helping recruit the team and supporting them through the entire process. Two of the students are preparing their Honors theses based on their work with SPOCS. They also thanked Maggie Ahern, mission manager for Nanoracks, who also mentored the team through the entire science process.
The latest issue of Voices, the magazine of the Arkansas State University Alumni Association, features an article and photos from the project, starting on page 32. The issue is available online.
Team members also shared their experience in a video earlier this year.