UAF, NASA create snow science outreach program

Rod Boyce
March 14, 2023

Scientists at the University of Alaska Fairbanks have partnered with NASA to create SnowEd, a nationwide program designed to engage the public in snow science.  The program includes STEM activities, videos, blogs and other tools to help the public understand the importance of snow, the source of drinking and irrigation water for billions of people worldwide. 

Three elementary-aged children and two adult women stand in a snowy landscape with a box of shovels and other tools.
UAF/Geophysical Institute photo by Daniel Walker
Serina Wesen and Hannah Chapman-Dutton work with students at the SnowEd kickoff event on Jan. 28, 2023.

SnowEd complements NASA’s SnowEx program, which aims to increase scientific understanding of snow mass on Earth. Snow is a key factor in the timing of spring green-up in Alaska and a crucial element in cooling the Earth’s climate. SnowEx scientists hope to launch a snow satellite dedicated to monitoring snow-water resources worldwide.

SnowEd allows elementary school students to explore the properties of snow indoors using COSI Connects Snow Kits. The kits include STEM activities for groups of up to five students in third through fifth grade. UAF has also designed kits for larger groups of older children and adults to use outdoors.

The UAF team has produced 800 small and 45 large kits for distribution throughout Alaska and across the United States. Students can join SnowEd and become snow scientists by reaching out to their local Winter Wildlands Alliance SnowSchool sites. In Alaska, SnowEd is partnering with the NASA GLOBE program, which conducts both winter and summer science projects. 

A snow science walk is scheduled for 1 p.m. Thursday, March 16, at the Creamer’s Field farmhouse in Fairbanks. Participants will learn about the NASA SnowEx campaign, measure snowpack depth and learn about layers within the snowpack.

The UAF team includes Serina Wesen, education and outreach designer with the UAF Geophysical Institute’s snow, ice and permafrost group, and Matthew Sturm, UAF snow professor and geophysicist. They’ve joined the Winter Wildlands Alliance, the NASA Global Learning and Observations to Benefit the Environment program, COSI and NASA SnowEx researchers for the SnowEd campaign.

“We are excited to help connect students with NASA SnowEx scientists and introduce them to snow subjects that may help inspire them toward future careers,” Wesen said.

To learn more about SnowEd, refer to the links below.

Additional links:

Our Winter World: About SnowED

Winter Wildlands Alliance SnowSchool

ADDITIONAL CONTACTS: Serina Wesen, Matthew Sturm,; Kerry McClay, Winter Wildlands Alliance SnowSchool director,; Christi Buffington, UAF GLOBE Program,