2020 Ambassadors

Dawn Davies _ ACEAP 2020

Dawn Davies

Dawn Davies is an amateur astronomer, science communicator, lecturer, and space enthusiast. Located in Central Texas, she speaks to the public about the wonders of the universe, the importance of STEM education, and preserving dark skies. For over a decade she has educated thousands via outreach with the Austin Astronomical Society, and as a volunteer advocate with the International Dark-Sky Association and its Texas Chapter. Dawn was recently selected as an Explore Alliance Ambassador, a Dark Skies Ambassador for the International Astronomical Union, and is part of a local group developing Travis County Friends of the Night Sky. She also serves as resident astronomer to the Girl Scouts of Central Texas Astronomy Club where she is an advisor, mentor, and educator for the newly launched Space Science Badge Programs. Looking to expand her work Dawn founded Earthbound Astronomer. It began as an online source for amateur astronomers and educators. Her initial goals focusing on providing open-source curricula and conducting Texas State Park surveys for astronomers seeking darker skies in more natural surroundings. Today it is a growing presence promoting ASTRONOMY FOR ALL, a platform for accessibility and inclusivity. The mission is to provide space-science based educational resources to individuals and groups; regardless of language or ability. To this end she has become a student of ASL, is learning braille, and working with partners to translate her resource materials into multiple languages. Dawn hopes her experiences with the ACEAP will help her teach others about the remarkable work being done in Chile, while also bridging gaps across geographical and cultural divides within the astronomical community.
Luci Finucan _ ACEAP 2020

Dave Falkner

Dave has been a life-long amateur astronomer. He first became interested in astronomy as a pre-teen when his father took him to a show at the Holcolm Planetarium in Indianapolis. He became hooked and has had an interest in astronomy ever since. As a teenager, he ground a 6” mirror and built his first telescope. He was captivated by NASA’s manned space program of the 1960’s and 1970’s.
Dave joined the US Navy in 1973 and served for 20 years. During that time Dave earned a BS in Electrical Engineering from Purdue University and a MS in Electrical Engineering from the Naval Postgraduate School. As a Naval Officer stationed in Monterey, California he was involved with the Friends of MIRA (Monterey Institute for Research in Astronomy) where he conducted outreach to local schools associated with the return of Halley’s Comet in 1986.
After retiring from the US Navy Dave settled in Minnesota and became an active member of the Minnesota Astronomical Society (MAS). He has served as its President from 2011 – 2014 and again from 2019 – 2020. As a member of the MAS, Dave enjoyed performing astronomical outreach often speaking to groups at libraries, nature centers and schools. In 2015 Dave was selected to be a NASA/JPL Solar System Ambassador where he educates the general public about space, space exploration and NASA missions in particular. In 2018 Dave was the Chairperson of the Astronomical League National Convention held in Minneapolis.
In 2011 Dave traveled to Tucson, AZ to view the Transit of Venus at the Mount Lemmon Observatory in Tucson and visited Kitt Peak National Observatory while he was there. In 2017 he traveled to Casper, WY to view the total eclipse of the Sun.
Along with his outreach activities Dave has taught beginning Astronomy classes at a local community college and has published three books; two editions of “Mythology of the Night Sky” and the book “The Stories of Astronomers and Their Stars.”
Dave is excited about being selected to join the 2020 ACEAP expedition, visiting the amazing observatories in Chile and sharing his experience and the research being conducted with the public upon his return to Minnesota.

Mark Guillette _ ACEAP 2020

Mark Guillette

Mark Guillette is a native to Central Florida and calls Orlando his home. He attended the University of Central Florida where he earned a Bachelor’s of Arts degree in Psychology and a Masters of Arts degree in Applied Sociology. He attended Nova Southeastern University and has a Doctoral degree in Higher Educational Leadership. Mark is a FAA Certified Pilot, CDL-Class A license holder, and a tenured professor of Sociology at Valencia College in Kissimmee where he has taught for over twenty-five years. He is a board member on the Friends of the Library for the Orange County Library System in Central Florida.

Mark has many interests and hobbies including astronomy, astrophotography, and travel. He is a member of the Central Florida Astronomical Society and is an amateur astronomer. When weather permits, he enjoys imaging planets, galaxies, nebulae, and star clusters. In 2019, he was selected by NASA/JPL to be a Solar System Ambassador (SSA). As a SSA, he does presentations on past, current, and future missions and programs about NASA at libraries, science centers, and the county jail. He also hosts YouTube Live presentations concerning all things related to space, space exploration, and the universe. Mark has traveled to all fifty states, all seven continents, and more than sixty countries.

Byron Labadie - ACEAP 2020

Byron Labadie

I became addicted to astronomy when I was 11 years old. For most of that time, it turned into a avocation. I enjoy astrophotography, and sharing astronomy with others, especially young minds. Before I was 18, I was giving presentations at Mid-States Regional Conventions, a bank, grade schools,and was featured on local television for my astronomy shed and information regarding the appearance of comet Kohoutek in 1973. I appeared in local newspapers about my interest in astronomy, and was the observing chairman for the Astronomy Club of Tulsa.

While in the army, I performed astrophotography at a elevation of 9,200 ft above MSL, in eyesight of the Sacrament Peak solar observatory. I wrote papers on film selection and usage in astrophotography, as well as the timing of grazing occultations of the moon by planets, stars, and suspected binaries. I gave a presentation to grad students at New Mexico State University, and met and befriended Clyde Tombaugh, who was kind enough to allow me to visit him at his home, where he mentored me.

In college, I was a teaching assistant at the astronomy/physics department, and gave classroom presentations and held formal question and answer discussions. I have visited several major observatories, including Kitt Peak, Lowell Observatory, Sacramento Peak solar observatory, Lick Observatory, the 200″ Hale telescope, the Lunar and Planetary Laboratory, Johnson Space Flight Center, McDonald Observatory, and the South African Astronomical Observatory, where I spent nights watching and learning scientific research.

I am a member of the Astronomy Club of Tulsa, the Astronomical League, TWAIN, Astronomy Without Borders, IOTA, and visit many other clubs. I continue to share public outreach at schools, The Jenks high school planetarium, and public observing programs at our club’s observatory and at sidewalk astronomy events. I am eager the share and instill thought to young boys and girls about the STEM sciences, and to this day hold astronomy and astronomical research close to my heart.

Emily Lehnardt _ ACEAP 2020

Alan Strauss

Alan Strauss is the Director of the University of Arizona’s Mount Lemmon Science Center, providing leadership and direction for three major outreach and education initiatives within Steward Observatory and the Department of Astronomy:

The Mount Lemmon SkyCenter, a mountaintop observatory and science learning facility which builds on the extensive knowledge base at the university and partner organizations to deliver astronomical outreach programming; The Sky School, an immersive, residential science program for K-12 students based at the SkyCenter mountaintop campus, and; Public tours of the Richard F. Caris Mirror Lab, where the largest telescope mirrors in the world are fabricated, including the primary/tertiary mirror for the Vera C. Rubin Observatory Large Synoptic Survey Telescope on Cerro Pachón, and the primary mirror segments for the Giant Magellan Telescope at Las Campanas Observatory in the Atacama.

Alan earned his doctorate from the University of Arizona’s College of Education, and is an Adjunct Assistant Professor of Astronomy; a co-investigator and public outreach lead with the NASA sponsored Catalina Sky Survey for Near Earth Objects; a member of the University of Arizona NASA Space Grant Steering Committee; and previously served as a NASA OSIRIS-Rex Ambassador.

Having developed an interest in amateur astronomy at an early age, Alan enjoys visual observing and sketching at the eyepiece, as well as taking wide-field photographs of the Milky Way. Among Alan’s favorite objects to observe are Mars, comets, and eclipses. His most memorable visual observations are seeing the galactic jet in M87, the Venus Transit of 2012, and the total solar eclipse of 2017.

Abbas Mokhtarzadeh _ ACEAP 2020

Abbas Mokhtarzadeh

Abbas is a structural engineer, amateur astronomer and volunteer astronomy instructor in Charlotte, NC. He holds a B.Sc. in Civil Engineering from Iran University of Science & Technology, M.Sc. of Structural Engineering from Tabriz University and Ph.D. of Structural Engineering from Iran University of Science and Technology.

Born in 1966 in Iran, Abbas found an affinity to astronomy early in life. He joined Tabriz University’s amateur astronomy club ‘Nasir Tusi’ while in high school and published numerous articles in the club journal. He later moved from Iran to Toronto and then again to Denver, Houston and finally Charlotte, sharing his passion for astronomy through public presentations, star parties, volunteering and outreach in the local astronomical communities.

He is currently an active member of the Royal Astronomer Club of Canada, Astronomical League, and Charlotte Amateur Astronomical Club. He also holds informal and inclusive programs to introduce astronomy to Pre-K students at Cyrus Childhood Academy. Abbas continues to contribute and share his passion to the community by providing volunteer programs, sharing astronomical information, and hosting telescope observations of starry sky to his network.

Abbas has visited different astronomical professional and amateur observatories around the world and is excited to join ACEAP and enhance his astronomical outreach to the general public.

Michael OShea _ ACEAP 2020

Michael O'Shea

Michael likes how astronomy can bring people together and inspire them to do wonderful things with their lives. Nothing makes him happier than bring bringing two neighbors together over a telescope as he shows them Jupiter’s moons from a city sidewalk.

A proud product of the City of Chicago and its public schools, Michael has worked in a range of higher education and public service roles in the U.S. and Canada. In 2014, he and a friend set up a telescope on a cold Canadian sidewalk street corner and welcomed a stranger to peer at Jupiter. This night changed their lives forever, as they went on to co-found an urban astronomy movement called #popscope

While not peering at the night sky, Michael is working on a PhD in Higher Education at the University of Toronto with a focus on Indigenous student access to higher education on Turtle Island. He embraces his Irish-American roots by playing the accordion and is a big fan of the Chicago Bulls.

He holds a B.A. (Public Policy Analysis) from Pomona College and a Master’s (Higher Education) from the University of Pennsylvania. He was a Fulbright Student (2011) and New Leaders Council Fellow (2017), and is now a Fellow at Massey College.

He is thrilled to join and learn alongside the 2020 ACEAP cohort. You can follow him on Twitter @chicagoshea.

Jason Schreiner _ ACEAP 2020

Jason Schreiner

Jason Schreiner is the Planetarium Coordinator for the Museum of Arts and Sciences in Daytona Beach. Jason has more than 16 years of astronomy education and public outreach experience, using telescopes, observatories and planetariums. As an astrophysics student at Widener University in Pennsylvania, Jason was selected three times to participate in the NURO (National Undergraduate Research Observatory) program in Flagstaff, Arizona, where he was able to confirm a Cepheid variable star at the Lowell Observatory’s 31-inch telescope. Simultaneously working in the world-famous Fels Planetarium at The Franklin Institute in Philadelphia gave him a great deal of experience interacting with the public in a scientific setting. Jason is proud to be a NASA Solar System Ambassador. This competitive program only accepts applications once per year, which are then vetted by NASA Jet Propulsion Laboratory staff for applicants with the right combination of presentation experience, motivation and ideas for community engagement events. Ambassadors are given exclusive training on NASA missions, both manned and unmanned, from scientists and astronauts, before taking what they have learned and creating engaging events in their local communities. Jason is also the owner and operator of Orion Sky Tours, a star party business that provides private telescope tours of the night sky. At the museum, he enjoys performing daily star shows, creating planetarium programming, evening telescope events, covering Kennedy Space Center launches, writing scientific articles, curating astronomy and spaceflight exhibits, showing sci-fi movies, and having the occasional dinner with any astronaut stopping by. Jason is elated to be on the ACEAP team and for the life-changing opportunity to visit the world’s best telescopes, perched at the edge of civilization. Jason lives in Port Orange, Florida.
Derek Wallentinsen _ ACEAP 2020

Derek Wallentinsen

Derek Wallentinsen is a National Park Service Ranger, continuing a journey reaching for the stars throughout his life. After growing up towards the dark dome of New Mexico skies, he went on to earn a BA in Astronomy and Physics from Vassar College and a MS in Physics at Wichita State University. He started sharing his love of the sky early, with family and friends using his homebuilt telescope in backyards in Albuquerque, then astronomy club star parties in the 70s and 80s and STEM teaching (astronomy, physics, chemistry, math) during the 80s and 90s. While living in Los Angeles he worked 5 years at Celestron, a major telescope manufacturer for the amateur market and participated in many of the company’s outreach events. Then a move to the dark side began with two years volunteering in the National Park Service – National Science Foundation AstroVIP outreach program as a “Dark Ranger”. Subsequently donning the official gray and green uniform of a ranger meant a deeper dive into the night, with many opportunities to talk with people from all places and walks of life about both day and night skies and their preservation. He’s proudest of his efforts helping NPS parks and rangers preserve threatened dark skies through the International Dark Sky Places program of the International Dark Sky Association. Bragging rights include seeing both transits of Venus visible in his lifetime, being a co-discoverer of Nova Cygni 1975 and inspiring the next generations to keep looking up at the stars.

“ACEAP has given me opportunities beyond exclusive tours of world-class observatories and incredible southern skies. Through this program, I have made connections with people that will last a lifetime.”
— Tiffany Stone, ACEAP 2018