Blog: The Art of Writing And Please Send me Another Letter

This is Kai Rasmussen’s blog.  He is the webmaster for, recent UW biology graduate, and graphic designer.  These are updates about the process, if you are interested.

If you recently sent a letter to the Botany building at UW addressed to myself and Dr. Simon Gilroy, please send us another letter!  I promise we aren’t blowing you off- we lost the letter and we can’t remember who it was from or the address.

Thanks, Kai

So I lost a letter from someone interested in astrobotany, which is my bad, but it’s also not surprising because my desk is a total mess.  There are about 50 huge pieces of paper on it that have everything from relational database diagrams to quick calculations for purchases.  Slowly, but surely, we are getting organized.

What’s new with astrobotany?

I’ve been promoting our astrobotany subreddit pretty heavily recently, and it’s been working.  I’ve shared the subreddit with the greater space community on reddit.  There are some pretty obscure and cool subreddits I’ve discovered as a result, including /r/ColonizeMars, /r/exoplanets, and /r/SpaceXLounge.  The reception has been pretty positive, which is great because I’d hate to be spamming people.  We’re up to 440-ish subscribers and I’m hoping to build the community even further.  We’re also doing sticker saturdays, where people who post are entered to win a free sticker.  Check it out!

Games in Astrobotany Workshop

The team at has partnered with Gear Learning at the University of Wisconsin-Madison and the Dane County Boys and Girls Club (Madison, WI) to teach the discipline of astrobotany by having students 9-12 develop their own video game.

Learn More

We’ve had 4 sessions so far and it’s a lot of fun.  Richard and I head over to the Educational Sciences building every Tuesday and Thursday to support the Gear Learning staff and teach the students about spaceflight plant biology.  The students have some great ideas about plants in space and I believe they are learning a lot.

We talk about applying favorite game mechanics to an astrobotany game.

On Writing for Science

The need for popular science writers has become more and more apparent for me.  I am not a professionally trained writer, but I am a scientist.  I sometimes find it difficult to call myself a writer because I am not really aware of traditional writing conventions.  It’s also been a really long time since I’ve studied grammar.  As I write more and more for astrobotany, I try to hit a balance between technicality and style.  Who we are writing for is a difficult question: the audience for this website varies wildly.  Our visitors range from NASA employees, to elementary schoolers, to fashion-minded folks only interested in the clothing.  That’s pretty awesome, though.

I’ve gained a lot of appreciation for science journalists and writers in general.

Back to Milwaukee

Richard, Kai Brito, and I will be heading to Milwaukee on Monday to assist Dr. Andrea Henle in curriculum and lesson plan design for astrobiology for middle school teachers.  Very exciting stuff, as it seems that there is an interest from educators of younger students to get started with spaceflight research.  I’m hoping to gain a better perspective of middle school students for the site.

General Updates

  • we’ve added a new shirt to the astrobotany shop (the ‘on mirage’ design).  They’re coming in Monday, July 2nd and will be shipped out immediately for those who pre-ordered.
  • tomorrow, our profile on prominent astrobotanist Dr. Gioia Massa will be coming out.
  • we have a new ‘projects‘ page, which details the various projects we are involved with.

Awesome.  Let’s grow plants in space.

– Kai

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