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Antarctic Sub Glacial Lake and Stream Studies

Archived PolarConnect Event: Celebrating Antarctica Day with the WISSARD project
3 December 2012
This one hour event is now available in the PolarConnect Archives.

Meet the Team

Teacher - Mike LeBaron

Mike LeBaron's picture
Lake Norman High School
Mooresville , North Carolina
United States

Michael LeBaron grew up "on science", learning everything from welding to soil sampling on the family farm that was a part of the University of Idaho Agricultural Experiment Station. When Mr. LeBaron began college, majoring in Geology was a natural choice, as he knew that he wanted a profession where he could work outside while continuing to learn about the world around him. He has had a variety of careers since graduating with Bachelors and Masters degrees in Geology. These have included spending many years in the oil and gas industry, working as a field geologist in Uranium and Industrial Minerals Exploration, and even a short time in the banking world. Mr. LeBaron made one last career change into teaching, opening the door for him to give back and share what he had learned over the years as a professional geologist. He teaches Earth and AP Environmental Science teacher at Lake Norman High School, bringing his various science travels and knowledge into the classroom in some pretty offbeat and unusual teaching strategies. Travels have included going to Ecuador with the North Carolina Museum of Natural History to have a firsthand look at the impacts of poverty on environmental quality, and a three-week period aboard the RV Atlantis as an observer and outreach participant in the New Millennium Observatory (NeMO) Project along the Juan de Fuca Ridge. When Mr. LeBaron is not at school or wandering around other parts of the world, he can be found traveling with his wife (also a teacher), backpacking with Boy Scout Troop 162 of Mooresville, or checking up on his two sons.

Researcher - John Priscu

John Priscu's picture
Montana State University
Bozeman , Montana
United States

John Priscu is a professor in the Department of Land Resources and Environmental Sciences at Montana State University. His research interest lies in life associated with Antarctic ice and its relationship to global change and astrobiology. Dr. Priscu heads the Priscu Research Group.

Researcher - Slawek Tilaczyk

Slawek Tulaczyk's picture
University of California Santa Cruz
Santa Cruz , California
United States

Researcher - Ross Powell

Ross Powell's picture
Northern Illinois University
DeKalb , Illinois
United States

Ross Powell has been a professor in the Department of Geology and Environmental Sciences at Northern Illinois University since the early 1980's. His main research interests focus on processes where glaciers and ice sheets enter the sea, and his recent research has focused on Alaskan and Antarctic glacimarine processes and paleoclimate history involving underwater remotely-operated vehicles (ROV's) among other scientific tools. He has played a lead role in the ANDRILL (Antarctic geological Drilling) Program and the WISSARD program, collecting sediment cores for the first time from a subglacial lake in Antarctica—Lake Whillans. He has mentored teachers in polar field research through the Cape Roberts and ANDRILL programs in Antarctica and the Svalbard REU program in the Arctic. He is also periodically a guest lecturer at the University Center (UNIS) on Svalbard.


December 30, 2012 The Traverse Takes Off

Before the traverse
I hope that some of you check back here, because the big news is that the traverse to the final test site has taken off from McMurdo! They have a trip that will take them 10 to 12 days to complete. Check out the video link below- it's on facebook, so if you have school filters it may be blocked...

December 18, 2012 The trip home.

Getting on board the LC-130
Yes, I did make it home. Here's a story of the trip and some pictures I took along the way. Happy Holidays to everyone who followed along.

December 13, 2012 I'm on the Road

Airport christmas tree
Hi to everyone! i just wanted to let you know that I've left McMurdo and am on the way home. Right now I'm in Sydney, Australia waiting for my flight to the U.S. It will be a 15 hour flight that takes me to Dallas, Texas. I'm NOT looking forward to the plane ride, but I'll be happy to be home...

December 12, 2012 Last Visit to the WISSARD Test Site

Mike LeBaron and Tractor
Today the sun was back out, the wind was calm and the snow and ice of McMurdo Sound had regained the brilliance that we have become accustomed to here. It’s my last day in Antarctica – tomorrow I will board the LC-130 and head back home. Until that time though, I’m going to enjoy the time I have...

December 10, 2012 Helicopters

The WISSARD project won’t be using helicopters, but many of the projects do. There is no way you can ignore them. They are thumping around in the sky all day long and the heliport area is just outside the Crary lab where I spend quite a bit of time. To learn more about helicopter operations in...

Project Information

WISSARD (Whillans Ice Stream Subglacial Access Research Drilling) project
McMurdo Station
5 November 2012
14 December 2012

Where are They?

Snow drifts on the West Antarctic Ice Sheet
Snow drifts on the West Antarctic Ice Sheet
The team will be staging operations out of McMurdo Station, Antarctica, and then camping out and performing their research on the lower areas of the Whillans Ice Stream just before it goes afloat into the Ross Ice Shelf. The ice stream is a faster flowing "stream" of ice within the West Antarctic Ice Sheet and the study site is located right at the head of the Ross Ice Shelf. McMurdo Station is located at the southern tip of Ross Island on the shore of McMurdo Sound. During the summer research season, McMurdo Station supports up to 1,200 people.

What are they Doing?

A hot water drill used to drill through the sea ice
A hot water drill used to drill through the sea ice
This is the first of two research seasons in Antarctica for the WISSARD (Whillans Ice Stream Subglacial Access Research Drilling) project. The goal of the WISSARD Project is to learn more about the physical, chemical, and biological aspects of the unique environments under glaciers in West Antarctica. In addition to understanding the geology and hydrology, the team will be studying life in extreme subglacial environments. They also hope that by investigating this interrelated system, they will better understanding of the influence of climate change on melting of ice sheets and their contributions to sea level rise.

The WISSARD Project has three inter-related components:

  • RAGES (Robotic Access to Grounding zones for Exploration and Science)
  • LISSARD (Lake and Ice Stream Subglacial Access Research Drilling)
  • GBASE (GeomicroBiology of Antarctic Subglacial Environments)

The primary goal of the first field season is testing and exploring the zone (grounding zone) just before the grounded ice of the Whillans Ice Stream goes a float into the Ross Ice Shelf, which is thought to be a very sensitive area in terms of ice sheet dynamics and its response to global warming. During their deployment, the team will use a hot water drill to melt boreholes deep in the ice stream. After the holes are melted they will test and deploy complex new monitoring and sampling equipment under the ice.

Learn more about the project at the official project website.


Title Date About Type
Invasive Species Under Ice Overview Antarctica is the coldest, driest place on Earth with a fairly limited number of native... Lesson
Life Under Antarctica's Ice 1 June 2013 This story in Discover magazine profiles the work of the WISSARD (Whillans Ice Stream Subglacial... Article
Really Down South 28 February 2013 Article about earth science and environmental science teacher Mike LeBaron's expedition to... Article
Race Is On to Find Life Under Antarctic Ice 18 December 2012 National Geographic article about the WISSARD project that is studying subglacial lakes and streams... Article
Antarctica Day 2012 with Michael LeBaron and the Wissard Expedition, McMurdo Station 3 December 2012 This one hour live event is hosted by PolarTREC teacher Mike LeBaron and his team studying sub-... Event
NIU Professors From Suburbs Studying What Lies Beneath Antarctic Ice Shelf 13 November 2012 This article in the suburban Chicago newspaper The Daily Herald, describes the WISSARD project and... Article
WISSARD in the Antarctic News 9 November 2012 The Antarctic Sun published this news article about the WISSARD Project that PolarTREC Teacher Mike... Article
Mr Lebaron's Upcoming Trip to Antarctica 12 October 2012 The student newspaper at Lake Norman High School published an article about PolarTREC teacher Mike... Article
Teacher Takes Scientific Expedition to Antarctica 19 October 2012 An article from the Mooresville Weekly, Mooresville, North Carolina, on Mike LeBarons upcoming... Article

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