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2014 Expedition Timeline

Expeditions

Totten Glacier System in East Antarctica

Totten Glacier System in East Antarctica
Dates
-
Location
Totten Glacier and Moscow University Ice Shelf, East Antarctica aboard the R/V Palmer

What Are They Doing?

The Totten Glacier on the edge of the Southern Ocean, Antarctica
The Totten Glacier on the edge of the Southern Ocean, Antarctica
This project investigated the marine system of the Totten Glacier and Moscow University Ice Shelf, East Antarctica which has shown a recent increase in ice loss. This system is of critical importance because it drains one-eighth of the East Antarctic Ice Sheet and contains a volume equivalent to nearly 7 meters of potential sea level rise, greater than the entire West Antarctic Ice Sheet. This rarely explored region is the single largest, least understood, and potentially unstable marine glacial system in the world. Despite intense scrutiny of marine-based systems in the West Antarctic Ice Sheet, little is known about the Totten Glacier system.

This project conducted a ship-based marine geologic and geophysical survey of the region, combined with a physical oceanographic study. The results have added to our understanding of the oceanographic and glacial system and its potentially sensitive response to environmental change. This endeavor complemented studies of other Antarctic ice shelves, oceanographic studies near the Antarctic Peninsula, and ongoing development of ice sheet and other ocean models.

Glenn Clark
Teacher
Parishville-Hopkinton Central School

Parishville, NY
United States

Joint Antarctic School Expedition 2014

Joint Antarctic School Expedition 2014
Dates
-
Location
Professor Julio Escudero base, King George Island, Antarctica

What Are They Doing?

Penguin rookeries on King George Island, Antarctica
Penguin rookeries on King George Island, Antarctica
The students and teachers will spend five days on King George Island, learning about the scientific research conducted in and around Escudero base. The program could include visits to Elefanteras Beach to study seals and penguins, Collins Glacier where mosses, grasses, and algae may be found in the ice, and Bellingshausen Dome to discuss glaciological studies. There will also be the opportunity to stop at other Chilean stations as well as other countries stations located on King George Island.

¿Qué están haciendo?

Los estudiantes y maestros pasarán cinco días en la Isla Rey Jorge aprendiendo sobre los proyectos de investigación científica que se llevan a cabo cerca de la base Escudero. El programa podría incluir visitas a la Playa Elefanteras para estudiar elefantes marinos y pingüinos; al Galciar Collins donde crecen musgos, pastos y algas en el hielo; o al domo Bellingshausen para aprender sobre estudios en glaciología. También tendrán la oportunidad de visitar otras estaciones chilenas de investigación, así como las estaciones científicas de otros paises que también están localizadas en la Isla Rey Jorge.

Juan Botella
Teacher
Monona Grove High School

Monona, WI
United States

Expedition Map

Airborne Survey of Polar Ice 2014

Airborne Survey of Polar Ice 2014
Dates
-
Location
Kangerlussuaq, Greenland

What Are They Doing?

Research aircraft in Kangerlussuaq, Greenland
Research aircraft in Kangerlussuaq, Greenland
Operation IceBridge, a six-year NASA mission, is the largest airborne survey of Earth's polar ice ever conducted. IceBridge uses a highly specialized fleet of research aircraft and the most sophisticated science instruments ever assembled to characterize yearly changes in thickness of sea ice, glaciers, and ice sheets in the Arctic and Antarctic. The research team experiences first-hand the excitement of flying a large research aircraft over the Greenland Ice Sheet. While in the air they record data on the thickness, depth and movement of ice features, resulting in an unprecedented three-dimensional view of ice sheets, ice shelves, and sea ice.

Operation IceBridge began in 2009 to bridge the gap in data collection after NASA's ICESat satellite stopped functioning and when the ICESat-2 satellite becomes operational in 2016, making IceBridge critical for ensuring a continuous series of observations of polar ice. IceBridge flies over the Arctic and Antarctic every year—in the Arctic from March to May and the Antarctic in October and November. By comparing the year-to-year readings of ice thickness and movement both on land and on the sea, scientists can look at the behavior of the rapidly changing features of the polar ice and learn more about the trends that could affect sea-level rise and climate around the globe. More information about IceBridge can be found at the NASA project website.

Russell Hood
Teacher
East High School

Anchorage, AK
United States

Arctic Ground Squirrel Studies 2014

Arctic Ground Squirrel Studies 2014
Dates
-
Location
Toolik Field Station, Alaska

What Are They Doing?

Arctic Ground Squirrel
Arctic Ground Squirrel
In the Arctic, bright summers and dark winters are a fact of life and can lead humans to rely on clocks and routines to tell them when to eat or sleep, but how do animals function under these conditions? Circadian rhythms refer to the "internal body clock" that regulates the approximately 24-hour cycle of biological processes in animals and plants. Rhythms in body temperature, brain wave activity, hormone production, and other biological activities are linked to this 24-hour cycle. The Earth's light-dark cycle provides the strongest influence on circadian rhythms and is thought to be the primary driver for the emergence and evolution of internal clocks. In the Polar Regions, however, photoperiod exhibits extreme annual variation because of near 24 hour sunlight in the summer and 24 hour darkness in the winter. In the absence of a well-defined light-dark cycle, some arctic residents lose their daily organization of behavior and physiology, and it is thought that the molecular clockwork that drives circadian rhythms may be weak or absent in arctic vertebrates.

The research team has recently found that the arctic ground squirrel displays daily rhythms of body temperature throughout the arctic summer, in the absence of a light-dark cycle. The current study will investigate the circadian rhythms in arctic ground squirrels during the continuous daylight present during the active summer season and continuous dark of the 6-8 months of hibernation spent sequestered in a burrow. The team wants to understand why arctic ground squirrels, unlike other arctic vertebrates, appear to maintain 24-hour rhythms during the active season. They hypothesize that the persistence of circadian rhythmicity allows ground squirrels to reduce energy expenditure by anticipating predictable changes in its immediate surroundings. They are testing their hypothesis by experimentally phase-shifting free-living ground squirrels to be active at 'night' and estimating their subsequent rates of energy expenditure.

Andre Wille
Teacher
Aspen High School

Aspen, CO
United States

Expedition Map

Climate Change and Pollinators in the Arctic

Climate Change and Pollinators in the Arctic
Dates
-
Location
Kangerlussuaq, Greenland

What Are They Doing?

Dwarf Fireweed flower
Dwarf Fireweed flower
The research focuses on the interactions between plants and their pollinators, which are animals that aid in plant reproduction through transporting pollen. The aim is to understand how changes in temperature and precipitation may influence plant-pollinator interactions and plant reproduction. Temperature and water availability may alter the timing of flowering and floral traits that attract pollinators, such as nectar volume and flower size. In addition, temperature may alter what pollinator species visit flowers and how often they visit. The combination of these effects on plants and pollinators may influence plant reproduction, measured as the number of fruits and seeds a plant produces. The researchers hope to relate changes in the abiotic environment to floral attractive traits, pollinator visitation, and ultimately the reproductive success of plants. Three focal plant species, blueberry, harebell, and dwarf fireweed are used because they are common in the area and flower at different times of the season.

This work can have important pan-Arctic and global implications. The majority of flowering plants in nature and one third of our crop plants depend on pollinators to produce fruits and seeds. As temperatures rise in the Arctic, successful adaptation and range expansion of many plants, including plants migrating into the Arctic, will depend on pollinators. This study will help us determine which mechanisms may most strongly drive changes in plant-pollinator interactions and plant reproduction.

Emily Dodson
Teacher
Crawford Middle School

Lexington, KY
United States

Arctic Sunlight and Microbial Interactions 2014

Arctic Sunlight and Microbial Interactions 2014
Dates
-
Location
Toolik Field Station, Alaska

What Are They Doing?

A thermokarst failure on the tundra
A thermokarst failure on the tundra
Tremendous stores of organic carbon frozen in permafrost soils have the potential to greatly increase the amount of carbon in the atmosphere. Permafrost soils may thaw sporadically and melting ground ice can cause land-surface sinking called "thermokarst failures". These failures change the rate and amount of carbon released with the unanticipated outcome being that soil carbon can be mixed-up from a depth and exposed to sunlight as the land surface is altered. Sunlight can photo-degrade or break-down organic carbon and alter the carbon's ability to support bacterial respiration to produce carbon dioxide. Whether sunlight and UV exposure will enhance or retard the conversion of newly exposed carbon to carbon dioxide is currently unknown—this study is providing the first evidence that this alteration will be amplified by photochemical processes and their effects on microbes.

The research team is trying to understand exactly how sunlight and bacteria degrade dissolved organic matter by determining how fast these processes convert newly released dissolved organic matter to carbon dioxide, compared to dissolved organic matter already in surface waters. The team is accomplishing their research objectives with a series of laboratory experiments to determine rates of photodegradation and microbial processing of dissolved organic matter from different sources, and a series of landscape comparisons and sampling transects to characterize dissolved organic matter degradation in small basins and large rivers extending from the headwaters to the Arctic Ocean. Ultimately, this research will attempt to answer questions such as whether carbon export from tundra to oceans will rise or fall and how reactive the exported carbon will be. The team hopes to be able to measure the ultimate impact of impending disturbances, including climate change, on the net carbon balance of the Arctic and its interaction with the global carbon cycle.

Regina Brinker
Teacher
Livermore Schools

Livermore, CA
United States

Microbial Changes in Arctic Freshwater

Microbial Changes in Arctic Freshwater
Dates
-
Location
Toolik Field Station, Alaska

What Are They Doing?

Spring thaw on the tundra outside of Toolik Lake, Alaska
Spring thaw on the tundra outside of Toolik Lake, Alaska
Microbial diversity has recently been found to show a pattern of organization at various scales. The research team attempts to answer three basic questions about microbial diversity and dispersal, focused on the long-term aspects of dispersal events and climate change: 1) How does environment influence microbial community composition and rate of function? For example, how quickly they convert organic material to carbon dioxide. 2) How are distribution patterns of microbial communities in lakes, streams, and soils influenced by the dispersal from local water flow? 3) How are the shifts in microbial community composition related to shifts in environmental conditions over time such as those caused by climate change?

To date, the researchers have found that microbial communities in lakes and rivers change dramatically through the seasons but reassemble on an annual basis. They have also found that community composition in soil and surface waters shifts within days in response to environmental fluctuations in temperature or dissolved organic matter composition. They have also found that upland terrestrial habitats act as landscape-level seedbanks for lowland aquatic systems. The ultimate goal of the project is to develop a greater understanding of the controls on microbial community composition and function over space and time.

Lauren Watel
Teacher
St. Mary's Academy High School

Englewood, CO
United States

Joint Science Education Project 2014

Joint Science Education Project 2014
Dates
-
Location
Kangerlussauq and Summit Station, Greenland

What Are They Doing?

The tent city at Summit Station, Greenland
The tent city at Summit Station, Greenland
The expedition members visited several research sites in Greenland as part of an initiative to foster enhanced international scientific cooperation between the countries. The expedition members spent several days learning about the research conducted in Greenland, the logistics involved in supporting the research, and gained first-hand experience conducting experiments and developing inquiry-based educational activities.

This year's work builds on past expeditions and is supported by the National Science Foundation. The project was developed through cooperation with the U.S.-Denmark-Greenland Joint Committee, which was established in 2004 to broaden and deepen cooperation among the United States, the Kingdom of Denmark, and Greenland.

The program has two components
Kangerlussuaq Science Field School and Science Education Week

Lynn Reed
Einstein Educator Fellow
Division of Polar Programs, National Science Foundation

Chester, VA
United States

Historical Ecology for Risk Management 2014

Historical Ecology for Risk Management 2014
Dates
-
Location
Barrow, AK

What Are They Doing?

A view of the beach from downtown Barrow, Alaska
A view of the beach from downtown Barrow, Alaska
Applied Research in Environmental Sciences Nonprofit, Inc., ARIES, the Barrow Arctic Science Consortium, BASC, the North Slope Borough of Risk Management, and Cooperative Extension of Ilisgavik College are collaborating to plan, develop and implement a historical ecology model for the North Slope Coastal Region of Alaska. Historical ecology is an applied research program that focuses on interactions of people and their environments. Research applications involve studying and understanding this relationship in both time and space to gain a full picture of all of its accumulated effects. The research program can be applied to understanding changes among community landscapes that can assist strategies for the future. For this proposal the emphases align with the ARIES mission of research, education and community engagement, the Inupiaq Learning Framework of the North Slope School District, and the eco-heritage indicator of the CRIOS model (Cumulative Regional Integrated Operability Scores). Read more at the project website here.

The project emphases are 1) a bibliographic database of relevant historical resources, 2) an examination of the shoreline to provide a long time-series baseline, 3) simulation models to demonstrate socio-natural cycles of change for the North Slope shoreline, 4) the historical ecology study of the shoreline, interactive mapping and database available as a web based resource to assist academia, industry, regional government and local communities for socio-natural risk management (e.g., Barrow Area Information Database, 5) an integrated team of researchers, corporations, community planners, and Risk Management of the North Slope Borough to extract data and provide simulation models that apply to current studies and hazards of the region, especially mitigation tools for community decisions, and 6) provide a variety of eco-heritage opportunities that include community participation in research, educational products, age level appropriate activities and outreaches for community service learning, such as Teen CERT for the Next Generations and PolarTREC.

Sian Proctor
Teacher
South Mountain Community College

Phoenix, AZ
United States

High Arctic Change 2014

High Arctic Change 2014
Dates
-
Location
Ny Alesund, Svalbard, Norway

What Are They Doing?

Working around the glaciers of Kongsfjord, Svalbard
Working around the glaciers of Kongsfjord, Svalbard
The Svalbard Archipelago has an arctic climate and is home to several large bodies of ice— alpine glaciers in the mountains, and tidewater glaciers that descend into the sea. For the past 10,000 years the glaciers of this region have been receding and more recently researchers have noted a regional reduction in sea ice.

The research team, which includes undergraduate geoscience students participating in the Research Experiences Undergraduates (REU) Program, traveled to Svalbard to research how high latitude glaciers, melt-water streams, and sedimentation in the fjords reflect climate. The Svalbard region is ideal for the study of past climate because several different types of measurements on and around glaciers can be conducted there. Working out of small boats in the fiord and hiking to sites on land, the team collected data to determine what relationships exist between current sedimentation, glaciers, oceans, and climate. Using the historic sedimentation record can help the researchers understand and better predict how glacial systems react to climate change.

Peggy McNeal
Teacher
Los Coches Creek Middle School

El Cajon, CA
United States

Oceanographic Conditions of Bowhead Whale Habitat 2014

Oceanographic Conditions of Bowhead Whale Habitat 2014
Dates
-
Location
Barrow, AK

What Are They Doing?

Bowhead whale surfacing in the Arctic Ocean
Bowhead whale surfacing in the Arctic Ocean
The research team worked out of Barrow, Alaska, at the juxtaposition of two Arctic seas; the Chukchi and Beaufort Seas. It is a region frequently traveled by the endangered bowhead whale. This project had its genesis in understanding why the region near Barrow, Alaska is a feeding hotspot for migrating bowhead whales, and the whales and their prey will continue to be a focus of the team's interpretations. The research team conducted oceanographic sampling of the physical and biological marine environment in the region over the period 2005-2011 and observed significant inter-annual variability. Long-term studies of the ocean conditions in the Arctic are needed in order to understand how these environments vary inter-annually. The research team will continue to document conditions in the biological-physical ocean ecosystem, through annual boat-based surveys in order to predict and understand potential impacts of climate change on the Arctic ecosystem.

¿Quienes son?

Titulo financiado: Observación anual del medio ambiente marino biológico y físico en los mares Chukchi y Beauford en las cercanías de Barrow, AK.

El equipo de investigación viajará por avión a Barrow, una comunidad pequeña de aproximadamente 4,500 habitantes en la costa norte de Alaska. Como permitan las condiciones del tiempo, el equipo se embarcara para la colección de muestras oceanográficas a bordo del buque de investigación Annika Marie de 43 pies. Las actividades de a bordo incluirán colección de agua y plancton y mediciones de conductividad, temperatura, y profundidad. A bordo también tomarán nota sobre las ocurrencias de mamíferos marinos y realizarán el procesamiento preliminar de muestras. Si el clima es malo para navegar en el océano ellos pasarán el tiempo en Barrow catalogando muestras y organizándose para los días que pasaran sobre el agua.

Lisa Seff
Teacher
Springs School

East Hampton, NY
United States

Shrinking Arctic Icecaps

Shrinking Arctic Icecaps
Dates
-
Location
Greenland

What Are They Doing?

The terminus of a glacier near Kangerlussuaq, Greenland
The terminus of a glacier near Kangerlussuaq, Greenland
The retreat of glaciers is one of the most profound visual signs of global warming. Identifying the current magnitude of glacier retreat and its significance in the longer-term context of glacier history encourages a deeper understanding of what it means for society. The goal of this project was to provide a longer-term context for current climate warming and to better define the nature of abrupt climate changes over the past 5000 years in the Arctic.

The research team applied complimentary techniques to both the preserved plants and rocks exposed at the foot of retreating glaciers in West Greenland. Radiocarbon-dating techniques were applied to the plants and the isotopic signature of recently exposed rock surfaces were determined, allowing researchers to determine the duration of ice-covered and ice-free conditions throughout the Holocene (the past 11,700 years since the end of the last major ice age). Combined, these two datasets explicitly date when the region was last as warm as present. Comparing climate reconstructions with on-going studies elsewhere will help to further define recent abrupt climate changes.

Tina Ciarametaro
Teacher
Ipswich Middle School

Ipswich, MA
United States

Sea Floor Changes and the Antarctic Circumpolar Current

Sea Floor Changes and the Antarctic Circumpolar Current
Dates
-
Location
Research Vessel Nathaniel B. Palmer

What Are They Doing?

A seismic image of the ocean floor in the Drake Passage
A seismic image of the ocean floor in the Drake Passage
If the Antarctic ice sheet were to collapse or melt substantially it would impact all of humankind. This research attempts to reconstruct the paleogeography of parts of Antarctica while trying to determine the physical conditions that led to formation of the Antarctic ice sheet.

The past opening of deep Southern Ocean gateways between Antarctica and South America and between Antarctica and Australia permitted the complete circulation of the Antarctic Circumpolar Current (ACC). This opening may have been critical in the transition from a warm Earth in the past, to the subsequently much cooler conditions that persist to the present day. The opening of Drake Passage and the West Scotia Sea probably broke the final barrier formed by the Andes of Tierra del Fuego and the 'Antarctandes' of the Antarctic Peninsula. It is thought that once this deep gateway, usually referred to simply as the Drake Passage gateway (DPG), was created, the strong and persistent mid-latitude winds likely generated one of the largest deep currents on Earth. This event is widely believed to be closely associated in time with a major, abrupt drop in global temperatures and the rapid expansion of the Antarctic ice sheets 33-34 million years ago. On an earlier cruise to the Central Scotia Sea on board Nathaniel B. Palmer, however, Dalziel and Lawver and their colleagues found evidence that there may have been a barrier to eastward flow from Drake Passage to the South Atlantic Ocean basin until 10-12 million years ago when the planet descended even more deeply into an 'icehouse' state.

The research team dredged seafloor samples and analyzed them for their age and composition to determine if they may indeed have once blocked the Antarctic Circumpolar Current. They mapped the sub-seafloor to see how and/or if South Georgia is colliding with the North East Georgia Rise and with their co-investigator Robert Smalley of the University of Memphis they installed three GPS units on South Georgia to determine its horizontal and vertical motion. It is notable that the mountains of the island, which the explorer Ernest Shackleton and his companions had to cross after their celebrated small boat journey from Antarctica, are three times as high as the equivalent part of the Andean Cordillera in Tierra del Fuego.

Jillian Worssam
Teacher
Sinagua Middle School

Flagstaff, AZ
United States

Microbialites In Lake Joyce Antarctica

Microbialites In Lake Joyce Antarctica
Dates
-
Location
Dry Valleys, Antarctica

What Are They Doing?

Underwater microbial community in Lake Joyce, Antarctica
Underwater microbial community in Lake Joyce, Antarctica
The oldest fossil life on Earth consists of stromatolites, which are the remains of complicated communities of bacteria captured in rock. On modern Earth, similar communities still grow in places that are too harsh for worms, snails, and other grazing animals to live and eat them. Lakes in Antarctica with liquid water below a few meters of ice almost always support these communities. Thus, they provide the opportunity to study the ecology of microbial communities like those on early Earth billions of years ago.

The research team studied the communities in Lake Joyce, Antarctica in several different ways. They took images of the stromatolites in Lake Joyce and reconstructed the 3D morphology of microbial mats in the lake. They also characterized the environment that the stromatolites are growing in and studied how the morphology of the stromatolites varies mud deposition and calcite mineral formation. They also directly sampled the stromatolites to study the distribution of photosynthesis, calcite mineral formation, and mud incorporation.

They expect this study to make several important contributions to understanding early life on Earth. Morphological studies of the stromatolites will provide insights into how microbial communities build intricate structures and how variations in environment and ecology affect morphology. Results will also help researchers understand how microbial communities influence calcite mineral growth and how this affects stromatolite morphology. Results will be directly applicable to better interpreting ancient stromatolites, providing insights into ecological and biogeochemical processes on early Earth. Finally, a better understanding of the processes by which microbial communities build stromatolites will aid in the search for evidence of life on other planets, such as Mars, where landed missions have access to sedimentary rocks.

Lucy Coleman
Teacher
Natomas Charter School

Sacramento, CA
United States

Tectonic History of the Transantarctic Mountains 2014

Tectonic History of the Transantarctic Mountains 2014
Dates
-
Location
McMurdo and Mario Zuchelli Station, Antarctica

What Are They Doing?

Transantarctic Mountains
The Transantarctic Mountains with a dusting of snow (Photo by Sarah Diers)
Antarctica plays a central role in global tectonic evolution. Competing theories have been put forward to explain the formation of the Transantarctic Mountains (TAMs) and the Wilkes Subglacial Basin (WSB), primarily due to a lack of information on the crustal thickness and seismic velocity of these areas. The research team is attempting to resolve how the TAMs and WSB originated and how their formation relates to Antarctica's geologic history. Since most of Antarctica is covered by large ice sheets, direct geologic observations cannot be made; therefore, "remote sensing" methods like seismology must be used to determine details about the earth structure.

The goal of this project, funded by the National Science Foundation, is to broaden our knowledge of the geology in this region with a new seismic array; the Transantarctic Mountains Northern Network (TAMNNET), a 15-station array across the northern TAMs and the WSB that helps fill a major gap in seismic coverage. Data from TAMNNET is being combined with that from previous and ongoing seismic initiatives and is analyzed to generate an image of the seismic structure beneath the TAMs and the WSB.

While in the field, the team spent most of their time servicing the seismic stations that compose the new TAMNNET array. This included loading equipment onto small airplanes, flying to remote field locations, uncovering the deployed equipment, and checking for any maintenance issues. The first batch of data from the network was also retrieved during this time.

Brian DuBay
Teacher
Grissom Middle School

Warren, MI
United States

Weddell Seals in the Ross Sea 2014

Weddell Seals in the Ross Sea 2014
Dates
-
Location
McMurdo Station, Antarctica

What Are They Doing?

A Weddell seal near McMurdo Station, Antarctica
A Weddell seal near McMurdo Station, Antarctica (Photo by Alex Eilers)
The team traveled daily to Weddell seal haul out sites on the sea ice near McMurdo Station. While on location, the team found female seals, gently sedated them, and took a variety of biological samples – weight, size (length and girth), took blood samples, and collected tissue samples. They also took thermal images of the seals to see how much heat the seal was losing to the environment. A time-depth recorder also was placed on the seals hind flipper to record the seals' dive behaviors. The team will return the next season in an attempt to relocate the seals, take biological data, collect the tags, and determine if the seals have pupped.

This data was collected and analyzed in an attempt to learn more about what drives the timing of a seal's critical life history events – such as breeding and molting – and how disruptions in that natural cycle by changes in climate and environment might affect the world's southernmost mammal.

Alex Eilers
Teacher
Pink Palace Museum

Memphis, TN
United States

West Antarctic Ice Sheet Microstructures

West Antarctic Ice Sheet Microstructures
Dates
-
Location
West Antarctic Ice Sheet (WAIS) Divide

What Are They Doing?

Snow Drifts on the West Antarctica Ice Sheet (WAIS), Antarctica
Snow Drifts on the West Antarctica Ice Sheet (WAIS), Antarctica
The research team studied the microstructure of ice crystals on the West Antarctic Ice Sheet (WAIS). As the research title of their project implies, "VeLveT Ice", the team is researching what happens at the small scale of individual ice crystals that ultimately affect the large flow patterns in an ice sheet. The group is therefore studying the link between crystal properties, ice flow, and climate history because the crystal structure retains a memory of past climate which is recorded differently than "normal" ice core analyses. Ice crystals grow, rotate, and recrystallize with time and flow in an ice sheet. The rate at which each of these processes occurs depends on the temperature, state of stress, and impurity (e.g. dust, ash or salt) content of the ice. The orientation, texture, size and shape of the crystals in a given block of ice evolves through time, but also "remembers" past temperature and flow. Many scientists have observed that these microstructural properties vary with depth in an ice sheet and climate history. For example, ice from glacial time periods typically has smaller crystals, higher impurity content, and stronger fabric than ice from interglacial time periods. These microstructural properties also affect how the ice flows—ice in an ice sheet is far from a homogeneous substance and variations in properties on the small scale can affect large-scale flow patterns.

This project specifically investigated the ice microstructure, impurity content, and ice-flow patterns in relation to climate history for the ice near the West Antarctic Ice Sheet (WAIS) ice core site, using a combination of borehole logging, modeling, and thin section analyses. This work was the first to combine two novel advanced techniques for studying the relationship between ice microstructure, deformation, and climate history. More information about the project can be found here.

Yamini Bala
Teacher

Chicago, IL
United States

Ice Cube Neutrino Observatory 2014

Ice Cube Neutrino Observatory 2014
Dates
-
Location
South Pole, Antarctica

What Are They Doing?

The view down a 2.5 km drill hole used by the Ice Cube project
The view down a 2.5 km drill hole used by the Ice Cube project
How do you find something that isn't directly visible? That's the challenge faced by the team who developed the IceCube neutrino detector under the ice at the South Pole. Just as X-rays allow us to see bone fractures, and MRIs help doctors find damage to soft tissue, neutrinos will reveal new information about the universe that can't be seen directly. The in-ice particle detector at the South Pole records the interactions of neutrinos which are nearly massless sub-atomic messenger particles. Neutrinos are incredibly common (about 100 trillion pass through your body as you read this) subatomic particles that have no electric charge and almost no mass. They are created by radioactive decay and nuclear reactions, such as those in the sun and other stars. Neutrinos rarely react with other particles; in fact, most of them pass through objects (like the earth) without any interaction. This makes them ideal for carrying information from distant parts of the universe, but it also makes them very hard to detect.

All neutrino detectors rely on observing the extremely rare instances when a neutrino does interact with a proton or neutron. This transforms the neutrino into a charged particle of the same type as the neutrino flavor (electron, muon, or tau). Muons are charged particles that can travel for 5-10 miles (8-16 kilometres) through matter depending on their energy, and generate detectable light in translucent media.

IceCube is made up of thousands of sensitive light detectors embedded in a cubic kilometre of ice between 1450 m and 2450 m below surface. The sensors are deployed on strings in the ice holes that were made using a hot water drill. IceCube detects about 100,000 neutrinos a year, and has a projected life time of two decades. The data collected will be used to make a "neutrino map" of the universe and to learn more about astronomical phenomena, like gamma ray bursts, black holes, exploding stars, and other aspects of nuclear and particle physics. However, the true potential of IceCube is discovery; the opening of each new astronomical window leads to unexpected discoveries.

Armando Caussade
Teacher
G Works Inc. for the Puerto Rico Department of Education

San Juan
Puerto Rico