Brenda Hall is a glacial geologist with our team. She is here along with Gordon to map glacial deposits, both the Last Glacial Maximum limit and older deposits. By mapping these glacial deposits, moraines, mostly, they hope to reconstruct past glacial history in Antarctia. In addition to mapping glacial deposits, Brenda is also searching for ancient algae that can sometimes be found around the perimeters of ancient glacial melt ponds. When she finds these, they are radiocarbon dated back in the lab to help place ages on when the glaciers were present. So far, on this expedition, she has not been successful in her search for algae. Cloudmaker Peak and Mt. Kyffin have not held any evidence of glacial melt ponds partly because the terrain has not been favorable (no valleys or broad benches).
Brenda Hall and Gordon Bromley are intently examining very old glacial deposits on our day trip to an unnamed peak just south of Cloudmaker Peak.
Brenda has a geology background, which has developed into a proficiency in glacial geology. She obtained two bachelors degrees, one in geology and the other in Russian, from Bates College in Lewiston, Maine. After these, she moved on to the University of Maine where she received both master's and a Ph.D. in geology. Brenda knew from her freshman year in high school that she'd like to be a geologist after taking an Earth science class. She had always enjoyed science and the outdoors, especially glaciers. She first came to Antarctica when she began her master's degree in 1990. Brenda was working with a group studying the glacial history of glaciers from the Pliocene and Miocene (about 12 million years ago) in Antarctica's Wright Valley in the Dry Valleys region. She learned Antarctic glaciology from a master, George Denton. George had been working in Antarctica since 1958. She has returned to explore glaciers for 21 seasons.
Brenda is surveying the unnamed peak south of Cloudmaker Peak on our day trip to help determine a good field location to land next to. She is no stranger to helicopter flight having spent 21 seasons down here.
While at the University of Maine, Brenda has developed an interest in the origin of ice ages, how ice sheets behave, and the causes of abrupt climate change. These have lead to a wide variety of research projects in Antarctica such as: glacial history during the Holocene through Miocene ages, investigating relative sea level changes along the coast of the Ross Sea that were caused by the retreat of the Ross Ice Shelf, reconstructing lake level changes and their relationship to ice levels and localized climate change, and investigating abandoned Elephant Seal rookeries (common breeding/molting grounds) to better understand changes in sea ice and the relationship with past habitats.
Brenda has always felt at home outdoors - as a child, she spent a lot of time working in her parents' commercial blueberry patches. She is married with three children. Brenda met her husband, Bret, while working with George Denton. He was a graduate student in archaeology who happened to be doing some unrelated research in Antarctica. They worked together for three years down here. At home, in Maine, they grow four large gardens and have a small maple syrup production on the side. Brenda has no plans to quit coming down here. She doesn't enjoy laboratory based science as much as field work. In Antarctica, fieldwork is where it's at. "As long as it continues to provide interesting questions to answer", she continues to develop scientific research projects in Antarctica.