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.

Where Are They?

Transantarctic Mountains
View of the Transantarctic Mountains (Photo by Lollie Garay)
The field project was primarily based at McMurdo Station, with some work conducted from the Italian Terra Nova station, Mario Zuchelli. Seismic stations were installed at remote sites across the northern Transantarctic Mountains and onto the East Antarctic plateau in 2012. In the 2014 season, those stations were revisited for servicing and for collection of the first batch of data. Once in Antarctica, the field locations were reached either via helicopter or fixed wing Twin Otter Aircraft. The field team shared dormitory housing. Fieldwork was conducted outside at cold and (in some cases) fairly high altitude conditions.

Latest Journals

Since we arrived on the ice, we had two days of cold weather training and then our team headed into the field. Because the weather is temporarily cooperating, and we have priority flight -we had two planes Monday through Saturday- our team was able to service two to four stations a day. Clearly…
As I venture back down to Antarctica this year, it is with a heavy heart. This, being my third and last year 'on the ice', and the fact I am leaving my wife and eleven month old daughter, makes me miss home already. However, this field season presents a new opportunity the prior years have not –a…
McMurdo and Mario Zuchelli Station, Antarctica
Project Funded Title
Deciphering the Tectonic History of the Transantarctic Mountains and the Wilkes Subglacial Basin
Brian DuBay - Teacher
Grissom Middle School

Wayne State University, in Detroit Michigan provided Brian’s foundation for a Bachelor of Science. Teaching high school students to embrace, appreciate, and love science seemed a logical utilization of his talents.

One of Brian’s core philosophical beliefs is that one learns the most when engaged and immersed in hands on learning. He not only reinforces this principle in his classroom, he also feels it is important to continue to learn as much as possible because ultimately, the more he learns, the more he can teach his students. In 2012 Brian was accepted by the National Science Foundation and PolarTREC to spend six weeks studying seismology in Antarctica. During this time, Brian not only fulfilled his roles as a geologist, but also conducted remote teaching with his classes. As a result of his dedication, Brian’s grant was extended and it is with great anticipation that he will return to Antarctica this year to continue working on the team’s goals.

Samantha Hansen - Researcher
University of Alabama

Samantha Hansen is an assistant professor at the University of Alabama, where she researches fundamental earth science processes, such as mountain building, continental rifting, and craton formation. She employs a wide range of geophysical tools to analyze seismic data to investigate structure and infer associated geologic mechanisms. Over the past few years she has worked on several projects in Antarctica investigating the structure of the Transantarctic Mountains, the Gamburtsev Mountains, and the West Antarctic Rift System. She also has interests in earth science education and promoting underrepresented students in science. To read more about Dr. Hansen's work please visit her website.

Tectonic History of the Transantarctic Mountains 2014 Resources

102 men and women received the United States government's highest honor for scientists and engineers in the early stages of their independent research careers--the Presidential Early Career Award for Scientists and Engineers (PECASE). The National Science Foundation (NSF) nominated 20 of the awardees, including PolarTREC researcher Samantha Hansen.

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