Satellite observations show that Thwaites Glacier, West Antarctica, has been thinning rapidly and its flow speed has been increasing. At the same time, its grounding line, the point at which the glacier starts to float over the sea, has retreated. Oceanographic studies show that the main driver of these changes is incursion of warm water in the deep ocean beneath the floating ice shelf that extends seaward from the glacier. An important factor affecting the flow of warm water towards the glacier and the stability of the ice shelf is the topography of the seafloor in the area, which is poorly known. The seafloor offshore from Thwaites Glacier and the records of glacial and ocean change contained in the sediments on it are the focus of the THOR project.
The team will be aboard the icebreaker NB Palmer in the Amundsen Sea, West Antarctica near Thwaites Glacier. Normally, participants onboard the NB Palmer share a two-person cabins with bathrooms on board the boat. Regular meals will be provided by the ship's crew. Work will be in labs on board and, possibly, on deck.
Sarah Slack has been teaching middle school science in Brooklyn, New York for 10 years. After completing her Masters in Plant Biology from the University of Minnesota, she worked in environmental education at a nature center and on a wooden sailboat before finally realizing she belonged in the classroom, sharing her love of the biological sciences, investigations, and explorations with kids who very often have spent little to no time outside of New York City. This school year, Sarah began teaching STEM instead of science, and has therefore been able to focus on providing opportunities for her students to engineer solutions to design challenges. She is a member of the city's Middle School Science Leadership Team, working to support other teachers as the city transitions to the Next Generation Science Standards. She has also earned a Master Teacher Fellowship with Math for America. Outside the classroom, Sarah loves coaching her school's Science Olympiad team, hiking and backpacking with her two amazing dogs, taking an annual trip to tiny Pictou Island in Canada each summer, and absolutely killing it at fantasy football.
Frank O. Nitsche received a MS in geophysics from the University of Kiel, Germany and a PhD from the University of Bremen, Germany. In 2001 he came to the Lamont-Doherty Earth Observatory of Columbia University where he started as a postdoctoral researcher and is now a research scientist. There he studies sediment processes and morphological conditions of the Hudson River Estuary and the Long Island Sound. In addition, he investigates the morphology of the Antarctic continental margin and is reconstructing the path of past ice streams and related sediment transport processes. He has participated in six expeditions to Antarctica and its surrounding Southern Ocean where he used acoustic mapping techniques and oceanographic measurements to understand past and present processes that shape the Antarctic continental margins and affect the ice sheet. He is involved in the creation of the International Bathymetric Chart of the Southern Ocean. Read more about Dr. Nitsche here.