Flow Studies on an Antarctic Glacier
Meet the Team
Teacher - Brandon Gillette
Brandon Gillette completed his undergraduate work at the University of Kansas in 2004 and his Masters of Education in 2006. For the past five years, he has taught junior high school and high school science in Olathe, Kansas. Mr. Gillette first worked with CReSIS in 2007-2008 as part of the PolarTREC program, partnering with scientists to spend five weeks in Antarctica as part of the Antarctica Ice Sheet Studies Expedition.
Mr. Gillette recently joined the Center for Remote Sensing of Ice Sheets (CReSIS) and has returned to the University of Kansas as an education graduate research assistant where he has begun work on a PhD in geography and environmental science with an emphasis in GIS and remote sensing. He enjoys spending his free time with his wife and dog, traveling, and playing recreational sports, and will be running his first marathon in October 2010!
Researcher - Leigh A. Stearns
Dr. Leigh Stearns is an Assistant Professor in the Department of Geology at the University of Kansas (KU) and CReSIS. She joined the KU faculty in 2009 after receiving her PhD at the University of Maine. Her research focus is on outlet glacier dynamics, which she studies by integrating remote sensing and field-based measurements into numerical models. In her spare time, she likes to bike, swim, walk her dog, garden, volunteer, and run!
Researcher - Gordon S. Hamilton
Dr. Gordon Hamilton is an Associate Professor at the University of Maine in both the Department of Earth Sciences and the Climate Change Institute. His research is in ice sheet mass balance and the role ice sheets play in modulating global sea levels. This research involves field work in Greenland and Antarctica, using GPS to study ice flow dynamics and ground penetrating radar (GPR) to understand snow accumulation, as well as satellite remote sensing of both ice sheets and other glaciated regions. In his spare time, Gordon likes exploring the coast and mountains of Maine with his family and playing soccer. For more information, please visit Dr. Hamilton’s faculty page.
Researcher - Kees van der Veen
Dr. Kees van der Veen is a Professor in the Geography Department and with CReSIS, at the University of Kansas. His research interests are in the dynamics of tidewater glaciers, iceberg calving, and improving our current glacier flow models to capture the small- and large-scale changes in ice dynamics that are occurring in the polar regions. Dr. van der Veen will be in charge of developing the numerical models of Byrd Glacier in the Byrd Glacier Flow Dynamics project. In his spare time, he likes to show off his vintage Volkswagen in local parades and car shows!
Where are They?
The research team will be based at McMurdo Station, and travel daily by helicopter to the research site on Byrd Glacier, about 250 miles (400 km) from the station. Byrd Glacier is one of Earth’s largest glaciers, starting in East Antarctica and flowing through the Transantarctic Mountains and into the Ross Ice Shelf. It is about 84 miles (136 km) long and about 15 miles (24 km) wide—an area greater than most U.S. cities!
What are they Doing?
Glaciers are like moving rivers of ice, and their rate of movement can vary depending on many factors including friction, the slope of underlying bedrock, and climate. Byrd Glacier is unique because it goes through large changes in its speed in response to two subglacial lakes, lakes that remain unfrozen underneath the glacier, which drain periodically. This project is designed to study the changes in glacier behavior on timescales from minutes to years by closely monitoring Byrd Glacier for the next 2.5 years.
To do this, the research team will install about 30 GPS units on Byrd Glacier. Some of the sensors will remain on the glacier during just the 2010-2011-research season (November – February) and some will stay out there and take recordings all year long. The data collected from different parts of the glacier will provide a continuous record of horizontal and vertical motions over a 26-month time period.
The results of the study will be used in conjunction with a longer record of remote sensing observations. The combined datasets will be used to check a numerical model of the glacier’s flow dynamics, or changes in rates of movement. The modeling efforts will be applied to other East Antarctic outlet glaciers so that scientists can develop a better understanding of glacier behavior in Antarctica.
The research team will be making two trips to Antarctica as part of the same project, first from 8-25 November 2010 and later in the field season from 29 January - 12 February 2011.