High Arctic Change 09
Meet the Team
Teacher - Mike Rhinard
Although he was born and raised in rural Pennsylvania, Mike Rhinard moved to Idaho 20 years ago to work for the U.S. Forest Service while pursuing his degree in Earth science education at Boise State University. Mr. Rhinard has taught Earth science at Riverglen Junior High School for the past 11 years, and making Earth science relevant to his students is a daily goal. Outside of teaching, he enjoys coaching wrestling, camping, rafting Idaho’s awesome rivers, traveling, and, on most days, his ongoing home remodeling projects. He is excited to work with researchers “doing science” and to share the “real stuff” with his students.
Researcher - Julie Brigham-Grette
Dr. Brigham-Grette is the US Chief Scientist of the Lake El'gygytgyn Drilling Project and also oversees studies of past sea ice history in the Bering Strait. She has recently been involved in the IPY STEM Polar Connections project to integrate the study of polar regions and International Polar Year activities into the middle and high school curriculum.
Researcher - Ross Powell
Ross Powell has been a professor in the Department of Geology and Environmental Sciences at Northern Illinois University for 27 years. His main research interests focus on processes where glaciers and ice sheets enter the sea, and his recent research has focused on Alaskan and Antarctic glacimarine processes and paleoclimate history involving underwater remotely-operated vehicles (ROV’s) among other scientific tools. He is currently a co-organizer of the ANDRILL (Antarctic geological Drilling) Program, and he has mentored teachers in polar field research through the Cape Roberts and ANDRILL programs in Antarctica and the Svalbard REU program in the Arctic.
Where are They?
For this project, the team will fly to Spitsbergen, an island of the Svalbard archipelago in the Arctic Ocean located between Norway and the North Pole. They will stay in one of four permanent settlements and work out of a field station and marine laboratory on Svalbard called Ny Ålesund (78° 55´ N, 11° 56´ E). From there, the team will travel by small boat to reach the tidewater glaciers and fjords in Kongsfjord, home to one of the most rapidly calving glaciers on Svalbard.
What are they Doing?
The research team, which includes undergraduate geoscience students participating in the Research Experiences for Undergraduates Program, will travel to Svalbard, Norway, to investigate how climate change affects sediment transport and deposition associated with the tidewater glaciers, icebergs, meltwater streams, and marine currents. Tidewater glaciers are among the fastest changing systems in the Arctic, offering the team the opportunity to monitor rapidly changing and dynamic systems.
The research team will sample glacier and iceberg ice for debris concentrations and perform CTD casts to define where the sediment from the glacier was being transported and deposited. Glacial sediments deposited on the bottom of the fiord will be collected to identify the structures forming on the fjord floor and their relation to observed glacial processes. Bathymetric maps of the seafloor will be obtained by using a small sub-bottom profiler and will establish baseline data allowing future researchers to determine the rate of sediment infilling of the fjord by the glaciers. The team will also utilize aerial photographs and GPS mapping to determine the current position of the glacier as well as its rate of retreat compared to 2005 data. Using this data, the team can determine if relationships can be derived between current sedimentation, meteorological, glaciological, and oceanic variables that will allow for the historic sedimentation record to be better interpreted.
The Svalbard archipelago has been marked by the retreat of glaciers, reductions in sea ice, and measurable warming throughout the Holocene period, and more specifically during the past 90 years. The region is an ideal location for this study because it has preserved the geologic records of climate change since the last ice age and into the 20th century. The Arctic is particularly sensitive to climate change and climatically induced environmental changes in this region can instigate further changes of global consequences. Melting glacial systems and their contribution to sea level rise will have consequences on shorelines globally.