Airborne Survey of Polar Ice
What Are They Doing?
IceBridge, a six-year NASA mission, is the largest airborne survey of Earth's polar ice ever conducted. The research team experienced first-hand the excitement of flying a large research aircraft over the Greenland Ice Sheet. While in the air they recorded data on the thickness, depth, and movement of ice features, resulting in an unprecedented three-dimensional view of Arctic ice sheets, ice shelves, and sea ice.
Operation IceBridge began in 2009 to bridge the gap in data collection after NASA's ICESat-1 satellite stopped functioning and when the ICESat-2 satellite becomes operational in 2016, making IceBridge critical for ensuring a continuous series of observations in the Arctic. IceBridge flies over these regions to map Arctic areas once a year. By comparing the year-to-year readings of ice thickness and movement both on land and on the sea, scientists can take a yearly look at the behavior of the rapidly changing features of the Greenland ice and learn more about the trends that could affect sea-level rise and climate change around the globe.
Where Are They?
The field campaign for Operation Ice Bridge was based out of Kangerlussuaq in western Greenland. Once used as an American military base, the settlement is now Greenland's main air transport hub and the site of Greenland's largest commercial airport. The climate in Kangerlussuaq is arctic, with temperatures ranging from -25 to 18 degrees Celsius throughout the year.
Meet the Team
Tim Spuck teaches Earth & Space Sciences at Oil City Area Sr. High School in Oil City, PA, and has served as the District’s K-12 Science Department Chair. Recently he completed an Albert Einstein Distinguished Educator Fellowship with the National Science Foundation’s Division of Graduate Education's GK-12 STEM Fellows Program. Over the years he has also taught courses at the undergraduate level, lead many teacher training programs throughout the US and abroad, and is currently pursuing his D. Ed. in Curriculum & Instruction at West Virginia University. For the past 20 years Tim has worked to engage his students in authentic science research, and those students have been recognized throughout the scientific community for their discoveries and contributions to astronomy. Tim’s contributions in education have been recognized through numerous awards including the Einstein Fellowship, American Institute of Aeronautics & Astronautics Educator Achievement Award, Tandy Technology Scholars Award, the Pennsylvania Christa McAuliffe Fellowship, and the Kevin Burns Outstanding Science Teacher Award. Although his primary focus over the past 20 years has been astronomy education and the development and support of partnerships between STEM researchers and educators, he maintains a strong interest in a wide variety of STEM areas.
Michael Studinger is the Project Scientist for NASA's Operation IceBridge. He received a PhD in Geophysics from the University of Bremen and the Alfred Wegener Institute for Polar and Marine Research, Germany, in 1998. He has been a research scientist for over a decade at Columbia University's Lamont-Doherty Earth Observatory in New York. In 2010, he joined the Cryospheric Sciences Laboratory at NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center. Michael's research interests include physical processes in polar regions linking subglacial environments, ice sheet dynamics, and life in extreme environments, such as subglacial lakes. He is using integrated sets of aerogeophysical data, including gravity, magnetics, ice-penetrating radar, and laser altimeter measurements, to answer key questions in glaciology. His main research projects focus on the role of subglacial environments in a global framework.