Polar Cohort

While the Byrd Polar Research Center does some amazing work (see Monday’s post), other research groups are studying some different aspects of the poles and glaciers.

Hosted by NASA, researchers are currently working on Operation IceBridge, a six year mission begun in 2009 to map the polar regions including the ice sheets, glaciers, and snow ice. The airborne teams use remote sensors to measure the surface elevations of the polar regions, specifically the areas most strongly affected by climate change. During the spring campaign the teams visit the Arctic, flying out from Alaska and Greenland, in *March-May. They visit the Antarctic from October- November of each year and are home based in Punta Arenas, Chile for the duration of the fall campaign. The airplanes are essentially flying laboratories. Check out some of the neat measuring instruments. IceBridge is actually a project designed to fill in a data-gathering time gap: NASA’s Ice, Cloud and Land Elevation Satellite (ICESat) collected date from 2003-2009. As the name suggests, the satellite took elevation measurements as well as atmospheric conditions of the polar regions. The next satellite, ICESat-2, is expected to launch in early 2016. The second satellite will be able to take more detailed sampling of the elevations and atmosphere thanks to some upgraded technology. Until then, IceBridge offers researchers and other interested parties a unique opportunity to get aerial research and views of the polar regions. While the name is 100% representative of the project, the blog is wonderfully informative as well.

A few images captured by the NASA Operation IceBridge team:

Frozen fjord along northeast coast of Greenland as seen from the P-3 aircraft on May 14, 2012. Credit: NASA/Jim Yungel

NASA’s P-3B aircraft flies over a melange of floating ice where two glaciers meet in eastern Greenland, on Apr. 14, 2012.


The Scott Polar Research Institute (SPRI) at the University of Cambridge studies Glacimarine Environments. The team examines how world seas are affected by the ice sheets and glaciers,  primarily through measuring the icebergs, meltwater, and the delivery of sediments. More specifically, they study how the sediment is moved and distributed in the marine environment. The team uses a sediment corer to retrieve samples of the ocean basin, which are then analyzed and compared to other samples.

SPRI also takes another approach to Polar research via the humanities route. The Polar Social Science and Humanities Group studies family and cross-cultural dynamics, the evolution of religion in the arctic, endangered languages, and nomadic patterns, among many other things.

Plus, this sounds like it would have been fascinating to attend: Ghosts and apparitions in the field: an international workshop. (Long shot– If you’re reading this, and happened to have attended, let me know how it was!)


Do not be mistaken in believing these endeavors are in competition. The thought could not be farther from the truth. Many of the institutes around the world are in constant communication and collaboration. Different research groups work together to make their groundbreaking discoveries, to collect and share data. Funding from multiple sources is fairly handy as well. If you happened to click on the Operation IceBerg link to the ‘neat measuring instruments’, you might have noticed nearly every piece of equipment they are using was developed and is managed by a different affiliated research group including the University of Kansas, Columbia University, Goddard Space Flight Center, and Wallops Flight Facility. No man is an island, nor is any research center apparently.

(Disclosure: I’m an archivist, not a polar scientist. If any reader notices any misconstrued information, please let me know.)


And this! From NASA. This is just amazing. Study Finds Ancient Warming Greened Antarctica

This artist’s rendition created from a photograph of Antarctica shows what Antarctica possibly looked like during the middle Miocene epoch, based on pollen fossil data. Image credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/Dr. Philip Bart, LSU

Pair the above with a dinosaur discovery back in 2003 of a previously unknown species on an island off Antarctica  … you get prehistoric magic.

…which digresses to this relevant image of a near-future vacation:



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About polararchivesintern

Kristin MacDonough is a Texas born University of Texas baccalaureate and Moving Image Archiving and Preservation graduate student at New York University interning for the summer of 2012 with The Ohio State University's Byrd Polar Research Center Archival Program. Say that five times fast. (I'm also an amateur science nerd and it appears I'm a big fan of universities.)

2 responses to “Polar Cohort”

  1. George Hale says :

    Good post. Just a couple of points though. The Arctic campaign is March-May and not May-March. And in case you didn’t already know, the IceBridge land ice science team lead, Ken Jezek, is a professor at the Byrd Research Center at Ohio State. Small world, isn’t it?


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