Beginning with the discovery of a "curious valley" in 1903 by Captain Scott, the McMurdo Dry Valleys (MDV) in Antarctica have been impacted by humans, although there were only three brief visits prior to 1950. Since the late 1950's, human activity in the MDV has become commonplace in summer, putting pressure on the region's fragile ecosystems through camp construction and inhabitation, cross-valley transport on foot and via vehicles, and scientific research that involves sampling and deployment of instruments. Historical photographs, put alongside information from written documentation, offer an invaluable record of the changing patterns of human activity in the MDV. Photographic images often show the physical extent of field camps and research sites, the activities that were taking place, and the environmental protection measures that were being followed. Historical photographs of the MDV, however, are scattered in different places around the world, often in private collections, and there is a real danger that many of these photos may be lost, along with the information they contain. This project will collect and digitize historical photographs of sites of human activity in the MDV from archives and private collections in the United States, New Zealand, and organize them both chronologically and spatially in a GIS database. Sites of past human activities will be re-photographed to provide comparisons with the present, and re-photography will assist in providing spatial data for historical photographs without obvious location information. The results of this analysis will support effective environmental management into the future. The digital photo archive will be openly available through the McMurdo Dry Valleys Long Term Ecological Research (MCM LTER) website (www.mcmlter.org), where it can be used by scientists, environmental managers, and others interested in the region. <br/><br/>The central question of this project can be reformulated as a hypothesis: Despite an overall increase in human activities in the MDV, the spatial range of these activities has become more confined over time as a result of an increased awareness of ecosystem fragility and efforts to manage the region. To address this hypothesis, the project will define the spatial distribution and temporal frequency of human activity in the MDV. Photographs and reports will be collected from archives with polar collections such as the National Archives of New Zealand in Wellington and Christchurch and the Byrd Polar Research Center in Ohio. Private photograph collections will be accessed through personal connections, social media, advertisements in periodicals such as The Polar Times, and other means. Re-photography in the field will follow established techniques and will create benchmarks for future research projects. The spatial data will be stored in an ArcGIS database for analysis and quantification of the human footprint over time in the MDV. The improved understanding of changing patterns of human activity in the MDV provided by this historical photo archive will provide three major contributions: 1) a fundamentally important historic accounting of human activity to support current environmental management of the MDV; 2) defining the location and type of human activity will be of immediate benefit in two important ways: a) places to avoid for scientists interested in sampling pristine landscapes, and, b) targets of opportunity for scientists investigating the long-term environmental legacy of human activity; and 3) this research will make an innovative contribution to knowledge of the environmental history of the MDV.
Intellectual Merit: This project will yield new information on the long term Antarctic climate and landscape evolution from measurements of cosmogenic nuclides in quartz sand from two unique permafrost cores collected in Beacon Valley, Antarctica. The two cores have already been drilled in ice-cemented, sand-rich permafrost at 5.5 and 30.6 meters depth, and are currently in cold storage at the University of Washington. The cores are believed to record the monotonic accumulation of sand that has been blown into lower Beacon Valley and inflated the surface over time. The rate of accumulation and any hiatus in the accumulation are believed to reflect in part the advance and retreat of the Taylor Glacier. Preliminary measurements of cosmogenically-produced beryllium (10Be) and aluminum (26Al) in quartz sand in the 5.5-meter depth core reveal that it has been accreting at a rate of 2.5 meters/Myr for the past million years. Furthermore, prior to that time, lower Beacon Valley was most likely covered (shielded from the atmosphere thereby having no or very low production of cosmogenic nuclides in quartz) by Taylor Glacier from 1 to 3.5 Myr BP. These preliminary measurements also suggest that the 30.6 meter core may provide a record of over 10 million years. The emphasis is the full characterization of the core and analysis of cosmogenic nuclides (including cosmogenic neon) in the 30.6 meter permafrost core to develop a burial history of the sands and potentially a record the waxing and waning of the Taylor Glacier. This will allow new tests of our current understanding of surface dynamics and climate history in the McMurdo Dry Valleys (MDV) based on the dated stratigraphy of eolian sand that has been accumulating and inflating the surface for millions of years. This is a new process of surface inflation whose extent has not been well documented, and holds the potential to develop a continuous history of surface burial and glacial expansion. This project will provide a new proxy for understanding the climatic history of the Dry Valleys and will test models for the evolution of permafrost in Beacon Valley.<br/><br/>Broader impacts: <br/><br/>The landscape history of the McMurdo Dry Valleys is important because geological deposits there comprise the richest terrestrial record available from Antarctica. By testing the current age model for these deposits, we will improve understanding of Antarctica?s role in global climate change. This project will train one graduate and one undergraduate student in geochemistry, geochronology, and glacial and periglacial geology. They will participate substantively in the research and are expected to develop their own original ideas. Results from this work will be incorporated into undergraduate and graduate teaching curricula, will be published in the peer reviewed literature, and the data will be made public.
Microbial mats are found throughout the McMurdo Dry Valleys where summer snowmelt provides liquid water that allows these mats to flourish. Researchers have long studied the environmental conditions microbial mats need to grow. Despite these efforts, it has been difficult to develop a broad picture of these unique ecosystems. Recent advances in satellite technology now provide researchers an exciting new tool to study these special Antarctic ecosystems from space using the unique spectral signatures associated with microbial mats. This new technology not only offers the promise that microbial mats can be mapped and studied from space, this research will also help protect these delicate environments from potentially harmful human impacts that can occur when studying them from the ground. This project will use satellite imagery and spectroscopic techniques to identify and map microbial mat communities and relate their properties and distributions to both field and lab-based measurements. This research provides an exciting new tool to help document and understand the distribution of a major component of the Antarctic ecosystem in the McMurdo Dry Valleys.
The goal of this project is to establish quantitative relationships between spectral signatures derived from orbit and the physiological status and biogeochemical properties of microbial mat communities in Taylor Valley, Antarctica, as measured by field and laboratory analyses on collected samples. The goal will be met by (1) refining atmospheric correction techniques using in situ radiometric rectification to derive accurate surface spectra; (2) collecting multispectral orbital images concurrent with in situ sampling and spectral measurements in the field to ensure temporal comparability; (3) measuring sediment, water, and microbial mat samples for organic and inorganic carbon content, essential biogeochemical nutrients, and chlorophyll-a to determine relevant mat characteristics; and (4) quantitatively associating these laboratory-derived characteristics with field-derived and orbital spectral signatures and parameters. The result of this work will be a more robust quantitative link between the distribution of microbial mat communities and their biogeochemical properties to landscape-scale spectral signatures.
This award reflects NSF's statutory mission and has been deemed worthy of support through evaluation using the Foundation's intellectual merit and broader impacts review criteria.
The McMurdo Dry Valleys, Antarctica, are a mosaic of terrestrial and aquatic ecosystems in a cold desert. The McMurdo Long Term Ecological Research (LTER) project has been observing these ecosystems since 1993 and this award will support key long-term measurements, manipulation experiments, synthesis, and modeling to test current theories on ecosystem structure and function. Data collection is focused on meteorology and physical and biological dimensions of soils, streams, lakes, glaciers, and permafrost. The long-term measurements show that biological communities have adapted to the seasonally cold, dark, and arid conditions that prevail for all but a short period in the austral summer. Physical (climate and geological) drivers impart a dynamic connectivity among portions of the Dry Valley landscape over seasonal to millennial time scales. For instance, lakes and soils have been connected through cycles of lake-level rise and fall over the past 20,000 years while streams connect glaciers to lakes over seasonal time scales. Overlaid upon this physical system are biotic communities that are structured by the environment and by the movement of individual organisms within and between the glaciers, streams, lakes, and soils. The new work to be conducted at the McMurdo LTER site will explore how the layers of connectivity in the McMurdo Dry Valleys influence ecosystem structure and function.
This project will test the hypothesis that increased ecological connectivity following enhanced melt conditions within the McMurdo Dry Valleys ecosystem will amplify exchange of biota, energy, and matter, homogenizing ecosystem structure and functioning. This hypothesis will be tested with new and continuing experiments that examine: 1) how climate variation alters connectivity among landscape units, and 2) how biota are connected across a heterogeneous landscape using state-of-the-science tools and methods including automated sensor networks, analysis of seasonal satellite imagery, biogeochemical analyses, and next-generation sequencing. McMurdo LTER education programs and outreach activities will be continued, and expanded with new programs associated with the 200th anniversary of the first recorded sightings of Antarctica. These activities will advance societal understanding of how polar ecosystems respond to change. McMurdo LTER will continue its mission of training and mentoring students, postdocs, and early career scientists as the next generation of leaders in polar ecosystem science, and lead the development of international environmental stewardship protocols for human activities in the region.
Intellectual Merit:<br/>Ice free rock outcrops in the Transantarctic Mountains provide the only accessible windows into the interior of the ice covered Antarctic continent; they are extremely remote and difficult to study. This region also hosts the highest latitude ice-free valley systems on the planet. Based on two interdisciplinary workshops, the Transantarctic region near the Shackleton Glacier has been identified as a high priority site for further studies, with a field camp proposed for the 2015-2016 Antarctic field season. The geology of this region has been studied since the heroic era of Antarctic exploration, in the early 1900s, but geologic mapping has not been updated in more than forty years, and existing maps are at poor resolution (typically 1:250,000).<br/><br/>This project would utilize the WorldView-2 multispectral orbital dataset to supplement original geologic mapping efforts near the proposed 2015-2016 Shackleton Glacier camp. The WorldView-2 satellite is the only multispectral orbiting sensor capable of imaging the entirety of the Transantarctic Mountains, and all necessary data are currently available to the Polar Geospatial Center. High-latitude atmospheric correction of multispectral data for geologic investigations has only recently been tested, but has never been applied to WorldView-2 data, and never for observations of this type. Therefore, this research will require technique refinements and methodological developements to accomplish the goals. Atmospheric correction refinements and spectral validation will be made possible by laboratory spectroscopic measurements of rock samples currently stored at the U.S. Polar Rock Repository, at the Ohio State University. This project will result in spectral unit identification and boundary mapping at a factor of four higher resolution (1:62,500) than previous geologic mapping efforts, and more detailed investigations (1:5,123) are possible at resolutions more than a factor of forty-eight improved over previous geologic maps. Validated spectral mapping at these improved resolutions will allow for detailed lithologic, and potentially biologic, mapping using existing satellite imagery. This will greatly enhance planning capabilities, thus maximizing the efficiency of the scientific research and support logistics associated with the Shackleton Glacier deep field camp.<br/><br/>Broader impacts:<br/>The proposed work will have multiple impacts on the broader scientific community. First, the refinement of existing atmospheric correction methodologies, and the development of new spectral mapping techniques, may substantially improve our ability to remotely investigate geologic surfaces throughout Antarctica. The ability to validate this orbital dataset will be of use to both current and future geologic, environmental, and biologic studies, potentially across the entire continent. The project will yield a specific spectral mapping product (at a scale of 1:62,500) to the scientific community by a targeted date of 01 March 2014, in order to support proposals submitted to the National Science Foundation for the proposed 2015/2016 Shackleton Glacier camp. High-resolution spectral mapping products (up to a maximum resolution of 2 meters per pixel) will also be generated for regions of particular scientific interest. The use of community based resources, such as Polar Geospatial Center (PGC) imagery and U.S. Polar Rock Repository rock samples, will generate new synergistic and collaborative research possibilities within the Antarctic research community. In addition, the lead PI (Salvatore) is an early career scientist who is active in both Antarctic and planetary remote sensing. There are overlaps in the calibration, correction, and validation of remote spectral datasets for Antarctic and planetary applications which can lead to benefits and insights to an early career PI, as well as the two communities.
Marine communities along the western Antarctic Peninsula are highly productive ecosystems which support a diverse assemblage of charismatic animals such as penguins, seals, and whales as well as commercial fisheries such as that on Antarctic krill. Fjords (long, narrow, deep inlets of the sea between high cliffs) along the central coast of the Peninsula appear to be intense, potentially climate sensitive, hotspots of biological production and biodiversity, yet the structure and dynamics of these fjord ecosystems are very poorly understood. Because of this intense biological activity and the charismatic fauna it supports, these fjords are also major destinations for a large Antarctic tourism industry. This project is an integrated field and modeling program to evaluate physical oceanographic processes, glacial inputs, water column community dynamics, and seafloor bottom community structure and function in these important yet little understood fjord systems. These Antarctic fjords have characteristics that are substantially different from well-studied Arctic fjords, likely yielding much different responses to climate warming. This project will provide major new insights into the dynamics and climate sensitivity of Antarctic fjord ecosystems, highlighting contrasts with Arctic sub-polar fjords, and potentially transforming our understanding of the ecological role of fjords in the rapidly warming west Antarctic coastal marine landscape. The project will also further the NSF goal of training new generations of scientists, providing scientific training for undergraduate, graduate, and postdoctoral students. This includes the unique educational opportunity for undergraduates to participate in research cruises in Antarctica and the development of a novel summer graduate course on fjord ecosystems. Internet based outreach activities will be enhanced and extended by the participation of a professional photographer who will produce magazine articles, websites, radio broadcasts, and other forms of public outreach on the fascinating Antarctic ecosystem. <br/><br/>This project will involve a 15-month field program to test mechanistic hypotheses concerning oceanographic and glaciological forcing, and phytoplankton and benthic community response in the Antarctic fjords. Those efforts will be followed by a coupled physical/biological modeling effort to evaluate the drivers of biogeochemical cycles in the fjords and to explore their potential sensitivity to enhanced meltwater and sediment inputs. Fieldwork over two oceanographic cruises will utilize moorings, weather stations, and glacial, sea-ice and seafloor time-lapse cameras to obtain an integrated view of fjord ecosystem processes. The field team will also make multiple shipboard measurements and will use towed and autonomous underwater vehicles to intensively evaluate fjord ecosystem structure and function during spring/summer and autumn seasons. These integrated field and modeling studies are expected to elucidate fundamental properties of water column and sea bottom ecosystem structure and function in the fjords, and to identify key physical-chemical-glaciological forcing in these rapidly warming ecosystems.
The McMurdo Dry Valleys in Antarctica are recognized as being the driest, coldest and probably one of the harshest environments on Earth. In addition to the lack of water, the biota in the valleys face a very limited supply of nutrients such as nitrogen compounds - necessary for protein synthesis. The glacial streams of the Dry Valleys have extensive cyanobacterial (blue green algae) mats that are a major source of carbon and nitrogen compounds to biota in this region. While cyanobacteria in streams are important as a source of these compounds, other non-photosynthetic bacteria also contribute a significant fraction (~50%) of fixed nitrogen compounds to valley biota. This research effort will involve an examination of exactly which non-phototrophic bacteria are involved in nitrogen fixation and what environmental factors are responsible for controlling nitrogen fixation by these microbes. This work will resolve the environmental factors that control the activity, abundance and diversity of nitrogen-fixing microbes across four of the McMurdo Dry Valleys. This will allow for comparisons among sites of differing latitude, temperature, elevation and exposure to water. These results will be integrated into a landscape wetness model that will help determine the impact of both cyanobacterial and non-photosynthetic nitrogen fixing microorganisms in this very harsh environment.<br/><br/>The Dry Valleys in many ways resemble the Martian environment, and understanding the primitive life and very simple nutrient cycling in the Dry Valleys has relevance for understanding how life might have once existed on other planets. Furthermore, the study of microbes from extreme environments has resulted in numerous biotechnological applications such as the polymerase chain reaction for amplifying DNA and mechanisms for freeze resistance in agricultural crops. Thus, this research should yield insights into how biota survive in extreme environments, and these insights could lead to other commercial applications.
The McMurdo Dry Valleys (MDV) is a polar desert on the coast of East Antarctica, a region that has not yet experienced climate warming. The McMurdo Dry Valleys Long Term Ecological Research (MCMLTER) project has documented the ecological responses of the glacier, soil, stream and lake ecosystems in the MDV during a cooling trend (from 1986 to 2000) which was associated with the depletion of atmospheric ozone. In the past decade, warming events with strong katabatic winds occurred during two summers and the resulting high streamflows and sediment deposition changed the dry valley landscape, possibly presaging conditions that will occur when the ozone hole recovers. In anticipation of future warming in Antarctica, the overarching hypothesis of the proposed project is: Climate warming in the McMurdo Dry Valley ecosystem will amplify connectivity among landscape units leading to enhanced coupling of nutrient cycles across landscapes, and increased biodiversity and productivity within the ecosystem. Warming in the MDV is hypothesized to act as a slowly developing, long-term press of warmer summers, upon which transient pulse events of high summer flows and strong katabatic winds will be overprinted. Four specific hypotheses address the ways in which pulses of water and wind will influence contemporary and future ecosystem structure, function and connectivity. Because windborne transport of biota is a key aspect of enhanced connectivity from katabatic winds, new monitoring will include high-resolution measurements of aeolian particle flux. Importantly, integrative genomics will be employed to understand the responses of specific organisms to the increased connectivity. The project will also include a novel social science component that will use environmental history to examine interactions between human activity, scientific research, and environmental change in the MDV over the past 100 years. To disseminate this research broadly, MCM scientists will participate in a wide array of outreach efforts ranging from presentations in K-12 classrooms to bringing undergraduates and teachers to the MDV to gain research experience. Planned outreach programs will build upon activities conducted during the International Polar Year (2007-2008), which include development of an interactive DVD for high school students and teachers and publication of a children's book in the LTER Schoolyard Book Series. A teacher's edition of the book with a CD containing lesson plans will be distributed. The project will develop programs for groups traditionally underrepresented in science arenas by publishing some outreach materials in Spanish.
The extreme mountain topographies of alpine landscapes at mid latitudes (e.g., European Alps, Patagonia, Alaska) are thought to have formed by the erosive action of glaciers, yet our understanding of exactly when and how those topographies developed is limited. If glacial ice was responsible for forming them, then those landscapes must have developed primarily over the last 2-3 million years when ice was present at those latitudes; this timing has only recently been confirmed by observations. In contrast, the Antarctic Peninsula, which contains similarly spectacular topographic relief, is known to have hosted alpine glaciers as early as 37 million years ago, and is currently covered by ice. Thus, if caused by glacial erosion, the high relief of the peninsula should have formed much earlier than what has been observed at mid latitude sites, yet we know nearly nothing about the timing of its development. The primary benefit of this research will be to study the timing of topography development along the Antarctic Peninsula by applying state of the art chemical analyses to sediments collected offshore. This research is important because studying a high latitude site will enable comparison with sites at mid latitudes and test current hypotheses on the development of glacial landscapes in general.<br/><br/>This project aims to apply low-temperature thermochronometry based on the (U-Th)/He system in apatite to investigate the exhumation history, the development of the present topography, and the pattern of glacial erosion in the central Antarctic Peninsula. A number of recent studies have used this approach to study the dramatic, high-relief landscapes formed by Pleistocene alpine glacial erosion in temperate latitudes: New Zealand, the Alps, British Columbia, Alaska, and Patagonia. These studies have not only revealed when these landscapes formed, but have also provided new insights into the physical mechanisms of glacial erosion. The Antarctic Peninsula is broadly akin to temperate alpine landscapes in that the dominant landforms are massive glacial troughs. However, what we know about Antarctic glacial history suggests that the timing and history of glacial erosion was most likely very different from the temperate alpine setting: The Antarctic Peninsula has been glaciated since the Eocene, and Pleistocene climate cooling is hypothesized to have suppressed, rather than enhanced, glacial erosion. Our goal is to evaluate these hypotheses by developing a direct thermochronometric record of when and how the present glacial valley relief formed. We propose to learn about the timing and process of glacial valley formation through apatite (U-Th)/He and 4He/3He measurements on glacial sediment collected near the grounding lines of major glaciers draining the Peninsula. In effect, since we cannot sample bedrock directly that is currently covered by ice, we will rely on these glaciers to do it for us.
Collaborative Research: THE MCMURDO DRY VALLEYS: A Landscape on the Threshold of Change is supported by the Antarctic Integrated System Science (AISS) program in the Antarctic Sciences Section of the Division of Polar Programs within the Geosciences Directorate of the National Sciences Foundation (NSF). The funds will support the collection of state-of-the-art high resolution LIDAR (combining the terms light and radar) imagery of the Dry Valleys of Antarctica in the 2014/2015 Antarctic field season, with LIDAR data collection and processing being provided by the NSF-supported NCALM (National Center for Airborne Laser Mapping) facility. LIDAR images collected in 2014/2015 will be compared to images from 2001 in order to detect decadal change. Additional fieldwork will look at the distribution of buried massive ice, and the impacts that major changes like slumping are having on the biota. All field data will be used to improve models on energy balance, and hydrology.<br/><br/>Intellectual Merit: There have been dramatic changes over the past decade in the McMurdo Dry Valleys: rivers are incising by more than three meters, and thermokarst slumps are appearing near several streams and lakes. These observations have all been made by researchers in the field, but none of the changes have been mapped on a valley-wide scale. This award will provide a new baseline map for the entire Dry Valley system, with high-resolution imagery provided for the valley floors, and lower resolution imagery available for the higher elevation areas that are undergoing less change. The project will test the idea that sediment-covered ice is associated with the most dramatic changes, due to differential impacts of the increased solar radiation on sediment-covered compared to clean ice, and despite the current trend of slightly cooling air temperatures within the Dry Valleys. Information collected on the topography, coupled with the GPR determined buried ice distributions, will also be incorporated into improved energy and hydrological models. In addition to providing the new high-resolution digital elevation model (DEM), the project will ultimately result in identification of areas that are susceptible to sediment-enhanced melt-driven change, providing a powerful prediction tool for the impacts of climate change.<br/><br/>Broader Impacts: The new DEM will be immediately useful to a wide range of disciplines, and will provide a comprehensive new baseline against which future changes will be compared. The project will provide a tool for the whole community to use, and the investigators will work with the community to make them aware of the new assets via public presentations, and perhaps via a workshop. The map will have international interest, and will also serve as a tool for environmental managers to draw on as they consider conservation plans. Several undergraduate and graduate students will participate in the project, and one of the co-PIs is a new investigator. The imagery collected is expected to be of interest to the general public in addition to scientific researchers, and venues for outreach such as museum exhibits and the internet will be explored. The proposed work is synergistic with 1) the co-located McMurdo LTER program, and 2) the NCALM facility that is also funded by the Geosciences Directorate.
Many of the natural processes that modify the landscape inhabited by humans occur over very long timescales, making them difficult to observe. Exceptions include rare catastrophic events such as earthquakes, volcanic eruptions, and floods that occur on short timescales. Many significant processes that affect the land and landscape that we inhabit operate on time scales imperceptible to humans. One of these processes is wind transport of sand, with related impacts to exposed rock surfaces and man-made objects, including buildings, windshields, solar panels and wind-farm turbine blades. The goal of this project is to gain an understanding of wind erosion processes over long timescales, in the Antarctic Dry Valleys, a cold desert environment where there were no competing processes (such as rain and vegetation) that might mask the effects. The main objective is recovery of rock samples that were deployed in 1983/1984 at 11 locations in the Antarctic Dry Valleys, along with measurements on the rock samples and characterization of the sites. In the late 1980s and early 1990s some of these samples were returned and indicated more time was needed to accumulate information about the timescales and impacts of the wind erosion processes. This project will allow collection of the remaining samples from this experiment after 30 to 31 years of exposure. The field work will be carried out during the 2014/15 Austral summer. The results will allow direct measurement of the abrasion rate and hence the volumes and timescales of sand transport; this will conclude the longest direct examination of such processes ever conducted. Appropriate scaling of the results may be applied to buildings, vegetation (crops), and other aspects of human presence in sandy and windy locations, in order to better determine the impact of these processes and possible mitigation of the impacts. The project is a collaborative effort between a small business, Malin Space Science Systems (MSSS), and the University of Washington (UW). MSSS will highlight this Antarctic research on its web site, by developing thematic presentations describing our research and providing a broad range of visual materials. The public will be engaged through daily updates on a website and through links to material prepared for viewing in Google Earth. UW students will be involved in the laboratory work and in the interpretation of the results.<br>Technical Description of Project:<br>The goal of this project is to study the role of wind abrasion by entrained particles in the evolution of the McMurdo Dry Valleys in the Transantarctic Mountains. During the 1983 to 1984 field seasons, over 5000 rock targets were installed at five heights facing the 4 cardinal directions at 10 locations (with an additional site containing fewer targets) to study rates of physical weathering due primarily to eolian abrasion. In addition, rock cubes and cylinders were deployed at each site to examine effects of chemical weathering. The initial examination of samples returned after 1, 5, and 10 years of exposure, showed average contemporary abrasion rates consistent with those determined by cosmogenic isotope studies, but further stress that "average" should not be interpreted as meaning "uniform." The samples will be characterized using mass measurements wtih 0.01 mg precision balances, digital microphotography to compare the evolution of their surface features and textures, SEM imaging to examine the micro textures of abraded rock surfaces, and optical microscopy of thin sections of a few samples to examine the consequences of particle impacts extending below the abraded surfaces. As much as 60-80% of the abrasion measured in samples from 1984-1994 appears to have occurred during a few brief hours in 1984. This is consistent with theoretical models that suggest abrasion scales as the 5th power of wind velocity. The field work will allow return of multiple samples after three decades of exposure, which will provide a statistical sampling (beyond what is acquired by studying a single sample), and will yield the mass loss data in light of complementary environmental and sand kinetic energy flux data from other sources (e.g. LTER meteorology stations). This study promises to improve insights into one of the principal active geomorphic process in the Dry Valleys, an important cold desert environment, and the solid empirical database will provide general constraints on eolian abrasion under natural conditions.
Paragraph for Laypersons:<br/>This research focuses on the history of rock glaciers and buried glacial ice in the McMurdo Dry Valleys region of Antarctica. Rock glaciers are flowing mixtures of ice and sediments common throughout alpine and high-latitude regions on Earth and Mars. Despite similar appearances, rock glaciers can form under highly variable environmental and hydrological conditions. The main research questions addressed here are: 1) what environmental and climatological conditions foster long-term preservation of rock glaciers in Antarctica, 2) what role do rock glaciers play in Antarctic landscape evolution and the local water cycle, and 3) what can rock glaciers reveal about the extent and timing of previous glacial advances? The project will involve two Antarctic field seasons to image the interior of Antarctic rock glaciers using ground-penetrating radar, to gather ice cores for chemical analyses, and to gather surface sediments for dating. The Dry Valleys host the world?s southernmost terrestrial ecosystem (soil, stream and lake micro-organisms and mosses); rock glaciers and ground-ice are an important and poorly-studied source of meltwater and nutrients for these ecosystems. This research will shed light on the glacial and hydrological history of the Dry Valleys region and the general environmental conditions the foster rock glaciers, features that generally occur in warmer and/or wetter locations. The research will provide support for five graduate/undergraduate students, who will actively gather data in the field, followed by interpretation, dissemination and presentation of the data. Additionally, the researchers will participate in a range of educational activities including outreach with local K-12 in the Lowell, MA region, such as summer workshops and classroom visits with hands-on activities. A series of time-lapse images of hydrological processes, and videos of researchers in the field, will serve as a dramatic centerpiece in community and school presentations.<br/><br/>Paragraph for Scientific Community:<br/>Rock glaciers are common in the McMurdo Dry Valleys, but are concentrated in a few isolated regions: western Taylor Valley, western Wright Valley, Pearse Valley and Bull Pass. The investigators hypothesize that the origin and age of these features varies by region: that rock glaciers in Pearse and Taylor valley originated as buried glacier ice, whereas rock glaciers in Wright Valley formed through permafrost processes, such as mobilization of ice-rich talus. To address these hypotheses, the project will: 1) develop relative and absolute chronologies for the rock glaciers through field mapping and optically stimulated luminescence dating of overlying sediments, 2) assess the origin of clean-ice cores through stable isotopic analyses, and 3) determine if present-day soil-moisture and temperature conditions are conducive to rock glacier formation/preservation. The proposed research will provide insight into the spatial and temporal distribution of buried glacier ice and melt-water-derived ground ice in the McMurdo Dry Valleys, with implications for glacial history, as well as the potential role of rock glaciers in the regional hydrologic cycle (and the role of ground-ice as a source for moisture and nutrient for local ecosystems). The project will provide general constraints on the climatic and hydrologic conditions that foster permafrost rock glaciers, features that generally occur under warmer and wetter conditions than those found in the present-day McMurdo Dry Valleys. The application of OSL and cosmogenic exposure<br/>dating is novel to rock glaciers, geomorphic features that have proven difficult to date, despite their ubiquity in Antarctica and their potential scientific importance. The research will provide support for five graduate/undergraduate students, who will participate in the field work, followed by interpretation, dissemination and presentation of the data. The researchers will participate in a range of educational activities including outreach with local K-12 in the Lowell, MA region, such as summer workshops and classroom visits with hands-on activities.
Intellectual Merit: <br/>The PIs propose to address the question of whether ice surface melting zones developed at high elevations during warm climatic phases in the Transantarctic Mountains. Evidence from sediment cores drilled by the ANDRILL program indicates that open water in the Ross Sea could have been a source of warmth during Pliocene and Pleistocene. The question is whether marine warmth penetrated inland to the ice sheet margins. The glacial record may be ill suited to answer this question, as cold-based glaciers may respond too slowly to register brief warmth. Questions also surround possible orbital controls on regional climate and ice sheet margins. Northern Hemisphere insolation at obliquity and precession timescales is thought to control Antarctic climate through oceanic or atmospheric connections, but new thinking suggests that the duration of Southern Hemisphere summer may be more important. The PIs propose to use high elevation alluvial deposits in the Transantarctic Mountains as a proxy for inland warmth. These relatively young fans, channels, and debris flow levees stand out as visible evidence for the presence of melt water in an otherwise ancient, frozen landscape. Based on initial analyses of an alluvial fan in the Olympus Range, these deposits are sensitive recorders of rare melt events that occur at orbital timescales. For their study they will 1) map alluvial deposits using aerial photography, satellite imagery and GPS assisted field surveys to establish water sources and to quantify parameters effecting melt water production, 2) date stratigraphic sequences within these deposits using OSL, cosmogenic nuclide, and interbedded volcanic ash chronologies, 3) use paired nuclide analyses to estimate exposure and burial times, and rates of deposition and erosion, and 4) use micro and regional scale climate modeling to estimate paleoenvironmental conditions associated with melt events.<br/><br/>Broader impacts: <br/>This study will produce a record of inland melting from sites adjacent to ice sheet margins to help determine controls on regional climate along margins of the East Antarctic Ice Sheet to aid ice sheet and sea level modeling studies. The proposal will support several graduate and undergraduates. A PhD student will be supported on existing funding. The PIs will work with multiple K 12 schools to conduct interviews and webcasts from Antarctica and they will make follow up visits to classrooms after the field season is complete.
Intellectual Merit: <br/>The PIs propose to use airborne geophysics to provide detailed geophysical mapping over the Marie Byrd Land dome of West Antarctica. They will use a Basler equipped with advanced ice penetrating radar, a magnetometer, an airborne gravimeter and laser altimeter. They will test models of Marie Byrd Land lithospheric evolution in three ways: 1) constrain bedrock topography and crustal structure of central Marie Byrd Land for the first time; 2) map subglacial geomorphology of Marie Byrd Land to constrain landscape evolution; and 3) map the distribution of subglacial volcanic centers and identify active sources. Marie Byrd Land is one of the few parts of West Antarctica whose bedrock lies above sea level; as such, it has a key role to play in the formation and decay of the West Antarctic Ice Sheet (WAIS), and thus on eustatic sea level change during the Neogene. Several lines of evidence suggest that the topography of Marie Byrd Land has changed over the course of the Cenozoic, with significant implications for the origin and evolution of the ice sheet.<br/><br/>Broader impacts: <br/>This work will have important implications for both the cryospheric and geodynamic communities. These data will also leverage results from the POLENET project. The PIs will train both graduate and undergraduate students in the interpretation of large geophysical datasets providing them with the opportunity to co-author peer-reviewed papers and present their work to the broader science community. This research will also support a young female researcher. The PIs will conduct informal education using their Polar Studies website and contribute formally to K-12 curriculum development. The research will incorporate microblogging and data access to allow the project?s first-order hypothesis to be confirmed or denied in public.
Intellectual Merit: <br/>The PIs propose a two-year project to map the distribution of climate-sensitive landforms throughout Northern Victoria Land between the Convoy Range and Cape Adare. This work will produce geospatial products to aid their geomorphic work on ice sheet stability and landscape evolution. Specifically, the PI will investigate the potential for extensive surface melting and ice-sheet retreat with modest warming in areas north of the Convoy Range in Northern Victoria Land. The hypothesis is that if key landform elements of the Dry Valleys assemblage are lacking in NVL it suggests a major variation in current climate conditions, and perhaps changes in climate evolution. The proposed work will also benefit the broader research community, as it will demonstrate the potential for using geospatial imagery in geomorphic research and produce geospatial products that can be used by other researchers. <br/><br/>Broader impacts: <br/>This work will help the research community better leverage the investment being made in the Polar Geospatial Center (PGC) and will help further demonstrate the significance of satellite imagery for doing ?virtual? field work in the Polar regions. More effective use of satellite imagery by field scientists in Antarctica will help reduce the logistical footprint on the Continent. The proposed research will support one graduate student at Boston University who will be trained in image analysis, map production, Antarctic geomorphology, and geospatial technologies. The proposed work will help to forge stronger links between PGC and Boston University?s Digital Image Analyses Lab (DIAL).
Intellectual Merit: <br/>The PIs propose to use the (U-Th)/He system in apatite to investigate the exhumation history, development of the present topography, and pattern of glacial erosion in the central Antarctic Peninsula. The Antarctic Peninsula has been glaciated since the Eocene and Pleistocene climate cooling is hypothesized to have suppressed, rather than enhanced, glacial erosion. To achieve these goals, the PIs will use a thermochronometric record of when and how the present glacial valley relief formed. A challenge to the proposed research is that, unlike Pleistocene glacial landscapes in temperate areas, the Peninsula is ice-covered and it is not possible to directly sample the bedrock surface. The PIs hope to learn about the timing and process of glacial valley formation through apatite (U-Th)/He and 4He/3He measurements on glacial sediment collected near the grounding lines of major glaciers draining the Peninsula. Learning how the Antarctic Peninsula landscape formed is important to discern how the mechanics of glacial erosion operate on long time scales, and to understand how glaciers mediate the interaction between climate change and orogenic mass balance. This work addresses a fundamental question in Antarctic earth science of how to infer geologic and geomorphic processes active on an ice-covered and inaccessible landscape.<br/><br/>Broader impacts: <br/>This proposal will bring new researchers into the Antarctic research community. A proposed collaboration with British Antarctic Survey researchers will build an international collaboration. The outcomes of this project have ancillary importance to other fields and addresses fundamental challenges in Antarctic Earth Science.
Intellectual Merit:<br/>The focus of this proposal is to collect fossil plants and palynomorphs from Permian-Triassic (P-T) rocks of the central Transantarctic Mountains (CTM), together with detailed data on sedimentologic and paleoecologic depositional environments. Fossil plants are important climate proxies that offer a unique window into the past, and the CTM fossils are an important source of data on the ways that plants responded to a strongly seasonal, polar light regime during a time of global change. The proposed project uses paleobotanical expertise, integrated with detailed sedimentology and stratigraphy, to reconstruct Permian-Triassic plant communities and their paleoenvironments. This interdisciplinary approach could uncover details of Antarctica?s complex late Paleozoic and Mesozoic environmental and climatic history which included: 1) deglaciation, 2) development and evolution of a post-glacial landscape and biota, 3) environmental and biotic change associated with the end-Permian mass extinction, 4) environmental recovery in the earliest Triassic, 5) strong, possible runaway Triassic greenhouse, and 6) widespread orogenesis and development of a foreland basin system. The PIs will collect compression floras both quantitatively and qualitatively to obtain biodiversity and abundance data. Since silicified wood is also present, the PIs will analyze tree rings and growth in a warm, high-latitude environment for which there is no modern analogue. Fossil plants from the CTM can provide biological and environmental information to: 1) interpret paleoclimate when Gondwana moved from icehouse to greenhouse conditions; 2) trace floral evolution across the P-T boundary; 3) reconstruct Antarctic plant life; 4) further understanding of plant adaptations to high latitudes. The Intellectual Merit of the research includes: 1) tracing floral evolution after the retreat of glaciers; 2) examining floral composition and diversity across the PTB; and 3) obtaining data on the recovery of these ecosystems in the Early Triassic, as well as changes in floral cover and diversity in the Early-Middle Triassic. Antarctica is the only place on Earth that includes extensive outcrops of terrestrial rocks, combined with widespread and well-preserved plant fossils, which spans this crucial time period.<br/><br/>Broader impacts:<br/>The broader impacts include public outreach; teaching, and mentoring of women and underrepresented students; mentoring graduate student, postdoctoral, and new faculty women; development of an inquiry-based workshop on Antarctic paleoclimate with the Division of Education, KU Natural History Museum; continuing support of workshops for middle school girls in science via the Expanding Your Horizons Program, Emporia State University, and the TRIO program, KU; exploring Antarctic geosciences through video/computer links from McMurdo Station and satellite phone conferences from the field with K-12 science classes in Wisconsin and Kansas, and through participation in the NSF Research Experiences for Teachers program at the University of Wisconsin.
Intellectual Merit: <br/>Until recently, wetted soils in the Dry Valleys were generally only found adjacent to streams and lakes. Since the warm austral summer of 2002, numerous ?wet spots? have been observed far from shorelines on relatively flat valley floor locations and as downslope fingers of flow on valley walls. The source of the water to wet these soils is unclear, as is the spatial and temporal pattern of occurrence from year to year. Their significance is potentially great as enhanced soil moisture may change the thermodynamics, hydrology, and erosion rate of surface soils, and facilitate transport of materials that had previously been stable. These changes to the soil active layer could significantly modify permafrost and ground ice stability within the Dry Valleys. The PIs seek to investigate these changes to address two competing hypotheses: that the source of water to these ?wet spots? is ground ice melt and that the source of this water is snowmelt. The PIs will document the spatiotemporal dynamics of these wet areas using high frequency remote sensing data from Quickbird and Wordview satellites to document the occurrence, dimensions, and growth of wet spots during the 2010-Â11 and 2011-Â12 austral summers. They will test their hypotheses by determining whether wet spots recur in the same locations in each season, and they will compare present to past distribution using archived imagery. They will also determine whether spatial snow accumulation patterns and temporal ablation patterns are coincident with wet spot formation. <br/><br/>Broader impacts: <br/>One graduate student will be trained on this project. Findings will be reported at scientific meetings and published in peer reviewed journals. They will also develop a teaching module on remote sensing applications to hydrology for the Modular Curriculum for Hydrologic Advancement and an innovative prototype project designed to leverage public participation in mapping wet spots and snow patches across the Dry Valleys through the use of social media and mobile computing applications.
Intellectual Merit: <br/>The goal of this project is to address relationships between foreland basins and their tectonic settings by combining detrital zircon isotope characteristics and sedimentological data. To accomplish this goal the PIs will develop a detailed geochronology and analyze Hf- and O-isotopes of detrital zircons in sandstones of the Devonian Taylor Group and the Permian-Triassic Victoria Group. These data will allow them to better determine provenance and basin fill, and to understand the nature of the now ice covered source regions in East and West Antarctica. The PIs will document possible unexposed/unknown crustal terrains in West Antarctica, investigate sub-glacial terrains of East Antarctica that were exposed to erosion during Devonian to Triassic time, and determine the evolving provenance and tectonic history of the Devonian to Triassic Gondwana basins in the central Transantarctic Mountains. Detrital zircon data will be interpreted in the context of fluvial dispersal/drainage patterns, sandstone petrology, and sequence stratigraphy. This interpretation will identify source terrains and evolving sediment provenances. Paleocurrent analysis and sequence stratigraphy will determine the timing and nature of changing tectonic conditions associated with development of the depositional basins and document the tectonic history of the Antarctic sector of Gondwana. Results from this study will answer questions about the Panthalassan margin of Gondwana, the Antarctic craton, and the Beacon depositional basin and their respective roles in global tectonics and the geologic and biotic history of Antarctica. The Beacon basin and adjacent uplands played an important role in the development and demise of Gondwanan glaciation through modification of polar climates, development of peat-forming mires, colonization of the landscape by plants, and were a migration route for Mesozoic vertebrates into Antarctica. <br/><br/>Broader impacts: <br/>This proposal includes support for two graduate students who will participate in the fieldwork, and also support for other students to participate in laboratory studies. Results of the research will be incorporated in classroom teaching at the undergraduate and graduate levels and will help train the next generation of field geologists. Interactions with K-12 science classes will be achieved by video/computer conferencing and satellite phone connections from Antarctica. Another outreach effort is the developing cooperation between the Byrd Polar Research Center and the Center of Science and Industry in Columbus.
This award is funded under the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009 (Public Law 111-5).<br/><br/>Two models have been proposed to describe controls over microbial biogeography. One model proposes that microbes are ubiquitously distributed across the global environment, and that environmental conditions select for taxa physiologically adapted to local physical conditions. An alternative model predicts that dispersal is the important limitation to the distribution of microorganisms and that spatial heterogeneity of microbial communities is a result of both dispersal and local environmental limitations. According to both models, spatial heterogeneity of microbial communities may be especially pronounced in extreme ecosystems where the environmental selection for organisms with suitable physiology is most strongly manifest. We propose that Antarctic terrestrial environments are ideal places to examine microbial biogeography for 3 reasons: 1) the pristine nature and remoteness of Antarctica minimizes the prevalence of exotic species dispersed through human vectors; 2) the extreme conditions of Antarctic environments provide a strong environmental filter which limits the establishment of non-indigenous taxa; and 3) extreme heterogeneity in the terrestrial environment provides natural gradients of soil conditions (temperature, water and nutrient availability). In the proposed research we will investigate the influence of snow on the composition and spatial distribution of soil microbial communities and linked biogeochemical cycling in the McMurdo Dry Valleys. We will conduct fieldwork at the landscape scale (repeated remote sensing to characterize snow distribution), at the valley and patch scales (quantify snow patch ablation, microbial communities and biogeochemical cycling in subnivian soils). We hypothesize that snow patches play an important role in structuring the spatial distribution of soil microbial communities and their associated ecosystem functioning because of the physical and hydrological influences that snow patches have on the soil environment. The research will contribute to greater public awareness of the importance of polar research to fundamental questions of biology, ecology and hydrology through direct linkages with International Antarctic Institute public outreach activities, including dissemination of web-based learning units on environmental science and microbiology, targeted as resources for secondary and post-secondary educators. Three graduate students, one postdoctoral scholar and multiple undergraduates will participate in the research activities.
This award will support the participation of US scientists in an international planning workshop devoted to discussions of how to best facilitate and coordinate international efforts for terrestrial system studies at the McMurdo Dry Valleys of Antarctica. To date, various aspects of the different Dry Valley landscape features (lakes, soils, glaciers, streams) and their biota have been studied most intensively by US and New Zealand scientists, but these efforts could significantly improve their explanatory power if they were coordinated so as to reduce redundancy, decrease environmental degradation and, most importantly, produce comparable datasets. Additionally, many of the present environmental management programs are based on the past baseline composition and location of biotic communities. As these communities become rearranged across the valleys in the future there is interest in assessing whether today's management plans are adequate. To efficiently move these research programs forward for the McMurdo Dry Valleys requires a coordinated, interdisciplinary, long-term data monitoring and observation network. <br/><br/>The ultimate objectives of the workshop are to: i) identify the optimal, complementary suites of measurements required to assess and address key processes associated with environmental change in Dry Valley ecosystems; ii) develop standards and protocols for gathering the most critical biotic and abiotic measurements associated with the key processes driving environmental change; iii) generate a draft data coordination and development plan that will maximize the utility of these data; iv) assess the effectiveness of current McMurdo Dry Valley ASMA (Antarctic Special Management Area) environmental protection guidelines.
This project studies fossils from two to three hundred million year old rocks in the Allan Hills area of Antarctica. Similar deposits from lower latitudes have been used to develop a model of Permo-Triassic climate, wherein melting of continental glaciers in the early Permian leads to the establishment of forests in a cold, wet climate. Conditions became warmer and dryer by the early Triassic, inhibiting plant growth until a moistening climate in the late Triassic allowed plant to flourish once again. This project will test and refine this model and investigate the general effects of climate change on landscapes and ecosystems using the unique exposures and well-preserved fossil and sediment records in the Allan Hills area. The area will be searched for fossil forests, vertebrate tracks and burrows, arthropod trackways, and subaqueously produced biogenic structures, which have been found in other areas of Antarctica. Finds will be integrated with previous paleobiologic studies to reconstruct and interpret ecosystems and their changes. Structures and rock types documenting the end phases of continental glaciation and other major episodic sedimentations will also be described and interpreted. This project contributes to understanding the: (1) evolution of terrestrial and freshwater ecosystems and how they were affected by the end-Permian extinction, (2) abundance and diversity of terrestrial and aquatic arthropods at high latitudes, (3) paleogeographic distribution and evolution of vertebrates and invertebrates as recorded by trace and body fossils; and (3) response of landscapes to changes in climate.<br/><br/>In terms of broader impacts, this project will provide an outstanding introduction to field research for graduate and undergraduate students, and generate related opportunities for several undergraduates. It will also stimulate exchange of ideas among research and primarily undergraduate institutions. Novel outreach activities are also planned to convey Earth history to the general public, including a short film on the research process and products, and paintings by a professional scientific illustrator of Permo-Traissic landscapes and ecosystems.
Abstract<br/><br/>This project uses Aster and Hyperion remote sensing data combined with field observations and laboratory analysis to map soils in the McMurdo Dry Valleys of Antarctica. The goal is to use mineral abundances, compositions, and spatial heterogeneities to investigate the connections between microclimate and surface characteristics. The valleys are one of the most unique landscapes on earth. The outcomes will be relevant to understanding their geologic, biologic, and climactic history, and offer insight into the Martian landscape. The main broader impacts are graduate education and curriculum development involving K12 teachers.
This project uses cosmogenic nuclide dating and LIDAR studies of surface roughness to understand weathering and landscape evolution in the Dry Valleys of Antarctica. The work focuses on two processes: cryoturbation of frozen soils and the development of patterned, frozen ground on ancient lava flows. The approach includes innovative uses of He3 profiling. Results will also be applied to understanding the glacial history of the Dry Valleys. There are potential applications to understanding the history of the East Antarctic Ice Sheet and the formation of Martian landscapes. The broader impacts include graduate student education. As well, the work may contribute to our understanding of the history of the Antarctic ice sheets, which is important to modeling their behavior during global climate change.
Aquatic-terrestrial transition zones are crucial environments in understanding the biogeochemistry of landscapes. In temperate watersheds, these areas are generally dominated by riparian zones, which have been identified as regions of special interest for biogeochemistry because of the increased microbial activity in these locations, and because of the importance of these hydrological margins in facilitating and buffering hydrologic and biogeochemical exchanges between terrestrial and aquatic ecosystems. In the Antarctic Dry Valleys, terrestrial-aquatic transition zones are intriguing landscape features because of the vast importance of water in this polar desert, and because the material and energy budgets of dry valley ecosystems are linked by hydrology. Hydrological margins in aquatic-terrestrial transition zones will be studied in the Dry Valleys of Antarctica to answer two overarching questions: (1) what are the major controls over hydrologic and biogeochemical exchange across aquaticterrestrial transition zones and (2) to what extent do trends in nutrient cycling (e.g. nitrogen cycling) across these transition zones reflect differences in microbial communities or function vs. differences in the physical and chemical environment (e.g., redox potential)? The hydrologic gradients that define these interfaces provide the opportunity to assess the relative influence of physical conditions and microbial biodiversity and functioning upon biogeochemical cycling. Coordinated hydrologic, biogeochemical, and molecular microbial studies will be executed within hydrologic margins with the following research objectives: to determine the role of sediment characteristics, permafrost and active layer dynamics, and topography on sub-surface water content and distribution in hydrologic margins, to determine the extent to which transformations of nitrogen in hydrological margins are influenced by physical conditions (i.e., moisture, redox potential and pH) or by the presence of specific microbial communities (e.g., denitrifiers), and to characterize the microbial community structure and function of saturated zones.<br/><br/>This proposed research will provide an improved understanding of the interaction of liquid water, soils, microbial communities, and biogeochemistry within the important hydrologic margin landscape units of the dry valleys. Dry valleys streams and lakes are unique because there is no influence of higher vegetation on the movement of water and may therefore provide a model system for understanding physical and hydrological influences on microbial ecology and biogeochemistry. Hence the findings will contribute to Antarctic science as well as the broader study of riparian zones and hydrologic margins worldwide. Graduate students and undergraduate students will be involved with fieldwork and research projects. Information will be disseminated through a project web site, and outreach activities will include science education in local elementary, middle and high schools near the three universities involved.
Fountain, Andrew G.; Pettit, Erin; Hallet, Bernard
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This award supports a comprehensive study of land-based polar ice cliffs. Through field measurements, modeling, and remote sensing, the physics underlying the formation of ice cliffs at the margin of Taylor Glacier in the McMurdo Dry Valleys will be investigated. At three sites, measurements of ice deformation and temperature fields near the cliff face will be combined with existing energy balance data to quantify ice-cliff evolution over one full seasonal cycle. In addition, a small seismic network will monitor local "ice quakes" associated with calving events. Numerical modeling, validated by the field data, will enable determination of the sensitivity of ice cliff evolution to environmental variables. There are both local and global motivations for studying the ice cliffs of Taylor Glacier. On a global scale, this work will provide insight into the fundamental processes of calving and glacier terminus A better grasp of ice cliff processes will also improve boundary conditions required for predicting glaciers' response to climate change. Locally, the Taylor Glacier is an important component of the McMurdo Dry Valleys landscape and the results of this study will aid in defining ecologically-important sources of glacial meltwater and will lead to a better understanding of moraine formation at polar ice cliffs. This study will help launch the career of a female scientist, will support one graduate student, and provide experiential learning experiences for two undergraduates. The post-doctoral researcher will also use this research in the curriculum of a wilderness science experiential education program for high school girls.
This work will study cosmogenic isotope profiles of rock and sediment in the Dry Valleys of Antarctica to understand their origin. The results will provide important constraints on the history of the East Antarctic Ice Sheet. The near-perfect preservation of volcanic ash and overlying sediments suggests that hyperarid cold conditions have prevailed in the Dry Valleys for over 10 Myr. The survival of these sediments also suggests that warm-based ice has not entered the valley system and ice sheet expansion has been minimal. Other evidence, however, suggests that the Dry Valleys have experienced considerably more sediment erosion than generally believed: 1) the cosmogenic exposure ages of boulders and bedrock in the Valleys all show generally younger ages than volcanic ash deposits used to determine minimum ages of moraines and drifts, 2) there appears to be a discrepancy between the suggested extreme preservation of unconsolidated slope deposits (>10 Myr) and adjacent bedrock that has eroded 2.6-6 m during the same time interval. The fact that the till and moraine exposure ages generally post date the overlying volcanic ash deposits could reflect expansion of continental ice sheet into the Dry Valleys with cold-based ice, thus both preserving the landscape and shielding the surfaces from cosmic radiation. Another plausible explanation of the young cosmogenic exposure ages is erosion of the sediments and gradual exhumation of formerly buried boulders to the surface. Cosmogenic isotope systematics are especially well suited to address these questions. We will measure multiple cosmogenic isotopes in profiles of rock and sediment to determine the minimum exposure ages, the degree of soil stability or mixing, and the shielding history of surfaces by cold based ice. We expect to obtain unambiguous minimum ages for deposits. In addition, we should be able to identify areas disturbed by periglacial activity, constrain the timing of such activity, and account for the patchy preservation of important stratigraphic markers such as volcanic ash. The broader impacts of this project include graduate and undergraduate education, and improving our understanding of the dynamics of Southern Hemisphere climate on timescales of millions of years, which has major implications for understanding the controls and impacts of global climate change.
9909436 <br/>Farley<br/><br/>This award, provided by the Antarctic Geology and Geophysics Program of the Office of Polar Programs, supports an investigation of the uplift history of the Dry Valleys segment of the Transantarctic Mountains. The overall goal is to further constrain the exhumation history of the Transantarctic Mountains by using the newly developed apatite (U-Th)/He dating method on samples collected in vertical profiles. This approach, combined with existing apatite fission track information will constrain the rate and patterns of exhumation across the Transantarctic Mountains since their inception as a rift-flank uplift in the early Cenozoic.<br/><br/>This project will complement other projects and build on previous interpretations of the exhumation and tectonic history determined using apatite fission track thermochronology. It will bridge the gap between information on erosion rates determined from fission track thermochronology and from cosmogenic surface exposure dating and integrate the exhumation history of the mountains with their landscape evolution. As such, the results from this project will address an outstanding problem in Antarctic science; namely the stability of the East Antarctic Ice Sheet, and the timing of the transition from a "warm" dynamic ice sheet to a cold polar ice sheet. Highly relevant to this issue is the landscape evolution of the Transantarctic Mountains because many diverse lines of evidence for the rate of landscape evolution have been used to argue for a dynamic ice sheet up until either the Pliocene (the "dynamic" ice sheet model) or the middle Miocene (the "stable" ice sheet model). Understanding the past stability or dynamic fluctuations of the East Antarctic ice sheet with respect to the climate record is, of course, important for understanding how the present ice sheet may respond to global warming.<br/><br/>The specific objective of this project is to determine apatite (U-Th)/He age versus elevation trends for a number of vertical profiles from locations within the Transantarctic Mountain front and across the structural grain of the range. Fission track data already exist for all of these profiles, with apatite fission track ages ranging from 150-30 Ma. The greater precision of the (U-Th)/He technique and the fact it records information at lower temperatures (closure temperature of ~70 degrees Celsius; limits of 40-85 degrees Celsius for the He partial retention zone) will allow examination of the exhumation history of the TAM in more detail from ca 130 Ma to ~20 Ma. Another facet is to examine areas where Cretaceous exhumation is recorded and areas where the fission track profiles indicate periods of thermal and tectonic stability and minimal erosion throughout the Cretaceous. The variation of timing of the onset of more rapid exhumation accompanying uplift and formation of the Transantarctic Mountains in the early Cenozoic will also be examined.