Two, new, funded Ph.D. opportunities for 2021!

posted in: Alaska, Research, Teaching | 0

The Univ. of Idaho Glacier Dynamics lab is very pleased to announce two new opportunities for prospective Ph.D. students, to start Fall 2021, or potentially earlier.

To understand water flow through and beneath glaciers, and the effect of this water on glacier dynamics, these two Ph.D. students will work with seismic and other geophysical data to meet the goals of NSF- and NASA-funded projects in Alaska. The two projects, Spring melt and basal slip at Wolverine Glacier and Basal slip during a Turner Glacier surge, are described below. Both projects offer significant opportunities for field work, although field work is not required. While applicants for the Ph.D. are preferred, strong M.S. applicants will be considered. You can learn more about the University of Idaho graduate program, research, and life in Moscow, Idaho here.

If you are interested in joining our group to work on these projects, you may send an email with CV to Tim Bartholomaus (address at the bottom) expressing your interest. Applicants should have strong quantitative skills, enthusiasm for scientific computing and geophysics, and a commitment to challenging oneself and learning through the process. Applications to the Ph.D. program at the University of Idaho should be received by January 15th for full consideration.

Spring melt and basal slip at Wolverine Glacier

During the winter, glaciers are covered with a blanket of snow that melts in part or in whole during the summer. As the winter snowpack melts, meltwater must percolate through an initially dry, cold snowpack. This snowpack delays the delivery of meltwater from the glacier surface to the glacier bed and potentially enables a stronger dynamic response to the meltwater once the snowpack saturates. Little is known about glacier hydrology during the winter-spring transition, or anytime outside of mid-summer. Without a more detailed understanding of the full range of glacier hydrology-dynamics coupling, estimates of future sea level rise will continue to suffer large uncertainties.

This project aims to reduce the significant gap in our understanding of glacier hydrology by studying the evolving winter-spring snowpack of Wolverine Glacier, a glacier with a long history of study in the Chugach Range of south-central Alaska. Inspired by coupled hydrologic and dynamic observations, this project will quantify and understand time lags between melt and dynamic effects, assess the relative contributions of runoff and densification to changing snowpack thickness, and produce more complete models of glacier hydrology and dynamics. The student will work with unprecedented data to study the temperature and water pressure evolution within the spring snowpack, glacier motion, and seismic recordings of subglacial water flow. The successful applicant will have the opportunity to participate in field work, including in spring of 2021 and will also participate in science communication, outreach, and teacher training at the University of Idaho McCall Outdoor Science School (MOSS). This project is funded by NASA and is part of a larger, multi-investigator, multi-grad student, effort in collaboration with Boise State University and the USGS in Alaska.

Basal slip during a Turner Glacier surge

The relationship between glacier hydrology, subglacial sediment, and glacier motion is poorly understood. Glaciologist’s understanding of the connection between basal slip and drag at the base of glaciers is a foundational gap in understanding of the physics of glaciers and ice sheets. As a result, models aimed at predicting glacier response to increased melt lack predictive capability. In part, this poor understanding results from the historical challenge of observing the subglacial environment over time and space scales, as subglacial hydrology, sediment, and basal slip change.

To meet this observational gap, the UI Glacier Dynamics lab began a project in August 2020 to study the incipient surge of Turner Glacier, in southeast Alaska. The new Ph.D. student will work with seismic data collected on and around the glacier to study water flow and storage beneath the glacier, and knit this seismic analysis with other geophysical datasets to unravel the connections between water, sediment and fast glacier flow. The successful applicant will be able to play a key role in future project field work, although field work is not necessary for the position. This project is funded by the National Science Foundation and represents a collaborative effort with Flavien Beaud at UI/UBC, and Ellyn Enderlin and Dyland Mikesell at Boise State University.

Read more about this exciting project in a previous post, or learn the latest about the project via Twitter.

The Turner Glacier field team lines up in August 2020. Missing: you?
Graduate students Margot Vore (Univ. of Idaho) and Celeste Labedz (Caltech) set up seismic equipment to track glacier hydrology and motion in 2017

Please be in touch about these great opportunities! It’s a wonderful time to join our lab.

Field work at Turner Glacier hugely successful

posted in: Alaska, Field work, Research | 0

The joint U Idaho and BSU field team had a phenomenally successful first field season at Turner Glacier this fall. We installed 26 different geophysical instruments on and around Turner Glacier, including 17 seismometers, that we’ll use to track changes in glacier basal conditions and water storage.

Click here for a run through of highlights as reported on Twitter.

The field team pauses for a photo after setting up an instrument suite on Turner Glacier.

Group assembles for outdoor, socially-distanced conference

The UI Glacier Dynamics Group gathered for three afternoons, Oct 14-16, in Tim’s driveway and garage to participate in the annual Northwest Glaciologists’ meeting.

Ph.D. candidate Chris Miele presented his latest results from floating ice shelves, and discussed the implications of his findings on glacier retreat in Greenland and Antarctica. Group leader Tim Bartholomaus introduced the new Turner Glacier surge project to the assembled research community.

It was great fun to gather in person, after months of time apart, and actually spend some time in community again- both together, and with the broader community of glaciologists in the Northwest.

Glacier moss balls captivate public imagination

posted in: Alaska, Outreach, Research | 0

Glacier moss balls, and the mystery behind their motion, gained international attention this summer, following a publication in Polar Biology. Group leader Tim Bartholomaus appeared on NPR’s popular Morning Edition broadcast, the CBC’s As It Happens radio show, podcasts, magazines, and many web sites.

See the Media Coverage page for a listing of some of the highlights. It’s been a delight to engage on this topic!

Moss ball with media logos

New grant enables understanding of unstable glacier flow

posted in: Alaska, Field work, Research | 0

Prof. Tim Bartholomaus and partners have received a $1.2M grant from the U.S. National Science Foundation to understand the connections between glacier sliding and the water and sediment underneath glaciers and ice sheets.  This relationship between glacier flow, water, and sediment is poorly known and glaciologists are not yet confident whether increasing melt of the Greenland Ice Sheet and global glaciers is likely to speed up ice flow, and therefore further increase sea level, or slow down ice flow and potentially diminish the rate at which sea levels will rise.

The terminus of Turner Glacier, photographed shortly after its last surge in May 2013, where it calves icebergs into Disenchantment Bay.

To address this question, Dr. Bartholomaus, his graduate students, and collaborators from Boise State University, will be traveling to a remote, mountainous region of Alaska over four years, to study a peculiar glacier that undergoes ten-fold increases in flow speed, every 6 or so years.  These unusual “glacier surges” are known to depend on subglacial water and mud at the bottom of glaciers, but hypotheses regarding their development have not been tested.  By deploying seismometers, GPS receivers, radar, and other equipment, to the glacier surface, and then using computer simulations to analyze the results, Dr. Bartholomaus and his teammates will produce better understanding of the physics of glacier flow, and ultimately enable better predictions of coming sea level rise.

This project begins this month, August 2020, when the team flies to Yakutat, Alaska, and then via helicopter out to Turner Glacier, in the Saint Elias Mountains.

The UI Glacier Dynamics lab will be recruiting a new Ph.D. student to begin work on this project, starting in the fall of 2021.

Emma Swaninger defends M.S. thesis!

Master of Science candidate Emma Swaninger did a phenomenal job presenting and defending the results of her last two years of research. Among other findings, Emma demonstrated that near-terminus ice is likely weaker than typically expected, and that even thin, brief, mid-summer, ice melange can provide rigid support to a glacier terminus. Her presentation online was well-attended by colleagues, friends and family.

Congratulations, Emma, on a job well done! I was proud to be your advisor and am excited that you’ll be continuing your work at the University of Idaho by coordinating our introductory labs.

Glacier moss balls exhibit mysterious herd-like motion

posted in: Research | 0

Glacier moss balls are globular, ~10 cm masses of moss, with small amounts of sediment found on some glaciers. These enigmatic, rare components of glacier biology have seen some study at select glaciers around the world, but their longevity on glaciers and patterns of motion have been entirely unknown until now.

Glacier moss balls on the Root Glacier, Alaska

Starting in 2009, before I’d begun my Ph.D. program, now-UIdaho professor of wildlife biology, Sophie Gilbert, and I studied an unusually dense concentration of glacier moss balls on the Root Glacier, in Wrangell-St. Elias National Park and Preserve, Alaska. We tagged individual glacier moss balls with unique colored glass beads to identify them, then revisited the colony every 5-7 days to study their motion. We also returned in subsequent years to re-identify individuals. Dr. Gilbert and I later teamed up with Dr. Scott Hotaling to publish this work.

We found that moss balls exhibited consistent, herd-like motion, changing both their speeds and travel directions together. Moss balls moved on average 2.5 cm per day, at rates somewhat controlled by the amount of glacier surface ablation. Early during our 1.5 month study period in 2009, moss balls rolled predominantly towards the south, but later moved towards the west. We weren’t able to explain this migratory, herd-like motion by considering the downhill, wind, or solar radiation directions. Thus, the changing directions of their motion remains a mystery. By revisiting our site in the three subsequent years, we were able to find that moss ball growth is relatively slow and that individual moss balls can persist on the glacier for many years- at least six but potentially much longer.

This work was published in May 2020 in the journal Polar Biology. A twitter thread about this work, with more photos, is here.

The moss ball colony we studied, where moss balls rolled around in herd-like fashion over the dirty ice surface.
Cross section of a typical Root Glacier moss ball

Chris Miele defends dissertation proposal, advances to Ph.D. candidate

posted in: Research, Teaching | 0

Ph.D. student Chris Miele, in the UI Glacier Dynamics lab, successfully defended his dissertation proposal today. His dissertation, titled “Transition zones in floating glacier ice in Greenland,” is focused around better understanding the dynamics and iceberg calving of marine terminating glaciers. To an audience of over 35 Zoom attendees, Chris did a great job presenting his work with both physical rigor and engaging humor. Chris subsequently passed his comprehensive exam, and advanced to Ph.D. candidacy.

Great work, Chris! Congratulations!

Thanks are also due to Chris’ advisory committee members, Dr. Ellyn Enderlin, Dr. Eric Mittelstaedt, and Dr. Gabriel Potirniche.

UI grad students present at Northwest Glaciologists meeting

posted in: Greenland, Research | 0

Three UI students, Chris Miele, Emma Swaninger, and Abby Lute, attended the 2019 Northwest Glaciologists meeting in Corvallis, Oregon, last week. Chris and Emma are students in the Glacier Dynamics lab and shared their work focused on understanding dynamic changes around iceberg calving, whereas Abby is a collaborating student in the lab, advised by John Abatzoglou in the Geography Department. Chris, Emma, and Abby did great jobs communicating their work and fielded questions from an engaged audience. As a whole, the lab had a great time sharing science and connecting with friends old and new.

In the attached pictures, Chris and Emma present their research.

Lab group prepares for Northwest Glaciologists’ meeting

posted in: Uncategorized | 0

Members of the Glacier Dynamics lab at UIdaho are preparing this week for next week’s gathering of Northwest Glaciologists. Chris Miele will present a theory-based analysis on the interplay between submarine melt and iceberg calving, and how calving varies with the spatial pattern of submarine melt. Emma Swaninger will present on the response of Rink Glacier to the brief formation of ice melange within its West Greenland fjord. And Abby Lute, a Ph.D. student on whose committee Tim serves, will present her work on the climatic and other environmental factors controlling the distribution of rock glaciers.

It’s an exciting time as we hustle to prepare results, and we’re looking forward to meeting next week with friends and colleagues in Corvallis, Oregon.