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LARISSA Expedition Profiled

Antarctic Sun Highlights Complex Project

By Vige Barrie
Posted September 23, 2009
Tags Antarctica Eugene Domack Hamilton In the News
The National Science Foundation-funded LARISSA project, for which Eugene Domack is principal investigator, was the focus of an article, titled “New scientific mode - LARISSA represents one of the biggest IPY projects,” posted on Sept. 18 in The Antarctic Sun. The article detailed the project’s next expedition, beginning January 2010, which will bring together more than 30 scientists. Most of the scientists will be based aboard the RVIB Nathaniel B. Palmer for two months, collecting numerous samples for oceanographic work to study how the ecosystem has changed since the Larsen B Ice Shelf collapsed in 2002.

“Things are flowing into place quite nicely,” Domack, the J. W. Johnson Family Professor of Geosciences, noted in the article. “The complexity of the project demanded that we had a lot of lead-up time with planning. You just can’t throw this thing together in six months like a normal cruise.”

By making use of a marine research platform as well as two helicopters and an undersea remotely operated vehicle (ROV), the team will work collaboratively to answer vital questions with regard to: the stability of the Antarctic Peninsula ice sheet and the remainder of the Larsen Ice Shelf; the response, or contribution, of oceanographic systems to ice shelf disintegration; the climate history of the Peninsula as recorded in ice and sediment core samples; and the biogeography of life in extreme environments.

The helicopters will allow scientists to retrieve ice core samples and deploy geologists to the regional bedrock, all the while the ship will be generating swath maps of the sea floor. The undersea ROV will video and sample the ocean floor. The undersea ROV will video and record the ocean floor. Additional sediment core samples will be retrieved with equipment on the research ship.

The two-month expedition to Antarctica in 2010 will be documented by a team from the National Geographic Magazine.

As part of the LARISSA initiative, Hamilton College was awarded two related NSF grants for work directed by Domack, and Associate Professor of Biology Michael McCormick. "Collaborative Research in IPY: Abrupt Environmental Change in the Larsen Ice Shelf System, a Multidisciplinary Approach - Marine and Quaternary Geosciences," a $561,715 NSF award, will allow Domack and a team of fellow researchers to address the changes occurring in the Antarctic Peninsula region as a consequence of the abrupt collapse of the Larsen Ice Shelf System. Domack has participated in 20 field seasons in Antarctica, 13 as chief scientist. The NSF has supported his research since 1987.

"Collaborative Research in IPY: Abrupt Environmental Change in the Larsen Ice Shelf System, a Multidisciplinary Approach - Marine Ecosystems" a $113,000 NSF award will allow McCormick and his collaborators from to investigate the profound transformation currently occurring within the marine ecosystem once covered by the Larsen B Ice Shelf.

The Antarctic Sun, part of the U.S. Antarctic Program, is funded by the National Science Foundation.

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