Hamilton's research in the Antarctic is directed at understanding the dynamics of the northern Larsen Ice Shelf during the Holocene epoch (the last 10,000 years). The Larsen Ice Shelf is located in the NW Weddell Sea along the eastern side of the Antarctic Peninsula and is currently undergoing a rapid, catastrophic retreat as documented by satellite imagery over the past five years; ice bergs the size of small states have broken off. While the region of the northern Antarctic Peninsula has experienced a pronounced warming trend over the last 40 years, the links between this warming and global change (ie. greenhouse warming) are far from clear. Yet the ice shelf is clearly receding at a rate unprecedented in historic time, leaving vast areas of the seafloor uncovered and in an open marine setting.

The research will include collection of a series of short gravity cores and sediment grab samples within the Larsen Inlet and in areas that were recently covered by the Larsen Ice Shelf. By applying established sedimentologic, paleontologic, and biologic criteria to the cores and grab samples, it is hoped to demonstrate whether the Larsen Ice Shelf has experienced similar periods of retreat and subsequent readvance within the last 10,000 years. This proposed research will go a long way in understanding the dynamics of ice shelf systems and their role in past and future climate oscillations.

Biology Research Project (Down load pdf file to view)