RU polar ice research team well-received at international geophysics conference

From Radford to Barrow, Alaska, and on to San Francisco, members of the 2014 Polar Ice Research Team have completed quite a journey . . . and earned valuable experience and some professional acclaim.

Five of Professor of Physics Rhett Herman's 18-person team that measured ice depth and surface ice temperature on the Chukchi Sea near Barrow last spring presented the team's findings at the Annual Fall Meeting of the American Geophysical Union (AGU) in San Francisco, California, Dec. 14-18. The RU team's presentation was among more than 23,000 oral and poster presentations featured at the largest international Earth and space science meeting.

The team's findings were summarized in a poster titled "A possible correlation between surface temperature and thickness of Arctic sea ice." RU students Melissa Brett, Corey Roadcap '14, Cameron Baumgardner, Jordan Eagle and Sarah Montgomery '14 joined Herman for the presentation in the Cryosphere session. The research poster recounted the team's ongoing quest to find a potential correlation between surface temperature and ice depth and a protocol to accumulate data that could be used to assess the relative health of the polar ice cap.

"The poster presentation went quite well," said Herman. "We were scheduled for Monday morning and were supposed to be at the poster for a two-hour block. However, once we got going and people started coming by, it was a constant stream for four hours. That's pretty unusual, but showed the great interest in the poster and our results."

An impromptu command performance followed, said Herman.

"Late in the afternoon I met a friend at the poster and we started talking about it. Then more people showed up. I texted the students to come back and we had another 90-plus minute set of presenting."


Melissa Brett, Jordan Eagle, Cameron Baumgardner, Corey Roadcap '14 and Sarah Montgomery '14 joined Professor of Physics Rhett Herman for a poster presentation at the Annual Fall Meeting of the American Geophysical Union (AGU) in San Francisco, California.

Among the visitors was the assistant director of the Cryosphere Division at NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center, who requested a copy of the team's data and expressed interest in exploring a potential collaboration with "her satellite" and our surface work, said Herman.

Eagle, a junior from Virginia Beach, said, "I had the opportunity to speak with many people conducting research in many different fields. From radioactive elements to heliophysics to pollution in the Chesapeake Bay, people were talking about research on really everything under the sun, pun intended."

Eagle won a Society of Physics Students scholarship as student reporter to attend the AGU meeting. The RU Office of Undergraduate Research and Scholarship sponsored her and the rest of the team's travel to the AGU meeting.

The team worked on the ice for week-long stints in temperatures as low as 20 below with even colder wind chill temperatures. It included RU undergraduate physics, geology and computer science students and faculty and students and faculty from the Southwest Virginia Governor's School of Math, Science and Technology.

The team also included two student teachers from RU's School of Teacher Education and Leadership, led by Instructor of Science Education Mythianne Shelton. The student teachers used video conferencing technology to provide live science lessons to K-12 classrooms in Southwest Virginia, North Carolina and Maryland on the research and the challenge of science. The unique experiential learning opportunity was also shared via teleconferencing with two physical science classes, populated by future teachers; the Roanoke and New River Valleys through live interviews on news broadcasts by WDBJ and WSLS and a briefing with President Penelope W. Kyle.

The AGU Fall Meeting brings together the entire Earth and space sciences community for discussions of emerging trends and current research. The technical program includes presentations on new and cutting-edge science in more than 1700 sessions spanning the Earth and space sciences.

Jan 27, 2015