Science Projects

Whillans ice plain

The overarching scientific objective of WISSARD is to examine the subglacial hydrological system of Whillans Ice Stream in glaciological, geological, microbiological, geochemical, and oceanographic contexts.

Two important science questions being addressed by WISSARD are:

  1. What is the role that subglacial and ice shelf cavity waters and wet sediments play in ice stream dynamics and mass balance, with a focus on the possible future of the West Antarctic Ice Sheet?
  2. What is the microbial metabolic activity and phylogenetic diversity in these subglacial environments?

Direct sampling will yield seminal information on these systems and test the overarching hypothesis that active hydrological systems connect various subglacial environments. These unique environments exert major control on ice sheet dynamics, geochemistry, metabolic and phylogenetic diversity, and biogeochemical transformations. Furthermore, the project aims to train a cohort of new young scientists in a setting of a multidisciplinary, integrated Antarctic science. WISSARD will promote scientific exploration of Antarctica by conveying to the public the excitement of accessing and studying what may be the last unexplored aquatic environments on Earth.

The WISSARD Project brings together a diverse group of experienced and young researchers through funding by the National Science Foundation's Office of Polar Programs, Antarctic Integrated Systems Science. There are three primary grants for collaborative research:

Geomicrobiology of Antarctic Subglacial Environments (GBASE, NSF #0838933), Integrative Study of Marine Ice Sheet Staility and Subglacial Life Habitats - Robotic Access to Grounding-zones for Exploration and Science (RAGES, NSF #0839107), and Integrative Study of Marine Ice Sheet Stability and Subglacial Life Habitats in West Antarctica - Lake and Ice Stream Subglacial Access Research Drilling (LISSARD, NSF #0839142)

Learn more about GBASE

Learn more about LISSARD

Learn more about RAGES