2017-2018 Science Planning Summaries
United States Antarctic Program United States Antarctic Program Logo National Science Foundation Logo
2017-2018 USAP Field Season
Project Detail

Project Title

Scientific studies from a network of sustainable, robotic observatories across the Antarctic ice shelf: A new approach to polar research

no photo available


Event Number:
NSF/OPP Award 1443507

Program Manager:
Dr. Vladimir Papitashvili

ASC POC/Implementer:
Samina Ouda / Elizabeth Kauffman / Paul Sullivan

Principal Investigator

Dr. Andrew Gerrard

New Jersey Institute of Technology
Department of Physics
Newark, New Jersey


Supporting Stations: McMurdo Station, South Pole Station
Research Locations: AGO sites / AGO5


The Automatic Geophysical Observatories (AGOs) are five unmanned stations deployed over the Antarctic Plateau that provide power and data transmission capabilities for various research instruments. Historically, the AGO program has collected magnetospheric data in the polar cap and auroral zone, with each AGO unit housing fluxgate and search-coil magnetometers, a riometer, a VHF antenna, and all-sky imagers. AGO platforms have attracted the attention of the broader scientific community, and now the AGO facilities also support seismometers, GPS receivers, and automatic weather stations.

Field Season Overview

A three-person science team and one dedicated ASC mountaineer, will visit AGO sites for two to three days to replace the Data Acquisition (DAQ) system cards. The team will be raising and shoveling the shelters at each AGO site. They will travel by Twin Otter aircraft from South Pole to AGOs 1-4, and by LC-130 aircraft from McMurdo Station to AGO 5. At all five AGO sites the team will remove snow from the shelters and inspect the condition of the solar panels. The team will also inspect the wind turbines, batteries, and the general power system to verify that all are operating properly, and will perform any necessary instrument calibrations and field upgrades/repairs. In addition, they will install a new Iridium Short-Burst Data (SBD) system at AGO 5, and will retrograde old propane tanks.

Deploying Team Members

  • David Cohn
  • Nathaniel Frissell
  • Andrew Gerrard (PI)
  • Gilbert Jeffer
  • Robert Melville
  • Andrew Stillinger