2017-2018 Science Planning Summaries
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2017-2018 USAP Field Season
Project Detail

Project Title

ANTarctic Airborne ElectroMagnetics (ANTAEM) - revealing subsurface water in coastal Antarctica

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Event Number:

Program Manager:
Dr. Jennifer Burns

ASC POC/Implementer:
Judy Shiple / Jennifer Blum

Principal Investigator

Dr. Slawek M Tulaczyk

University of California Santa Cruz
Earth Sciences
Santa Cruz, California


Supporting Stations: McMurdo Station
Research Locations: McMurdo Dry Valleys


In Antarctica, millions of years of freezing have led to the development of hundreds of meters of permafrost. This slow freezing has trapped and concentrated water into local and regional briny aquifers that are many times saltier than seawater. Such unusual groundwater systems may support microbial life, supply nutrients to coastal ocean and ice-covered lakes, and influence glacier motion. These briny aquifers also represent potential terrestrial analogs for deep life habitats on other planets, such as Mars, and provide a testing ground for the search for extraterrestrial water. This project will reveal if cold polar deserts hide a subsurface pool of liquid water. This will have significant implications for understanding cold polar glaciers, ice-covered lakes, frozen ground, polar microbiology, and for predictions of their responses to future change.

Field Season Overview

This is the first of two seasons for this Dry Valleys geophysics team. Four participants will work out of fixed camps at Lake Fryxell, Lake Bonney and Lake Hoare to conduct ground-based electromagnets (GEM) and ground-penetrating radar (GPR) surveys. A fifth participant will coordinate deployment to work with collaborator Peter Doran’s LTER group (1637708/C-511) for soil sample collection. There are ten identified work locations that have been prioritized into three groups from highest (P1) to lowest (P3) priorities; locations will be accessed on foot and by helicopter. Helicopter support is also required for camp put-ins, pull-outs, and camp moves. Field Safety Coordinator support will be provided for some locations. PI Slawomir Tulaczyk will deploy slightly earlier to work with Blackburn (1644171/G-167), a project in which he is the co-PI, then will transfer to C-516.

Deploying Team Members

  • Thue Bording
  • Hilary Dugan (Team Leader)
  • Nikolaj Foged
  • Slawek Tulaczyk (PI)