2018-2019 Science Planning Summaries
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2018-2019 USAP Field Season
Project Detail

Project Title

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

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C-516-M Research Location(s): Dry Valleys


Event Number:

Program Manager:
Dr. Jennifer Burns

ASC POC/Implementer:
Judy Shiple / Meghan Walker / Jennifer Blum

Principal Investigator(s)

Dr. Slawek M Tulaczyk
University of California Santa Cruz
Earth Sciences
Santa Cruz, California


Supporting Stations: McMurdo Station
Research Locations: 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

A team of nine will deploy to McMurdo Station where they will spend a week constructing and calibrating a transient electromagnetic sensor (SkyTEM), which they will use to map the hidden distribution of groundwater and ice. Following construction of the SkyTEM, the team will conduct testing over the McMurdo Ice Shelf and surveys of the Miers and Garwood Valleys. They will then move to camps at Marble Point, Lake Bonney, and Round Mountain where the ANTarctic Airborne ElectroMagnetics (ANTAEM) and surface-sampling teams will conduct surveys and collect water, ice, and sediment samples.

Deploying Team Members

  • Esben Auken (Co-PI)
  • Peter Doran (Team Leader)
  • Nikolaj Foged
  • Neil Foley
  • Denys Grombacher
  • Jill Mikucki (Co-PI)
  • Timothy Rogers
  • Slawek Tulaczyk (PI)