2022-2023 Science Planning Summary
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2022-2023 USAP Field Season
Project Detail

Project Title

Landscape evolution in the McMurdo Dry Valleys: Erosion rates and real-time monitoring of rock breakdown in a hyperarid, sub-zero environment

Beacon Valley Weather Monitor. Photo by Mike Lucibella. Image courtesy of NSF/USAP Photo Library.
G-055-M Research Location(s): Beacon Valley


Event Number:

Program Director:
Dr. Michael Jackson

ASC POC/Implementer:
Ryan Steiner / Jenny Cunningham

Principal Investigator(s)

Dr. Jennifer L Lamp
Columbia University
Lamont-Doherty Earth Observatory


Supporting Stations: McMurdo Station
Research Locations: Beacon Valley


Moisture plays a part in the erosion of rocks, but in the ice-free McMurdo Dry Valleys region of Antarctica – one of the driest places on the planet – little is known about the rates and causes of rock erosion. To better understand them, researchers will instrument boulders with sensors that act as miniature seismographs, recording even the smallest microcracking on and within the rocks. They will also monitor the weather and environment around the rocks to record the conditions that trigger cracking events and will collect a variety of rock samples to study how quickly rocks break down and how their characteristics change over geologic time. The combined datasets will allow future scientists to more accurately understand the paleoclimates and landscapes of Antarctica, and possibly even Mars.

Field Season Overview

A team of two will deploy to download the last year of data and remove equipment installed on rocks in Beacon Valley. They will collect rock samples and sediment from the study site for shipment back home and further analyses. Work will be accomplished in two helicopter day trips from McMurdo, then the two participants will join the Tremblay (G-059) team for the rest of the field season.

Deploying Team Members

  • Emily Apel
  • Jennifer Lamp (PI)