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

Project Title

Unlocking the glacial history of the McMurdo Dry Valleys, Antarctica by fingerprinting glacial tills with detrital zircon U-Pb age populations

Wright Upper Glacier. Photo by Melissa Li, courtesy of the NSF/USAP Photo Library. Creative Commons CC BY-NC-ND 4.0
G-049-M Research Location(s): Dry Valleys


Event Number:
NSF / OPP Award 1842542

Program Director:
Dr. Michael Jackson

ASC POC/Implementer:
John Rand / Jenny Cunningham

Principal Investigator(s)

Dr. Daniel Jones Morgan
Vanderbilt University
Department of Geology

Project Web Site:


Supporting Stations: McMurdo Station
Research Locations: Dry Valleys


The goal of this project is to identify and distinguish different source areas of glacial sediment in the McMurdo Dry Valleys, Antarctica to determine past glacial flow direction. Understanding ice flow is critical for determining how the Antarctic Ice Sheet has behaved in the past. Such insight is fundamental for allowing scientists to predict how the Antarctic Ice Sheet will evolve and, in turn, forecast how much and how fast sea level may rise. The project study site contains a tremendous record of glacial deposits on land that extends back at least 14 million years. Chemistry of the rocks within the glacial deposits hold clues to the sources of ice that deposited the material. The chemical analyses of the glacial deposits will allow mapping of the former extent of glaciations providing a better understanding of ice flow history. The mapping of the largest ice sheet expansion of the past 14 million years in the McMurdo Dry Valleys is of broad interest to the global climate change community.

Field Season Overview

A team of five participants will collect glacial till materials from several different types of glacial deposits in the McMurdo Dry Valleys. They will operate out of four consecutive tent camps at Arena Valley, Vernier Valley, Meserve Glacier, and Walcott Glacier. Camp put-ins, moves and resupplies, daytrips, and shuttling of samples back to McMurdo Station will be supported by helicopter. Samples will be collected from local rock outcrops and hand-dug soil pits. Sampling locations will be accessed by foot from the camp sites, or by helo-supported day trips. Approximately 1,000 pounds of samples will be shipped from the field and on to the group's home institution.

Deploying Team Members

  • Payton Breitzmann
  • Ming Chen
  • Nadia McGlynn
  • Courtney Megerian
  • Daniel Morgan (PI)