2023-2024 Science Planning Summary
United States Antarctic Program United States Antarctic Program Logo National Science Foundation Logo
Read the latest information from NSF on coronavirus (COVID-19)
2023-2024 USAP Field Season
Project Detail

Project Title

CAREER: Coastal Antarctic snow algae and light absorbing particles: snowmelt, climate, and ecosystem impacts

Dr. Alia Khan and Chilean colleague Edgardo Sepulveda, measure surface reflectance of snow algae. Photo by Gonzalo Barrera.
B-466-E Research Location(s): West Antarctic Peninsula


Event Number:
NSF / OPP Award 2046240

Program Director:
Dr. Rebecca Gast

ASC POC/Implementer:
Matthew Erickson / Diane Hutt

Principal Investigator(s)

Dr. Alia Lauren Khan

Project Web Site:


Supporting Stations: Special Project
Research Locations: West Antarctic Peninsula


The team proposes a five-year time-series field project to assess the effects of changing cryosphere-albedo feedbacks in the Antarctic Peninsula and the Pacific Northwest. A variety of in situ and remote sensing data collected across multiple spatial scales will be used to evaluate the role of temperature, radiative forcing effects, and light absorbing particles (LAPs) on snow-algae growth. The project is expected to fundamentally advance knowledge of factors that affect the snow algae growing season. Ground measurements will inform development and application of novel algorithms to map algal bloom extent through time using 0.5-3m spatial resolution, multi-spectral satellite imagery. The work will inform the role of LAP impacts from black carbon (BC) and dust that may intensify in a warming climate. Lastly, these results will be used to improve snow algae parameterization in a new version of the Snow Ice Aerosol Radiation (SNICARv3) model that includes bio-albedo feedbacks, eventually informing models of ice-free area expansion through incorporation of SNICARv3 in the Community Earth System Model.

Field Season Overview

The Principal Investigator (PI) and science team have been working to establish partnerships with several Antarctic cruise ship operators that work out of Argentina and Chile including but not limited to Hurtigruten and Lindblad Expeditions. USAP expects to provide limited support for cruise ship-based work occurring out of Punta Arenas, Chile. No support will be provided for work based out of different ports of call. Up to eight total participants will sample from a variety of cruise ships while simultaneously establishing a citizen science program to support this project through photography and sample collection. The science team and citizen scientists will stop at common tourism landing sites around the Western Antarctic Peninsula (WAP). Sampling at all locations will include taking snow and melt-water samples, as well as physical and Spectral Reflective measurements. The science team will also deploy an Unoccupied Aerial System (UAS), and time lapse cameras. Once delivered to USAP in Punta Arenas, samples will be packed and shipped to their home institution.

Deploying Team Members

  • Molly Adshead
  • Alia Khan (PI)
  • Colby Rand
  • Sally Vaux
  • Anne Wilce