2023-2024 Science Planning Summary
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2023-2024 USAP Field Season
Project Detail

Project Title

Formation of Thermal-Contraction Polygons on Mars: Effects of Variable Subsurface Ice Content from Geophysical Surveys of Antarctic Dry Valley Analogs

Beacon Valley camps. Courtesy of NSF
G-067-M Research Location(s): Beacon Valley


Event Number:

Program Director:
Dr. Michael Jackson

ASC POC/Implementer:
Ryan Steiner / Jenny Cunningham

Principal Investigator(s)

Dr. David E. Stillman
Southwest Research Institute


Supporting Stations: McMurdo Station
Research Locations: Beacon Valley


This is a geomorphological and geophysical study of the polygonal terrain of a Martian analog site in Beacon Valley (BV), Antarctica. The objective of the work is to characterize how ice concentration and distribution affect patterned ground (polygon size, shape, and roughness, along with asymmetry) to better determine current and past ice volume on Mars. To accomplish this objective, the investigators will find relationships between the morphology of polygons mapped from satellite images and lidar-derived microtopography and the subsurface ice content measured by geophysical methods. They will then apply this methodology to three Martian locations with polygonal terrain.

Field Season Overview

Four participants will set up camp in Beacon Valley for three weeks in November. They will conduct geoelectrical surveys to determine the extent, depth, and properties of subsurface ice, and will also collect ice and overlying sediment samples.

Deploying Team Members

  • Rachael Hoover
  • Douglas Kowalewski (Co-PI)
  • David Stillman (PI)
  • Andrew Wilcoski