What we do.

We study lakes in Antarctica. 

In the McMurdo Dry Valleys of Antarctica, one of the few regions of Antarctica without ice, large lakes cover the lowermost portion of most valleys. The lakes are some of the most fascinating on Earth, and range from completely freshwater, to the saltiest body of water on the planet (Don Juan Pond). The lakes are permanently covered by ice, and because most are closed basin (no outflow) they are exceptionally sensitive to hydrological and climatic changes.

For almost two decades, Peter Doran, Professor of Earth and Environmental Sciences at UIC, has monitored ice cover and water column properties in the Dry Valley lakes to understand how climate affects the physical properties of the lakes. In the Taylor Valley, a small monitoring station has been installed in the middle of each lake. The stations act much like a weather station, monitoring water level, ice sublimation (akin to evaporation), and the quantity of sunlight that penetrates the ice cover. The data is recorded beneath the permanent ice cover, but is accessed on the surface.

Our research is part of a Long Term Ecological Research program funded through the National Science Foundation (NSF), which operates in the Dry Valleys (http://www.mcmlter.org/). The collaboration between researchers that monitor climate, glaciers, and streams enable us to investigate the larger processes that are controlling the long term rise in lake levels, changes in the ice cover, and the physical hydrology of the lakes.

Lake Fryxell

 

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