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Students experience Antarctica to explore fire impact on global climate

Media release

Two Curtin University PhD students have ventured to Antarctica under Curtin’s ice core program to determine if fire has an effect on global climate.

PhD students, Holly and Aja, in Antarctica
PhD students, Holly Winton and Aja Ellis, in Antartica

Led by Dr Ross Edwards, senior researcher at Curtin’s Department of Imaging and Applied Physics, Curtin’s ice core program is a part of the Roosevelt Island Climate Evolution project (RICE), a project aiming to drill an ice core through the Roosevelt Island Ice Cap in Antarctica’s Ross Sea and evaluate the stability of the Ross Ice Shelf.

Dr Edwards’ two PhD students Holly Winton and Aja Ellis recently returned from a three-month journey to Antarctica where they assisted with ice core drilling and collected snow and ice samples for their own projects.

“Curtin University has a long history of research in earth’s frozen continent, Antarctica, so it was great to see my two students build on our ground-breaking investigations in this area,” Dr Edwards said.

“They had the chance to assist with reconstructing a bygone climate from thousands of years ago from ice core drilling, and studying the very recent past by collecting surface ice and snow samples.”

Dr Edwards said the two PhD projects will study particles in the earth’s atmosphere and their impact on climate and the fertility of the ocean, representing a new emphasis at Curtin on environmental physics.

Ms Winton’s project will investigate sources of iron in the atmosphere, which can be consumed by microscopic marine life, removing CO2 from the atmosphere in the process. The source of iron of particular interest is from fire.

Ms Ellis’ research project is investigating the presence and history of nanoparticles, like soot, in snow and ice from sources such as Southern Hemisphere fires, meteorite smoke, and volcanic eruptions.

Ms Ellis and Ms Winton will use the facilities at the John de Laeter Centre for Isotope Research, based at Curtin, to carry out their research.

Notes to Editor

The Roosevelt Island Climate Evolution project (RICE) is an international project led by New Zealand. A 750 m deep ice core was successfully recovered from Roosevelt Island, Antarctica in the 2012/2013 Antarctic field season to reconstruct the past climate of the region and investigate whether the West Antarctic ice sheet collapsed during the warm period preceding the last ice age. As conditions during this time period were similar to today’s conditions, this project will help to determine the sensitivity of the Ross Ice Shelf to warming. More information on the RICE project.