CReSIS Co-Hosts International Research Conference


Summer 2013

IGS Banner

Photo 1: IGS banner welcomes delegates. Photo courtesy of CReSIS.

Lawrence, Kansas, USA—September 2013 saw close to 100 delegates converging at the University of Kansas (KU) for the International Glaciological Society’s (IGS) second Symposium on Radioglaciology. The Symposium started with an icebreaker reception on the ninth floor terrace of the main campus hotel. A busy five-day program followed with over 50 oral presentations, an Early Career Scientist workshop, two midweek social excursions, an intertribal pow-wow and BBQ dinner at the Haskell Indian Nations University, and a banquet featuring a talk on local history and the infamous John Brown. The symposium closed with a UAV workshop on Friday morning.

KU Campus

Photo 2: University of Kansas campus in the Fall. Photo courtesy of the University of Kansas Press Office.

The IGS Symposium was co-hosted by the Center for Remote Sensing of Ice Sheets, headquartered at KU, and co-sponsored by the National Science Foundation (NSF), NASA, KU, the KU School of Engineering, and KU Research and Graduate Studies.

Gogineni welcomes delegates

Photo 3: CReSIS Director Dr. Prasad Gogineni welcomes delegates to the IGS Symposium. Photo courtesy of Cui Xiangbin.

Founded in 1936 with its headquarters in Cambridge, UK, the International Glaciological Society was established to “provide a focus for individuals interested in practical and scientific aspects of snow and ice.” IGS sponsors a wide variety of lectures, field meetings and symposia all around the world throughout the year. The Society is best known for publishing the Journal of Glaciology and the Annals of Glaciology. It also produces a monthly news bulletin, ICE, which will feature CReSIS and the Radioglaciology Symposium in its next edition.

“From my perspective as a glaciologist who works with radar data, I found the conference to be very professionally educational, as the many talks and posters explained some of the new developments and products that have entered the field of radioglaciology over the last few years,” said Douglas MacAyeal, IGS President and a professor of Geoscience at the University of Chicago.

MacAyeal and IGS Secretary General, Magnús Már Magnússon, organize multiple IGS symposia and events annually featuring distinguished speakers, scientists and students from a variety of glaciological disciplines. CReSIS and IGS hosted delegates from as far afield as Australia, Belgium, Brazil, China, Canada, Denmark, Germany, Japan, the Netherlands, New Zealand, Norway, Spain, USA and the United Kingdom.

Dr. Richard Alley delivers keynote address

Special guest and Keynote Speaker Dr. Richard Alley was one of the many highlights of the conference, setting an enthusiastic and upbeat tone during his talk on “Ice Sheets and Sea Level Data: Models and Ways Forward.” A geologist and Evan Pugh Professor of Geosciences at Pennsylvania State University (PSU), Alley has also contributed to the United Nations panel on climate change, testified for Al Gore during Gore’s vice presidency, and received IGS’ own prestigious Seligman Crystal for his outstanding scientific contribution to glaciology in 2005. As a co-I on the CReSIS STC grant, Alley was the ideal candidate to leave no iceberg unturned during his opening of the Symposium. Alley, who testified before the U.S. Congress in 2010, stressed the importance of improving the scientific community’s understanding of the dynamics of ice sheets, ice shelves, glaciers and sea level rise to further support public policies that address the consequences of climate change.

Dr. Richard Alley

Photo 4: Dr. Richard Alley, Keynote Speaker, IGS Symposium. Photo courtesy of Tyler Wieland.

A leading voice in the scientific community, Alley said U.S. senators are requesting specific numbers about sea level rise from the scientific community. He believes that part of improving estimations and knowledge of these forces comes from supporting students and research.

“We need radars, we need bright students,” said Alley of polar ice research.“We need to know the motions. Where it is and where it is going.”


Photo 5: Dr. Prasad Gogineni, Director of the Center for Remote Sensing of Ice Sheets, IGS co-host, introducing the Symposium. Photo courtesy of Tyler Wieland, CReSIS.

IGS Poster Session

Photo 6: Dr. Alexey Markov at the IGS Poster Session discussing work with CReSIS geography student, Kyle Purdon. Photo courtesy of Jenna Collins.

Dr. Dorthe Dahl-Jensen presents her latest research

Dr. Dorthe Dahl-Jensen, who is on a research sabbatical at CReSIS, is the Director of the Niels Bohr Institute of Ice and Climate at the University of Copenhagen and the Chair of the Scientific Steering Committee that runs the NEEM project in Greenland. In her presentation, Dr. Dahl-Jensen discussed the research she is currently doing at the University of Kansas.

“I am using CReSIS’ radio-echo soundings to determine the best locations for deep ice core drilling,” she said.

Dahl-Jensen said her current research involves searching for the velocity of ice movements using the folds in the ice cores to estimate the rate of change. Dahl-Jensen believes if she can discover how the crystals have folded over each other using ice core data, she and her team could better model what changes to expect as the ice melts and propagates.

Students Presentations

Among the CReSIS students presenting at the symposium was Jerome Mitchell, a Graduate Research Assistant at Indiana University, who shared his research on techniques for detecting the layers in polar radar imagery. Mitchell, a Ph.D. candidate in Computer Science, was awarded a prestigious NASA fellowship earlier this year.

Christian Panton, a Ph.D. student at the University of Copenhagen, also attended and discussed automated internal layer tracing. Panton’s presentation took advantage of the dissertation research he conducted while visiting CReSIS during the spring of 2013.

Other prominent scientists featured at the conference included:

  • Dr. Richard Hindmarshof the British Antarctic Survey (BAS). Dr. Hindmarsh has worked at the BAS since 1991, studying ice flows, heat, and sub-glacial sediment and water.
  • Dr. H. Jay Zwally of NASA. Dr. Zwally has played numerous key roles at NASA since joining the agency in 1974, such as working on a project that analyzed ice sheet mass balance using a laser altimeter satellite—this work culminated in the launch of the Ice Cloud and Land Elevation Satellite (ICESat) in January 2003. ICESat has generated significant amounts of data that have supported ice sheet research.
  • Dr. David Crandall of Indiana University. Dr. Crandall joined the School of Informatics and Computing at Indiana University in 2001. He works in computer vision, the area of computer science concerned with automatically inferring semantic meaning from images, and is interested in problems that involve analyzing and modeling large amounts of uncertain data.
  • Midweek Excursions

    In addition to inspiring discussion on ground-breaking research, the event also offered ample opportunities for the delegates to relax, socialize and network in more informal settings. 40 delegates spent a warm afternoon exploring the Kansas Tallgrass National Prairie Reserve with a guided tour led by Rose Bacon, a local cattle rancher who lives with her husband Kent on a small farm outside of Council Grove, KS.

    Flinthills Ranch Tour

    Photo 7: Rose and Kent Bacon’s cattle ranch tour, Kansas Flint Hills. Photo courtesy of Sorcha Hyland.

    The Bacons are well-known for their stewardship of the land and the Flint Hill prairies specifically. Delegates ate a picnic lunch on bales of hay as the Bacons demonstrated how fire and grazing help to preserve the prairies and discussed the lengths and expense they go to in caring for their herds. Rose then led the party on a leisurely hike across the rolling prairie hills while discussing the local flora and fauna, as well as the history and geological evolution of the land.

    Dr. Alexey Markov

    Photo 8: Dr. Alexey Markov, IGS (Russian delegate) masters the art of lasso. Photo courtesy of Sorcha Hyland.

    Kansas Praries

    Photo 9: IGS delegates make their way into the Kansas prairies. Photo courtesy of Chung-Chi Lin.

    While the majority of delegates opted for the rural excursion, a smaller number of IGS delegates chose the ‘urban’ excursion. A group of eight conference participants spent the afternoon on a guided tour of the Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art and the National World War I Museum in nearby Kansas City.

    Both rural and urban IGS excursions reconvened at Haskell Indian Nations University for the final event of the day. Haskell, which opened in 1884 as an industrial training school for American Indian children, has grown from the original class of 22 students to an average enrollment of over 1,000 students each semester. Haskell is renowned for its pow-wows and annual Indian markets, and the IGS delegates were fortunate enough to experience an intertribal pow-wow first hand, as well as participate in the dancing and a Q&A session that followed. The pow-wow was paired with a traditional Kansas BBQ.

    Haskell Pow-wow

    Photo 10: Haskell intertribal dancers and musicians lead pow-wow with IGS delegates. Photo courtesy of Linda Hayden.

    Haskell Pow-wow

    Photo 11: Haskell Indian Nations University intertribal dancers and performers pow-wow with IGS delegates. Photo courtesy of Javier Lapazaran.

    Final thoughts and future IGS Symposia

    The IGS Symposium offered scientists from around the world an invaluable opportunity to meet and discuss research with colleagues they had never met in person.

    “I had the chance to meet many of my professional colleagues whose papers I have read, but whose hands I had never shaken,” said MacAyeal.

    “I think it was also really cool to give feedback to scientists that work at CReSIS. Having a chance to talk with them informally during the various parts of the conference and the workshop that followed on the Friday after the formal part of the conference was over was really helpful for me.”

    The next IGS symposium is scheduled to take place from October 31st to November 2nd of 2013 at the Lammi Biological Station in Lammi, Finland. The meeting will provide a venue for Nordic glaciologists and students studying glaciology-related topics to present their latest research. The meeting will be hosted by the Department of Physics at the University of Helsinki.