College of Arts & Sciences

Dr. Shannon Klotsko and Team of Researchers Awarded NSF Grant to Study Demise of Arctic Ice Sheet

JULY 06, 2022

A UNCW team of researchers from the Department of Earth and Ocean Sciences and a documentary team from the Department of Film Studies will be heading to Baffin Bay and West Greenland in 2023 to study and film the demise of an Arctic ice sheet. In this region, the average daily temperature exceeds freezing only in July and August.

Dr. Shannon Klotsko, assistant professor of geology and oceanography, is one of the principal investigators for the project, entitled ‘Baffin Bay Deglacial Experiment,’ or ‘BAD-Ex’ for short. Funded by a three-year National Science Foundation (NSF) grant totaling more than $2.7 million, the research is entitled, ‘Collaborative Research: Spatiotemporal observations of the demise of an ice sheet: Paleo perspectives from Baffin Bay, West Greenland.’ The project is supported by two NSF programs, Marine Geology and Geophysics and Arctic Natural Sciences.

Dr. Klotsko shares that the primary focus of the project is, “to study the inception of deglaciation of the western margin of the Greenland Ice Sheet after the last glacial maximum (LGM).” The LGM was approximately 21,000 years ago. The group will test the central hypothesis that intrusions of subsurface warm Atlantic waters destabilized the marine terminating glaciers of the last glacial maximum Greenland Ice Sheet. 

The UNCW team will include two geoscience/marine science graduate students who will accompany Dr. Klotsko and gain applied science research experience in the Arctic Circle. Megan Siragusa, a graduate geoscience student, holds bachelor’s degrees in oceanography and geology from UNCW. The second student will be selected later this year. The research group includes seven colleagues from the University of Florida, University of Colorado at Boulder, Oregon State University, and Scripps Institution of Oceanography.

“The team will use sediment cores and geophysical data to reconstruct the spatiotemporal history of the western Greenland Ice Sheet margin, which will illuminate the mechanisms and processes involved in initiating and sustaining retreat,” said Dr. Klotsko. The cruise will focus on the trough mouth fans of four paleo-ice streams located on the western Greenland margin (Holsteinborg Trough, Disko Trough, Ummannaq Trough, and Melville Bugt Trough). Klotsko added, “We hope to identify linkages between climate change, ocean warming, and ice-sheet processes involved in the large-scale deglaciation of a marine-terminating ice sheet.” 

Another important aspect of the team comes through Dr. Klotsko’s collaboration with UNCW’s award-winning film studies professor Georg Koszulinski. Dr. Klotsko introduced the idea of including UNCW’s great film studies department, to bring along their expertise and ability to solely focus on documenting the project.

Koszulinski said, “I was open to the idea from the start, and I am excited to see what develops.” He and a student will join the team to assist in incorporating scientific communication and public outreach into the ‘BAD-Ex’ project. Koszulinski added, “The duration and relative isolation of a month-long cruise presents challenges, all while being a fascinating adventure.” Through an application process he will select a student with film making experience who will accompany the team to document the cruise, allowing scientists to concentrate on their research.

 - Mary Ellen Frizzell