This is a guest post composed by Dr. Frank Rack (University of Nebraska-Lincoln) as part of the NSF “Science: Becoming the Messenger” workshop held in Lincoln, NE on March 9, 2011. The exercise here was to take a “message triangle” (a communication device) about a science message, in this case the ANDRILL (ANtarctic geologic DRILLing) Program, and convert it into a written blog post. The ANDRILL Program is an international research program funded by the U.S. National Science Foundation and the science funding agencies in other partner countries that collects sediment cores from the continental margin of Antarctica to study the geologic and glacial history of this region over millions of years.
The cores are collected by melting holes through the sea ice (or ice shelf) and then lowering a pipe through the ice, the water column, and drilling into the seafloor to sample the sediment below and bring these samples back to the surface for scientists to study. These sediment cores comprise a natural archive of climate and environmental change that preserves a record of all of the processes that have taken place through time at a particular location, in this case the Antarctic margin in the Ross Sea. Just like reading the pages of a book, scientists can “read” the story written in the sediments to better understand the history of ice sheet-ice shelf advance and retreat, due to changes in ice volume on Antarctica, and thereby interpret how these changes relate to fluctuations in global sea level and climate. The benefit of collecting these records from the Antarctic margin is that they record the primary evidence for the advance and retreat of the ice across the Antarctic margin and thereby can help to calibrate the records of climate from deepsea cores located far away from Antarctica. This research allows scientists working with the ANDRILL Program to fill in a missing piece of the puzzle and contribute to an improved understanding of global climate change over thousands to millions of years.