USF Research News

USF College of Marine Science Geologists Join International Antarctic Expedition

January 5, 2018

Amelia Shevenell and Imogen Browne will spend two months on climate change field work aboard the international drilling ship JOIDES Resolution

Ross Ice Shelf Ross Ice Shelf (Photo credit: National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration)

ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. - USF College of Marine Science Associate Professor Amelia Shevenell and doctoral student Imogen Browne are departing on an international expedition to the Ross Sea, to investigate 23 million years of past climate change and West Antarctic Ice Sheet response in a region that is sensitive to changes in ocean and atmospheric warming and contributes to global sea level change.

The two-month expedition aboard the International Ocean Discovery Program’s (IODP) JOIDES Resolution drill ship, is the first IODP expedition to Antarctica in the past 10 years and the last time scientific ocean drilling occurred in the Ross Sea was in 1973.

Shevenell and Browne will be two of 10 American scientists in the 35-member international science party. On board, Shevenell will lead a team of eight sedimentologists and Browne will serve as physical properties specialist. The JOIDES Resolution recovers sediments from the ocean floor that enable scientists to analyze how the ice sheets responded to changes in ocean and atmospheric temperatures in the past. Expedition 374 will drill six sites on the continental shelf and rise to investigate the relationship between climatic/oceanic change and West Antarctic Ice Sheet evolution over the past 23 million years.

Amelia Shevenell
Amelia Shevenell (Photo credit to USF College of Marine Science)
Imogen Browne
Imogen Browne

“Expedition 374 represents 12 years of proposal writing and planning,” Shevenell said. “I am so excited that we will finally be able to collect geologic samples from the Ross Sea continental shelf that will help us to understand how the ice sheet responded under past climate conditions. I am particularly interested in understanding how ice sheets behave during warmer than present climate conditions. This behavior can help us predict how the ice will respond with continued warming and rising carbon dioxide.” Observations and models indicate that West Antarctica’s glaciers are highly sensitive to changes in ocean temperature both at present and in the past. Results of the expedition will enable a better understanding of how Earth’s climate has shifted on timescales of thousands to millions of years, which will allow scientists to better understand present day changes and pace of changes anticipated as Earth’s temperatures rise.

The IODP is an international research collaboration that coordinates seagoing expeditions to study the history of the Earth recorded in sediments and rocks beneath the ocean floor. The JOIDES Resolution Science Operator (JRSO), based at Texas A&M, operates the drillship on behalf of the National Science Foundation.

This is not the first expedition Shevenell has participated in on the JOIDES Resolution. She sailed on Leg 189 on the South Tasman Rise in 2000 and is part of the IODP Science Advisory Structure, which decides which proposed science should be drilled and serves on the US Science Advisory Committee. This is Shevenell’s 9th research expedition to Antarctica and Browne’s first.

Follow along on Expedition 374 at the JOIDES Resolution’s Facebook page and on Twitter at @TheJR.