Byrd Polar and Climate Research Center


Our Research

_Research objectives
Whether natural or human-induced, climate and environmental changes have consequences for society. Glaciers respond to climate, but also supply water resources. We research the nature, extent, and biophysical impact of changes in glacier environments over time. Our group focuses on modern glacier recession as well as Late-Glacial to Holocene variability, and we aim to develop transdisciplinary understanding of climate forcing, hydrologic impacts, social adaptation and vulnerability.Tracing changes in mountain glacier mass over time elucidates dynamics of physical phenomena (climate change, erosion, sedimentation, hydrology) and informs the evaluation of impacts to human society (availability and quality of water). We desire to quantify these processes, better predict their future changes, and inform strategies of adaptation.

_Instruments and methods


Bury et al. 2010
measure glacier mass changes, landscape alteration, surface and subsurface
hydrology, water quality, glacial geomorphology, climatic variability and lake
sediments. Specific recent data acquisition efforts include:
quality analyses (including trace metals);
laser swath mapping (using LIDAR) of glaciers and proglacial valleys;
(aerial and terrestrial) of glacier changes;
(ice) penetrating radar of glacier depth and proglacial valley stratigraphy;
 hydrochemistry to
analyze hydrological sources and contributions
to surface and groundwater;stream
discharge logging, with acoustic Doppler profiling;
monitoring with piezometers and temperature loggers;
observations with vertically distributed instrument arrays;
image and altimetry analysis (ASTER, Landsat, SPOT, SRTM);
mapping with GPS and dating with cosmogenic radionuclides;
and wetland sediment coring;
modeling, including GIS-based coupled glacier mass balance and ice flow,
catchment scale hydrologic balance, and hydrochemical mixing models.

_Geographic scope

While our research focuses primarily is on glaciers and mountain environments in the
tropical Andes and Africa, We also work in Alaska and mid-latitude sites once
occupied by glaciers, including Great Basin National Park and Central Ohio.We
gather field data and maintain embedded sensor networks in a number of specific
highland regions in Peru, Ecuador, Chile, Africa, Alaska and Nevada.


Mark and Osmaston, 2008

_Our projections


Mark and McKenzie, 2007
_Ongoing and future developments include new
technologies and methods, new transdisciplinary integration with social
scientists on coupled natural and human systems and dynamics of environmental
change, and expansion into new regions of the Andes and Asia. We have new instruments
for water quality analyses and discharge. We are expanding efforts to integrate
our physical hydrological work with human geographic assessment of indigenous
livelihood level impacts, adaptation schemes, and resilience to environmental
change. We are also researching Andean climatic gradients throughout the
Holocene and Late-Glacial using lake cores and moraine chronology, as well as
processes of glacier change, water and biogeochemical cycling in Alaskan
peatlands. In the Great Basin, Nevada, we are maintaining hydroclimatic
observations and measuring heavy metal and contaminants in watershed

Research funding

have been funded by NASA, NSF, National Geographic Society, Western National
Parks Association, as well as the Climate, Water & Carbon initiative,
Geography Department and Office of International Affairs at the Ohio State
University. Funding has been in 1-5 year grants, and resources are used for
supporting students, post-docs, field equipment, laboratory analyses, travel,
and computing software and support.