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Research Bio: As a Geophysics PhD student at Stanford, I model and measure the evolution and stability of ice sheets. Drawing on a multidisciplinary knowledge base across earth sciences and engineering, I am working to develop novel techniques to integrate ice penetrating radar observations with numerical modeling. My research works to advance our understanding of ice sheet basal thermal transitions and the onset of sliding, and improve projections of sea level rise.

Eliza Dawson

Why I’m blogging: As is the case for many scientific disciplines, glaciology has a steep learning curve for a novice. Google searches frequently lead to unsatisfying answers yet a survey of the literature requires an understanding of field specific knowledge and favors years of technical expertise. Given that I am pursuing a PhD in this field, I believe I am in a unique situation to explore the space between these two extremes. Through this blog I hope to do exactly that, as I log my experience of becoming a glaciologist.

For you as a reader, I hope you find that this blog fills in some of the gaps between scientific findings and news headlines. There are many examples of misunderstandings and misinterpretations as information is conveyed from scientific source to general public reports to political actions. Studying glaciology, ice sheet retreat, and climate change is crucial to our future and far too important to be misunderstood. If you need convincing, here’s my pitch:

There’s currently over 20 million cubic kilometers of water locked up as ice on land. If all of it melted today, the sea level would rise by 230 ft (70 m) and since half the world’s population lives along the coast, major cities would be decimated, billions of people would be displaced, and trillions of dollars in damage would be racked up. Of course all the ice in the world won’t melt instantaneously today but the ramifications for even a small fraction are still enormous… and the catch is we don’t know exactly how rapidly it will melt. The fact is, our carbon emissions are causing the climate to warm. It’s up to us to study the Earth and do our best to keep it cool.

So this is your chance to put on your polar thinking cap along side me. Whether you’re someone just curious to find out something new or a student aspiring to become a glaciologist yourself, I hope you enjoy the journey as we delve into the realm of ice. I find glaciology fascinating and I hope you will too.

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