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Award Detail

Doing Business As Name:University of California-Santa Cruz
  • Slawek M Tulaczyk
  • (831) 459-5207
Award Date:08/25/2009
Estimated Total Award Amount: $ 1,599,641
Funds Obligated to Date: $ 1,899,641
  • FY 2010=$300,000
  • FY 2009=$1,599,641
Start Date:09/01/2009
End Date:08/31/2014
Transaction Type:Grant
Awarding Agency Code:4900
Funding Agency Code:4900
CFDA Number:47.078
Primary Program Source:040101 RRA RECOVERY ACT
Award Title or Description:Collaborative Research: Integrative Study of Marine Ice Sheet Stability & Subglacial Life Habitats in W Antarctica - Lake & Ice Stream Subglacial Access Research Drilling (LISSARD)
Federal Award ID Number:0839142
DUNS ID:125084723
Parent DUNS ID:071549000
Program:ANT Integrated System Science
Program Officer:
  • Lisa Clough
  • (703) 292-4746

Awardee Location

Street:1156 High Street
City:Santa Cruz
County:Santa Cruz
Awardee Cong. District:20

Primary Place of Performance

Organization Name:University of California-Santa Cruz
Street:1156 High Street
City:Santa Cruz
County:Santa Cruz
Cong. District:20

Abstract at Time of Award

This award is funded under the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009 (Public Law 111-5). The LISSARD project (Lake and Ice Stream Subglacial Access Research Drilling) is one of three research components of the WISSARD integrative initiative (Whillans Ice Stream Subglacial Access Research Drilling) that is being funded by the Antarctic Integrated System Science Program of NSF's Office of Polar Programs, Antarctic Division. The overarching scientific objective of WISSARD is to assess the role of water beneath a West Antarctic ice stream in interlinked glaciological, geological, microbiological, geochemical, and oceanographic systems. The LISSARD component of WISSARD focuses on the role of active subglacial lakes in determining how fast the West Antarctic ice sheet loses mass to the global ocean and influences global sea level changes. The importance of Antarctic subglacial lakes has only been recently recognized, and the lakes have been identified as high priority targets for scientific investigations because of their unknown contributions to ice sheet stability under future global warming scenarios. LISSARD has several primary science goals: A) To provide an observational basis for improving treatments of subglacial hydrological and mechanical processes in models of ice sheet mass balance and stability; B) To reconstruct the past history of ice stream stability by analyzing archives of past basal water and ice flow variability contained in subglacial sediments, porewater, lake water, and basal accreted ice; C) To provide background understanding of subglacial lake environments to benefit RAGES and GBASE (the other two components of the WISSARD project); and D) To synthesize data and concepts developed as part of this project to determine whether subglacial lakes play an important role in (de)stabilizing Antarctic ice sheets. We propose an unprecedented synthesis of approaches to studying ice sheet processes, including: (1) satellite remote sensing, (2) surface geophysics, (3) borehole observations and measurements and, (4) basal and subglacial sampling. INTELLECTUAL MERIT: The latest report of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change recognized that the greatest uncertainties in assessing future global sea-level change stem from a poor understanding of ice sheet dynamics and ice sheet vulnerability to oceanic and atmospheric warming. Disintegration of the WAIS (West Antarctic Ice Sheet) alone would contribute 3-5 m to global sea-level rise, making WAIS a focus of scientific concern due to its potential susceptibility to internal or ocean-driven instability. The overall WISSARD project will test the overarching hypothesis that active water drainage connects various subglacial environments and exerts major control on ice sheet flow, geochemistry, metabolic and phylogenetic diversity, and biogeochemical transformations. BROADER IMPACTS: Societal Relevance: Global warming, melting of ice sheets and consequential sea-level rise are of high societal relevance. Science Resource Development: After a 9-year hiatus WISSARD will provide the US-science community with a renewed capability to access and study sub-ice sheet environments. Developing this technological infrastructure will benefit the broader science community and assets will be accessible for future use through the NSF-OPP drilling contractor. Furthermore, these projects will pioneer an approach implementing recommendations from the National Research Council committee on Principles of Environmental Stewardship for the Exploration and Study of Subglacial Environments (2007). Education and Outreach (E/O): These activities are grouped into four categories: i) increasing student participation in polar research by fully integrating them in our research programs; ii) introducing new investigators to the polar sciences by incorporating promising young investigators in our programs, iii) promotion of K-12 teaching and learning programs by incorporating various teachers and NSTA programs, and iv) reaching a larger public audience through such venues as popular science magazines, museum based activities and videography and documentary films. In summary, WISSARD will promote scientific exploration of Antarctica by conveying to the public the excitement of accessing and studying what may be some of the last unexplored aquatic environments on Earth, and which represent a potential analogue for extraterrestrial life habitats on Europa and Mars.

Publications Produced as a Result of this Research

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Wadham, JL, Arndt, S, Tulaczyk, S, Stibal, M, Tranter, M, Telling, J, Lis, GP, Lawson, E, Ridgwell, A, Dubnick, A, Sharp, MJ, Anesio, AM, Butler, CEH "Potential methane reservoirs beneath Antarctica" Nature, v.488, 2012, p.633. doi:10.1038/nature11374 

Hanna, Edward and Navarro, Francisco J and Pattyn, Frank and Domingues, Catia M and Fettweis, Xavier and Ivins, Erik R and Nicholls, Robert J and Ritz, Catherine and Smith, Ben and Tulaczyk, Slawek and others "Ice-sheet mass balance and climate change" Nature, v.498, 2013, p.51--59.

Hanna, E, Navarro, FJ, Pattyn, F, Domingues, CM, Fettweis, X, Ivins, ER, Nicholls, RJ, Ritz, C, Smith, B, Tulaczyk, S, Whitehouse, PL, Zwally, HJ "Ice-sheet mass balance and climate change" Nature, v.498, 2013, p.51. doi:10.1038/nature12238 

FRICKER, H.A., R. POWELL, J. PRISCU, S. TULACZYK, S. ANANDAKRISHNAN, B. CHRISTNER, D. HOLLAND, H. HORGAN, R. JACOBEL, J. MIKUCKI, A. MITCHELL, R. SCHERER, J. SEVERINGHAUS "Siple Coast Subglacial Aquatic Environments: The Whillans Ice Stream Subglacial Access Research Drilling (WISSARD) project" AGU Monograph, v., 2010, p..

Priscu, JC and Powell, RD and Tulaczyk, S "Probing subglacial environments under the Whillans Ice Stream" Eos, Transactions American Geophysical Union, v.91, 2010, p.253--254.

Skidmore, M; Tranter, M; Tulaczyk, S; Lanoil, B "Hydrochemistry of ice stream beds - evaporitic or microbial effects?" HYDROLOGICAL PROCESSES, v.24, 2010, p.517. doi:10.1002/hyp.758  View record at Web of Science

Tulaczyk, Slawek and Mikucki, Jill A and Siegfried, Matthew R and Priscu, John C and Barcheck, C Grace and Beem, Lucas H and Behar, Alberto and Burnett, Justin and Christner, Brent C and Fisher, Andrew T and others "WISSARD at Subglacial Lake Whillans, West Antarctica: scientific operations and initial observations" Annals of Glaciology, v.55, 2014, p.51--58.

Christner, Brent C and Priscu, John C and Achberger, Amanda M and Barbante, Carlo and Carter, Sasha P and Christianson, Knut and Michaud, Alexander B and Mikucki, Jill A and Mitchell, Andrew C and Skidmore, Mark L and others "A microbial ecosystem beneath the West Antarctic ice sheet" Nature, v.512, 2014, p.310--313.

Tulaczyk, Slawek and Hossainzadeh, Saffia "Antarctica's deep frozen ?lakes?" Science, v.331, 2011, p.1524--152.

Purcell, Alicia M and Mikucki, Jill A and Achberger, Amanda M and Alekhina, Irina A and Barbante, Carlo and Christner, Brent C and Ghosh, Dhritiman and Michaud, Alexander B and Mitchell, Andrew C and Priscu, John C and others "Microbial sulfur transformations in sediments from Subglacial Lake Whillans" Extreme Microbiology, v.5, 2014, p.594.

Fricker, H.A., R. Powell, J. Priscu, S. Tulaczyk, S. Anandakrishnan, B. Christner, D. Holland, H. Horgan, R. Jacobel, J. Mikucki, A. Mitchell, R. Scherer, J. Severinghaus "Siple Coast Subglacial Aquatic Environments: The Whillans Ice Stream Subglacial Access Research Drilling (WISSARD) project" Subglacial Antarctic Aquatic Environments, AGU Monograph 192, v.192, 2011, p..

Siegfried, Matthew R and Fricker, Helen A and Roberts, Mackenzie and Scambos, Ted A and Tulaczyk, Slawek "A decade of West Antarctic subglacial lake interactions from combined ICESat and CryoSat-2 altimetry" Geophysical Research Letters, v.41, 2014, p.891--898.

Damsgaard, Anders and Egholm, David L and Piotrowski, Jan A and Tulaczyk, Slawek and Larsen, Nicolaj K and Tylmann, Karol "Discrete element modeling of subglacial sediment deformation" Journal of Geophysical Research: Earth Surface, v.118, 2013, p.2230--224.

Bentley, MJ and Christoffersen, P and Hodgson, DA and Smith, Andrew Marshall and Tulaczyk, S and Le Brocq, AM "Subglacial lake sediments and sedimentary processes: Potential archives of ice sheet evolution, past environmental change, and the presence of life" Geophysical Monograph Series, v.192, 2011, p.83--110.

Wadham, JL and De'ath, R and Monteiro, FM and Tranter, M and Ridgwell, A and Raiswell, R and Tulaczyk, S "The potential role of the Antarctic Ice Sheet in global biogeochemical cycles" Earth and Environmental Science Transactions of the Royal Society of Edinburgh, v.104, 2013, p.55--67.

Wadham, JL and Arndt, S and Tulaczyk, S and Stibal, M and Tranter, M and Telling, J and Lis, GP and Lawson, E and Ridgwell, A and Dubnick, A and others "Potential methane reservoirs beneath Antarctica" Nature, v.488, 2012, p.633--637.

Wadham, J.L., Arndt, S., Tulaczyk, S., et al., "Potential methane reservoirs beneath Antarctica" Nature, v.488, 2012, p.. doi:10.1038/nature11374 

S. Tulaczyk, S. Hossainzadeh "Antarctica's deep frozen 'lakes'" Science, v., 2011, p..

Priscu, J., R. Powell, S. Tulaczyk, S. Anandakrishnan, B. Christner, H.A. Fricker, D. Holland, H. Horgan, R. Jacobel, J. Mikucki, A. Mitchell, R. Scherer, and J. Severinghaus, and R.L. Edwards "The Whillans Ice Stream Subglacial Access Research Drilling project (WISSARD)" EOS, v., 2010, p..

Priscu, John C and Achberger, Amanda M and Cahoon, Joel E and Christner, Brent C and Edwards, Robert L and Jones, Warren L and Michaud, Alexander B and Siegfried, Matthew R and Skidmore, Mark L and Spigel, Robert H and others "A microbiologically clean strategy for access to the Whillans Ice Stream subglacial environment" Antarctic Science, v.25, 2013, p.637--647.

Beem, LH and Tulaczyk, SM and King, MA and Bougamont, M and Fricker, HA and Christoffersen, P "Variable deceleration of Whillans Ice Stream, West Antarctica" Journal of Geophysical Research: Earth Surface, v.119, 2014, p.212--224.

Project Outcomes Report


This Project Outcomes Report for the General Public is displayed verbatim as submitted by the Principal Investigator (PI) for this award. Any opinions, findings, and conclusions or recommendations expressed in this Report are those of the PI and do not necessarily reflect the views of the National Science Foundation; NSF has not approved or endorsed its content.

This award co-funded participation of the UCSC glaciology group in the interdisciplinary WISSARD project (WISSARD: Whillans Ice Stream Subglacial Access Research Drilling).  The overarching goal of this project is to understand if subglacial lakes hidden beneath the Antarctic ice sheet may serve as microbial habitats and can influence significantly ice sheet contribution to global sea level changes.

On planet Earth liquid water is abundant but much of our Solar System and most of the Universe are so cold that almost all water forms solid ice.  Therefore, many potential life habitats  outside of our planet will be located on icy planetary bodies, where liquid water is hidden beneath thick ice sheets (e.g., Europa’s ocean in our Solar System).  Antarctic subglacial lakes provide potential analogues for such planetary environments.  Just a few decades ago even Antarctic researchers assumed that water bodies located beneath the Antarctic ice sheet are too isolated from sunlight and the atmosphere to support life.  The WISSARD project tested this assumption by drilling into Subglacial Lake Whillans.  Microbiologically clean samples of subglacial water and sediments were collected using a custom-designed hot-water drill and scientific instrumentation.  These samples provided evidence for abundant and diverse microbial life which is able to find sufficient energy and nutrients from rocks and minerals, without having to rely on photosynthesis and decay of organic matter.  These findings are encouraging for further search for life in extreme cold environments of Antarctica and for search for extraterrestrial life on icy planetary bodies.

Water beneath the Antarctic ice sheet may also play an important role in determining how this ice sheet will respond to future climate changes.  Scientists studying glaciers in mountains on different continents noticed for decades that glaciers tend to move faster in summer when surface meltwater penetrates to the base of glaciers through fractures and ice caves.  However, in Antarctica there is very little surface meltwater and very few chances existed for testing if Antarctic ice sheet moves faster when there is more water at its base.  The discovery of active subglacial lakes, e.g. Subglacial Lake Whillans, which experience flooding every few years provided the first opportunity to check the link between ice velocity and subglacial water.  Our measurements show that ice motion in Antarctica is indeed highly sensitive to changes in subglacial water flow.  This means that drainage of subglacial lakes or future increased surface meltwater production may make the ice sheet move faster towards the ocean.  These results will help build better computer models of the Antarctic ice sheet.  Such models are used to predict how this ice sheet will react to future climate changes and how it will contribute to rising global sea level.

Significant project funds were used to cover the cost of building and deploying the WISSARD clean drill.  These funds paid for engineering and technical personnel provided by specialized subcontractors affiliated with University of Wisconsin and University of Nebraska.  Drill components were acquired from a wide range of US companies.  This project provided the opportunity for two doctoral students at UCSC to collect data for their dissertations and for two additional graduate students to experience field research in Antarctica.  Five undergraduate students obtained advanced training in research and technology.  Materials from this project are used in two undergraduate courses at UCSC (Environmental Geology and Glaciology).  UCSC project participants shared their research experience and results at meetings of the National Science Teachers Association and at scientific meet...

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