Scripps at the Poles
R/V Nathaniel B. Palmer entering Andvord Bay by Maria Stenzel

Scripps Institution of Oceanography at UC San Diego has been exploring the poles for decades, pioneering research techniques used worldwide and leading the study of regions where the pace of climate change-induced warming is faster than anywhere else. This year, Scripps oceanographers have begun several new field campaigns in rugged and remote but spectacular settings. This science continues the study of regions that are the front lines of global warming and the locales of the most biologically active waters in the world.

Subglacial Antarctic Lakes Scientific Access (SALSA)

Scripps scientists have explored the regions below Antarctic ice sheets to understand the biology of icebound lakes as well as the physical forces that influence the flow of glaciers toward the ocean. Scripps glaciologists this year are continuing their study of what lies beneath Antarctic glaciers in the Subglacial Antarctic Lakes Scientific Access (SALSA) project. A team is installing GPS units ahead of drilling into subglacial Lake Mercer. This year marks a full decade of continuous GPS observations of the Whillans Ice Stream.

Dates: Nov. 11-Dec. 6.

Researchers in Antarctic snow
Nov. 2016 Drill Team Prep (Courtesy SALSA)

The Antarctic Search for Meteorites


Scripps geoscientist James Day is traveling to the Transantarctic Mountains to take part in The Antarctic Search for Meteorites program (ANSMET), a US-led field-based science project that recovers meteorite specimens from Antarctica. His research concerns the formation of Earth and other planets; meteorite fragments found in Antarctica can help scientists learn about the materials that make up asteroids, planets, and other bodies of our solar system.

Follow along on ANSMET's blog.

Dates: Mid-November

James Day on Observation Hill near McMurdo Station
James Day on Observation Hill near McMurdo Station

Rapid Access Ice Drill Testing

Researchers are testing a new drill that can substantially speed up researchers’ attempt to reach Antarctic ice that is 1 million years old or older. The gases trapped in ancient ice preserve a record of climate conditions that enable scientists to put present-day global warming in context.

Dates: Nov. 20-Jan. 5.

Extracting ice cores at Taylor Glacier (Courtesy RAID program)

Penguin Ecological Research

Researchers will travel to Palmer Station on the West Antarctic Peninsula, one of the most rapidly warming regions on earth, to tag penguins in order to monitor their foraging movements. The scientists seek to understand what is behind the dramatic drop in population of Adélie and increase in Gentoo penguins.

(Background image courtesy of Josh Jones.)

Dates: Dec. 6-21.

Penguin (Courtesy of Megan Cimino)

Antarctic Citizen Science

Scripps graduate student Allison Lee is working with the International Association of Antarctic Tour Operators to enable vacationers to serve as citizen scientists. In a new project, tourists will be asked to collect samples of phytoplankton from the vicinity of Antarctic fjords. The information could help scientists determine what sustains one of the most fertile ocean regions in the world and understand how it may be changing.

Dates: Dec. 8-Jan. 6.


Marine Mammal Surveys

Scripps scientists will conduct marine mammal surveys off the Antarctic Peninsula with help from Argentine colleagues. They will service instruments that have been collecting passive acoustic data since 2014, including calls from beaked whales, blue and fin whales.

(Background image by Josh Jones.)

Dates: Jan.-Feb. 2018.

Breaching whale
Breaching humpback whale (Courtesy of Miguel Iniguez)

Measuring Acoustic Melt Rates

Oceanographers will attempt to use the sound of bubbles bursting to estimate glacial ice melt rates in the Arctic Ocean. Bubbles are released based on how quickly ice melts and researcher Grant Deane hopes to exploit that relationship and understand rapid changes in Arctic climate.

Dates: June 2018.





Subantarctic Biogeochemistry

Scripps graduate student Kiefer Forsch will join a cruise led by an Australian researcher to study how the Southern Ocean refertilizes itself. He will study refertilization by trapping and examining trace particles as they sink in the ocean. Forsch is specifically interested in finding out how microbes break down these particles and make iron available as an ocean nutrient.

Dates: March 12-April 5, 2018.

Sea Ice Minimum

Scripps oceanographers have made shocking direct observations of the forces shrinking polar ice caps. In 2018, they will return to the Arctic to continue these observations during the peak of the polar sea ice minimum. 

Dates: Sept. 2018.

Antarctic Biology Instruction

Scripps Marine Biology Professor Doug Bartlett and graduate student Logan Peoples will be instructors in the National Science Foundation-supported Antarctic Biology course at McMurdo station. Students will learn a variety of techniques to collect data on organismal responses to climate change.

Dates: Dec. 18-Feb. 4.


Argo in Antarctica


Scripps Oceanography will fabricate 12 Argo floats to be deployed to in Antarctica.  Argo is a global array of nearly 4,000 free-drifting profiling floats that measures the temperature and salinity of the upper 2000 meters of the ocean, and provides important information on ocean currents. These new floats, which will be deployed by the RV Tangaroa in February and March, will augment the array in an area of the ocean that has traditionally been under sampled.