Antarctic Ice Sheet Scientist Awarded €150,000 Fellowship

Brussels, October 3rd, 2012 - A young German glaciologist was tonight presented with the prestigious €150,000 InBev-Baillet Latour Antarctica Fellowship [1], by His Royal Highness Prince Philippe of Belgium, for his proposal to investigate how the potential disintegration of Antarctic floating ice shelves could contribute to increased ice flow from inland glaciers, and a resulting rise in global sea levels.

The presentation took place in Brussels on the evening of October 3rd, during a gala dinner celebrating ten years of achievements by the International Polar Foundation, of which HRH Prince Philippe is Honorary President.

Dr. Reinhard Drews, based at the Laboratoire de Glaciologie, at Université Libre de Bruxelles, was recognised by the InBev-Baillet Latour Antarctica Fellowship Committee for his [2] submission “Be:Wise -The Buttressing Effect: Why ice shelves are essential” which aims to improve understanding of ice-shelf flow dynamics [3] by focusing on the buttressing role of ice rises and pinning points – small offshore mountains which support Antarctic ice shelves from underneath [4].

Drews is studying the flow dynamics of the Roi Baudouin ice-shelf, which buttresses ice flow from East-Antarctica’s ice sheet. His project is expected to provide important insights into the rapid fluctuations of historical ice discharges, and provide data for improving capacity of ice-flow models, in order to better forecast the balance of the Antarctic ice sheet mass balance in a warming world.

“The InBev-Baillet Latour Antarctica Fellowship is a great opportunity for young researchers to carry out important scientific work in Antarctica”, said Drews. “Thanks to the Fellowship, I will now be able to carry out fieldwork along the Antarctic coast, where I hope to learn more about how grounded features enclosed by the ice shelf - such as ice rises and pinning points - buttress the ice sheet” [4].

A joint initiative between the International Polar Foundation [5] and the InBev-Baillet Latour Fund [6], with the support of the Scientific Committee on Antarctic Research (SCAR) [7], the InBev-Baillet Latour Antarctica Fellowship promotes science and scientific excellence in Antarctica by young scientists under 35. The fellowship recognises the importance of science carried out in Antarctica for improving the understanding of the Earth system, and encourages scientific research at, or close to Princess Elisabeth Antarctica polar research station [8].

“It as clear to us that Reinhard Drews is the deserving recipient of this year’s InBev-Baillet Latour Antarctica Fellowship– we were impressed by both the scientific relevance and excellence of his project”, said fellowship committee member and International Polar Foundation President Alain Hubert. “We are delighted to support Reinhard’s future Antarctic endeavours, which will close significant gaps that currently exist in our understanding of the Antarctic ice sheet”.

To begin fieldwork on the Be:Wise project, Reinhard Drews will travel to the Princess Elisabeth Antarctica polar research station in November 2012, where he will spend three weeks working at the Antarctic ice sheet’s coastal grounding line Antarctic coast, around 170km north of the station.

“Reinhard Drew’s ambitious project embodies the spirit of the InBev-Baillet Latour Antarctic Fellowship, by taking on a challenging and important area of natural science with a serious social context”, said Alain De Waele, General Secretary InBev-Baillet Latour Fund. “With a continuing need to inform global policy on climate and sustainable development, the support of such high quality research is a driving factor for polar research.”

Contacts

Dave Walsh
Media Officer
International Polar Foundation
+32 493 140 966, dwalsh@polarfoundation.org

Ellen De Wilde
Interel 402 PR - Public Relations
InBev-Baillet Latour Fund
+32 2 761 66.65, ellen.dewilde@interel402pr.be

Notes to Editors

Biography: Reinhard Drews was born in Tübingen, Germany, in 1981. He received the Diploma degree in physics from the University of Bremen, Germany, in 2007. After finishing his Ph.D. at the Alfred Wegener Institute in Germany he started his Post-Doc at the Laboratoire de Glaciologie, Université Libre de Bruxelles, Belgium. His research interest focuses around the combination of satellite and ground-based radar data with numerical ice-sheet models.

[1] Bringing together the aims of the InBev-Baillet Latour Fund, the International Polar Foundation and the Scientific Committee on Antarctic Research (SCAR) to promote science and scientific excellence in Antarctica, and in recognition of the important role of the scientific activity carried out in the Polar Regions in understanding the Earth, the InBev-Baillet Latour Antarctica Fellowship encourages scientific research activity at or in the vicinity of the Princess Elisabeth Antarctica polar research station.

The Fellowship is open to applications from young scientists anywhere in the world, offering an opportunity to contribute scientifically to the body of Antarctic Research, in an area of the continent that has been little explored to date.

The Fellowship makes an important contribution by encouraging young scientists to enter a challenging and important area of natural science, with a serious social context.  The need to inform policy with regard to climate and sustainable development with high quality research continues to be a driving factor for polar research.

The InBev-Baillet Latour Antarctica Fellowship Committee believes that by bringing new minds and new perspectives into this arena will encourage future scientists while addressing policy needs, building competences and promoting scientific excellence.

Fellowship Committee Members:

  • Baron Jan Huyghebaert, President, InBev-Baillet Latour Fund
  • Alain De Waele, General Secretary, InBev-Baillet Latour Fund
  • Alain Hubert, expedition leader, Belgian Antarctic Research Expedition – BELARE
  • Nighat Amin, Vice-President, International Affairs, International Polar Foundation
  • Prof. Dr. Hugo Decleir, Professor emeritus Vrije Universiteit Brussel, Member of the IPF Board
  • Prof. Dr. André Berger, Professor emeritus Université catholique de Louvain, Member of the IPF Board
  • Dr. Mike Sparrow, Executive Director, Scientific Committee on Antarctic Research (replaced by Dr. Renuka Badhe, Executive Officer, for the evaluation of 2012 applications)
  • Prof. Dr. Jörn Thiede, St. Petersburg State University, President of the Jury

Members of the Jury:

Jury President:  Prof. Dr. Jorn Thiede, St. Petersburg State University (Russian Federation)

Microbiology

  • Prof. Dr. John C. Priscu, Montana University (United States)
  • Dr. Ad Huiskes, Nederlands Instituut voor Ecologie (The Netherlands)
  • Dr. Zorigto Namsaraev, Winogradsky Institute of Microbiology of Russian Academy of Science

Glaciology

  • Prof. Dr. Eric Wolff, British Antarctic Survey (United Kingdom)
  • Dr. Olav Orheim, GRID-Arendal (Norway)
  • Dr. Valérie Masson-Delmotte, Laboratoire des Sciences du Climat et de l'Environnement (France)

Geology

  • Prof. Dr. Jerónimo López-Martinez, Universidad Autónoma de Madrid  (Spain)
  • Dr. Colin Summerhayes, Scott Polar Research Institute (United Kingdom)
  • Dr. Fred Davey, GNS Science (New Zealand)
  • Dr. Detlef Damaske, Federal Institute for Geosciences and Natural Resources (Germany)

[2] Reinhard Drews’ Be:Wise project proposal suggests two four-week long field campaigns on the Roi Baudouin ice shelf during two Antarctic seasons, examining the ice-dynamical role of grounded features, which are enclosed by the ice shelf, and which buttress the ice flow from the East-Antarctic ice sheet. Since almost three quarters of the Antarctic ice sheet boundary is in contact with the ocean, this case study is expected to contribute to the overall understanding of the Antarctic mass balance.

The Roi Baudouin ice shelf is confined by two ice rises with a local flow regime, and two pinning-points with a width of only a few kilometres; the latter seems to define the seaward edge of the ice shelf and impact ice-flow in the hinterland.

The project aims to investigate the connection between the flow-dynamics of the ice shelf with the locally grounded counterparts, by combining satellite remote sensing with on-site ground-penetrating radar and GPS measurements. The project also envisages geophysical parameters such as strain-rates, internal ice properties, surface velocities and characteristics of the bedrock interface. Preliminary studies indicate that the pinning-points of the Roi Baudouin ice shelf become partially afloat during high tide. Therefore, satellite images can be analysed which directly measure the effect of a de- and re-attachment from an ice shelf to a pinning point. This, and the proximity to the Princess Elisabeth station which enables on-site field measurements, make the Roi Baudouin ice shelf a unique field site for a case study, as it delivers important insight into the operation of the buttressing effect.

Larger-scale effect of ice-shelf buttressing, in terms of grounding-line migration and/or in terms of controlling the mass flux from the grounded ice sheet, are not fully understood. However, since the contact area between the ice shelf and local highs in bedrock elevation is susceptible to changing ocean characteristics, it is important to quantify this buttressing effect, in order to evaluate whether or not it is a key to understand rapid (~ centennial ) variations in ice-sheet geometry.

Since the ice-sheet mass balance is tightly linked to the overall sea level, this will help to better explain sea-level variations in the past and eventually contribute to forecasting the sea level rise in a warming world.

[3] Ice flows from the centre of the Antarctic ice sheet towards its periphery. At the coast, the ice can extend over the ocean, forming an ice shelf: a floating platform of ice. Ice shelves are of particular interest to scientists because they provide an interface for the interaction of ice and ocean.

[4] Pinning points are formed by isolated mountains which are situated off-shore, and which attach to the ice-shelf from below. This induces a back-force, which slows down (or buttresses) the otherwise frictionless ice-shelf flow. Drews will be investigating how potential de and re-attachment from an ice-shelf to a pinning point influences the dynamic of inland ice.

[5] Based in Brussels, Belgium, the International Polar Foundation communicates and educates on polar science and polar research as a way to understand key environmental and climate mechanisms, and is the operator of Princess Elisabeth Antarctic polar research station.

The International Polar Foundation supports polar scientific research for the advancement of knowledge, the promotion of informed action on climate change, and the development of a sustainable society.

[6] The InBev-Baillet Latour Fund is the result of joint efforts by the Comte Alfred de Baillet Latour and Belgium’s Artois Breweries in Belgium. In 1974, the Comte Baillet Latour created the fund, by donating his shareholding in Artois Breweries to the Fund, which according to his own words:

“The association shall financially reward and encourage accomplishments of high human value in the social, cultural, scientific, artistic, technical, sporting, educational or philanthropic fields, in the form of prizes, scholarships, trips, grants, or any other form of recognition, and have no political, trade union, philosophical or religious affiliations.”

[7] SCAR’s mission is to advance and promote scientific knowledge, understanding and education on any aspect of the Antarctic region, on the role of the Antarctic region in the Earth system and on the effect of global change on the Antarctic region. SCAR initiates, facilitates, co-ordinates and encourages international research activity in the Antarctic region, on the role of the Antarctic region in the Earth System, and on the effect of global change on the Antarctic region.

[8] The Zero Emission Princess Elisabeth Antarctica polar research station flies the flag of Belgium, and is operated by the International Polar Foundation. The station is located in the Sør Rondane Mountain Range, Dronning Maud Land, East-Antarctica. The station lies at 71° 57' S and 23° 20' E, 220 km due South from the edge of the ice shelf.

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