New grant aims to create a global workforce with ice core explorations of Earth’s past climate

Geosciences at Oregon State University have received a five-year, highly competitive $4.4 million grant from the National Science Foundation (NSF) to contribute to the creation a global workforce that understands and works toward impeding climate change. According to NSF, creating an international workforce is becoming “ increasingly indispensable in addressing many critical science and engineering problems.”

Professor of Geology, Ed Brook, is at the helm as the lead Principal Investigator to head an international consortium in developing ice core exploration technology that will provide a better understanding of past climate than ever before. Working with 12 other institutions, the program may ultimately provide a continuous view of Earth’s climate for the past 800,000 years, based upon analysis of dust and trace gases found in ancient ice cores taken from Antarctica and Greenland.

The new program also has a major educational component, including support for a cohort of postdoctoral scholars in the U.S., and undergraduate and graduate students. A number of the student positions will be at OSU, including two postdoctoral students, two or three graduate students and four or more undergraduate students.

“We hope for this program to contribute to OSU’s commitment to research experiences for undergraduate students,” Brook said. “When you can send an undergrad to Greenland to do original field research, it can have an enormous impact on their interest in pursuing careers in science, and continued polar exploration.” These are the types of activities that encourage U.S. students and researchers to open their horizons by collaborating with scholars from other countries to address such critical issues.

Understanding the past, Brook said, should provide insights into how current or projected levels of greenhouse gases will affect Earth’s future climate. Of particular interest and importance is understanding the impact of greenhouse gases on global climate at times in the distant past, how climate changes may have created greenhouse gases, and developing faster, more sensitive and deployable instruments.

The grant is supported by the Office of International Science and Engineering and the Office of Polar Programs at the National Science Foundation, through the Partnerships in International Research and Education program. Fewer than 3 percent of the proposals were funded.

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