BiancaName: Bianca Kallenberg

Position: PhD Student, Research School of Earth Sciences, Australian National University

Area of study: Geophysics

Project: Modelling of the Antarctic ice sheet using geodetic techniques – Implications for mass balance

What does that mean??

With a total of 30 million cubic kilometres of ice, the Antarctic ice sheet is the largest fresh water reservoir on Earth and contains enough water to raise global sea level by almost 60 meters. Due to the sensitivity of ice sheets to the climate, mass balance changes are of significant interest, especially these days. Variations in mass are mainly driven by changes in surface mass (ice gain/loss), but are also a result of crustal movement that occurs as a consequence of glacial isostatic adjustment (the Earth’s crust responding to surface load variations).

Due to extreme climatic conditions it is very hard to undertake significant on-site sampling in Antarctica and geodetic observations are a useful tool to obtain scientific data. Variations in ice height and ice mass can be detected by satellites such as ICESat (altimetry) and GRACE (gravity), though, the cause of detected variations can’t be determined by the satellite and needs to be separated by scientists. Stationary GPS stations installed on bedrock, on the other hand, measure elevation changes directly and thus deliver data on crustal movements. The problem here: find an ice-free spot that is accessible and manage to set up a station under extreme conditions.

Anyway, back to what I’m doing. I am focusing on using geodetic observations that have been obtained by different space missions, to combine this information and to estimate current ice mass balance variations by separating the possible causes.

How did I get here?

I have always been fascinated by nature, climate and space. I had to decide what I liked the most and subsequently became a Geophysicist. During my study I heard a few lectures on observing ice, using satellites, and really enjoyed that topic. When I searched for possible PhD projects I found my topic advertised and have been lucky enough to attain a scholarship at ANU. I have to admit, another aspect was the hope to get a chance to go on a field trip to Antarctica…

Where will I go?

Well, right now I’m actually getting ready to go to Antarctica. After my return I will have to spend a fair bit of time (and sweat) on finishing my PhD, which is due by September next year. After my PhD, I would like to continue my research here at ANU if there is a possibility, but who knows.