Shutdown could ruin years of Antarctic research

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More than 10 years of planning.

$10 Million of government funding and tireless work from the team that discovered life in a lake buried beneath an Antarctic glacier earlier this year may largely go to waste because of the government shutdown.

The WISSARD drilling program — a collaborative effort of 14 principal investigators including glaciologists, geophysicists, microbiologists and others from nine institutions across the country — is one of the largest programs ever fielded by the U.S. Antarctic Program.

The team consists of more than 50 scientists, graduate students and support staff members, who aim to explore the underbelly of the west Antarctic Ice Sheet,  a flowing mass of ice about the size of France — in order to study its dynamics and improve models that predict its melting rate. If it were to melt completely, the ice sheet would increase average global sea level by between 10 to 16 feet (3 to 5 meters).

The National Science Foundation funded WISSARD in 2009 with stimulus money, providing enough resources to complete two field seasons during the Southern Hemisphere.

The National Science foundation announced this week, “that it would cancel its entire research program until the shutdown ends, jeopardizing the entire second half of the WISSARD program.

“So many people put in their time, their passion into making sure that this happens. It takes a lot of professional, dedicated work.”


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