Tag Archives: Antarctica

Antarctica atmosphere

Antarctic expedition to seek natural atmosphere cleanser in the ice sheet

The elusive molecule would help to cleanse the atmosphere of greenhouse gases and ozone depleting chemicals.

This molecule is the hydroxyl radical and it is often called ‘the detergent of the atmosphere’.

The expedition has departed from Australia’s Casey research station and travelled 125 km to Law Dome which rises to an elevation of 1400 m on the Antarctic coast.

The expeditioners will be in this remote site, living in tents, for nearly three months as they drill 250 m into the ice. Ice cores from this depth contain air, trapped in bubbles, that dates from around 1850 AD.

The hydroxyl radical is a naturally occurring, highly reactive molecule that plays an important role in the atmosphere as a natural air purifier by destroying greenhouse gases and ozone depleting chemicals.

However, we have no knowledge of hydroxyl levels beyond the last five decades, leaving a huge gap in our understanding.

ANSTO’s Dr Andrew Smith is part of the ten member expedition team and said the aim of the expedition is to determine the earlier atmospheric history of the hydroxyl radical, back to around 1850 AD.

“This is an exciting collaboration, which has been four years in the planning and will provide important knowledge to better understand our warming planet,” Dr Smith said.

“In order to study the hydroxyl radical beyond the instrumental record we must use naturally occurring radiocarbon.

“ANSTO’s Centre for Accelerator Science is one of the few laboratories in the world that can make these very challenging measurements.”

The scientists are travelling to Law Dome because it provides the special conditions needed for their research. The very high snowfall traps air quickly and preserves it as bubbles in the ice for millennia.

After the ice cores are collected and melted, the liberated air will be shipped to the University of Rochester to separate the trace gases carbon monoxide and methane.

Once separated, the gases are converted to carbon dioxide which is sealed in glass tubes and delivered to ANSTO. Here it is converted into graphite and measured for radiocarbon in ANSTO’s Centre for Accelerator Science.

The expedition is a US-Australian collaborative project titled ‘Reconstructing Carbon-14 of Carbon Monoxide to Constrain Long-Term Atmospheric Hydroxyl Variability’, led by CSIRO atmospheric scientist Dr David Etheridge and University of Rochester scientist, Dr Vas Petrenko.

Originally published by ANSTO.

WA women join Antarctic leadership mission

Featured image above: women in sustainability head to Antarctica

A group of female scientists from Western Australia are preparing to embark on a leadership voyage to Antarctica.

The eight local researchers are among 78 women from around the world taking part in Homeward Bound, a 20-day trip that aims to enhance the influence and impact of women in science, and ensure the sustainability of our planet.

One of the youngest participants, PhD student Sandra Kerbler from the ARC Centre of Excellence in Plant Energy Biology at UWA, says she is passionate about women in science and the improving gender inequality they experience.

“Only 10 to 15 per cent of top level scientists are women so there’s not very many of us, and it’s become more and more apparent how prevalent that is as I’ve been going through my studies,” she says.

“I find this really discouraging and I want to be able to fix it in some way.”

Among those joining Kerbler on the voyage—including a potentially hairy crossing of the Drake Passage—are Curtin University sustainability researcher Samantha Hall and SciTech Aboriginal education program coordinator Kathleen Patrick.

Hall says she believes women are often more attracted to sustainability.

“I really think that an integral step to bringing the planet back to being healthy and sustainable is that we need more involvement of women’s voices, and we have to make those voices heard,” she says.

“That was really the brief for Homeward Bound, it was ‘how do we get these voices at the leadership table’.”

Hall, who is a co-founder of Simply Carbon, says finding ways to overcome self-doubt and lack of confidence could help translate more women’s ideas into action, particularly in the start-up and innovation space.

Patrick says the most exciting thing about the expedition for her is the opportunity to network with the other women involved.

“I love meeting other people who are doing similar and different things in other parts of the world, sharing knowledge…and also borrowing ideas and tapping into other people’s programs,” she says.

“For me it’s [about] meeting 77 other women who are kicking goals in their respective fields.”

Ms Kerbler says she is looking forward to doing something she had never even dreamed of before.

“Going to the end of the world is definitely a big highlight for me, learning more about the strategy and leadership skills I’ll need to continue on in science and hopefully make myself a bit more competitive when it comes to my scientific career,” she says.

– Michelle Wheeler

This article about women in sustainability was first published by ScienceNetwork WA on 30 September 2016. Read the original article here.