From Greenland to Antarctica via Dunedin

Maren in Greenland photo taken by Janin Schaffer
17 July 2019

University of Otago student Maren Richter’s research has taken her to some of the least tropical places on the planet, and Antarctica is next on her list.

She has just been awarded an Antarctica New Zealand Sir Robin Irvine Doctoral Scholarship to study sea ice temperatures in McMurdo Sound.

Her research looks at sea ice and ocean temperatures from the Sound, going back more than 20 years.

Maren says the temperature is measured by probes containing electrical resistance sensors.

“How it works is that a hole is drilled in the sea ice and we let the probe, which is a long steel or plastic tube with sensors, freeze in vertically. The top section measures the sea ice and the bottom hangs into the ocean,” she says

The idea is to build a picture of what is happening with sea ice temperatures in McMurdo Sound to see if there are patterns, if what is happening in recent years is part of a normal cycle, or an indication of further change.

Maren, an oceanographer, became interested in sea ice when she studied glaciology. Studying sea ice in McMurdo Sound is the perfect mix of both because sea ice in McMurdo Sounds can be affected by water properties in the Ross Sea.

“I do like to keep one foot in the water,” she says.

Antarctica New Zealand Acting Chief Scientific Advisor Dr Fiona Shanhun says the research contributes to the understanding of an important long-term data set.

“Working with some of New Zealand’s leading sea ice researchers, Maren will help interpret McMurdo Sound’s sea ice dynamics in a warming world,” she says.

Maren heads down to Antarctica in November. Her University of Otago research supervisors are Dr Inga Smith, Dr Greg Leonard and Professor Pat Langhorne.


Photo: Maren in Greenland, taken by Janin Schaffer

For more information please contact

Antarctica New Zealand Communications Advisor

Georgia Nelson

021 530 769