PSC Investigator Matthew Alkire Awarded 2012-13 Fulbright U.S Scholar Grant

“I typically think of my own work as a small cog in an otherwise very large and complex machine.”– M. Alkire

PSC Investigator Matthew Alkire was recently awarded a 2012-13 Fulbright U.S Scholar Grant for his proposal titled, “Using sea ice cores to investigate the influence of glacial meltwater in surface waters of Kongsfjorden.” Inspired by Robie Macdonald and others (1995) work, and encouraged by Dr. Frank Nielsen, Alkire applied to the Fulbright U.S Scholar Grant becoming one of the 1,100 American scholars conducting research through the grant. The purpose of this grant is to create relations with other countries and their governments through scientific and cultural scholarship. Alkire says, “ I typically think of my own work as a small cog in an otherwise very large and complex machine.  As scientists, we try to answer questions regarding a specific process or system that will improve our basic understanding of that process or system.” Alkire’s project will test new methodology in the detection of glacial melt and provide insight to conditions of the Canadian Archipelago and Greenland ice cap’s rapid liquidification speed.

Previously,accurate estimates of glacial meltwater in-situ are complicated by the release of brine during sea ice formation in the Arctic and subarctic seas. Alkire proposes to collect sea ice cores containing glacial meltwater, which will remove the seawater brine. Thus, the seawater brine no longer poses a problem in detection as it did in the traditional method.  In order to do so, Alkire will travel to Kongsfjorden, Norway. “Kongsfjorden is such a place and happens to be located quite close to the marine research station at Ny-Ålesund.” says Alkire. Alkire’s team will also be collaborating with students from University Centre in Svalbard (UNIS), and researchers from the North Pole Environmental Observatory led by Polar Science Center Principal Investigator Dr. Jamie Morison.

Before this current project, Alkire also did work on freshwater pathways and content, including a trip to Prudhoe Bay, Alaska. “It felt like an adventure and I never really wanted to do anything else.  I just love the work – the discovery, the understanding, and the feeling of contribution that goes along with trying to help understand such a complex system.” said Alkire. Alkire plans to share this dedication by giving students from UNIS the chance to join him in the field. “With Dr. Nilsen’s help, I plan to offer students the chance to help me collect samples in the field, process samples in the laboratory, analyze data, and publish the results. I’ll encourage students to get involved as much or as little as they feel comfortable.” says Alkire.

This pilot project to collect ice cores will contribute critical information on the status of glacial melting rates; as well as providing an alternative to traditional methodology which cannot be used as it obscures seawater collections rather than detecting it. Alkire says, “There are still some obvious complications to work out, such as the presence of both river  runoff and glacial melt in the ice, but this pilot study is starting with the simplest case to prove the concept. If all goes well, I think we can incorporate additional chemical tracers to refine the method further.”

Congratulations Matthew!