Hometown: Champaign, Ill.
Liz spent five weeks from July 10 to Aug. 14 near the North Pole where she studied glaciers alongside some of the world’s top polar scientists. The trip was part of the Research Experiences for Undergraduates program funded by the National Science Foundation.
How Liz’s research trip to the top of the world came about: I have to do a senior thesis that requires first-hand research. I found four or five trips I wanted to apply for, but this one sounded amazing. It seemed so far away from everything else and still pristine since few people get to visit there. There’s still a lot of glaciers there, and I’m interested in studying them.
Why she went: Glaciers in Svalbard (a Norwegian island territory) are shrinking and retreating due to global warming. Many glaciers end in the ocean where they release large quantities of sediment. My project looks at the distribution of sediment from the Kronebreen glacier. Analyzing the sediment generated by glacial retreat is key to predicting the effects of global warming.
On the value of a good pair of sunglasses: It was sunny all the time – it would never set. It starts in the East and makes a circle in the sky so you could tell what time of the day it was based on where it was in the sky. It was really challenging at first to sleep. I just had to calm myself down and tell myself it was time to sleep.
The most fun part of the trip: Being out on the water every day collecting data and getting to know my colleagues. Learning how to drive the different boats, using all the equipment, meeting scientists from all over the world who are interested in polar research, and spending time in such a remote, beautiful place.
How Beloit – and Hawaii – prepared her for her arctic adventure: I already had a lot of research and field experience so I felt I had a solid background in doing field work and knowing how to travel and live with others for extended periods of time in the wilderness. (Liz traveled to Wyoming for a five-week summer class in 2009 to map and interpret geological structures, and she went to Hawaii last May to study the steam vents near a volcano.) I just want to thank the geology department for requiring so many different research experiences because it really prepares us for these programs and graduate research.
When she’s not studying geology, what else does she do at Beloit: I am also involved in varsity women’s soccer, Theta Pi Gamma, Mortar Board, Geology Club, and BUFF.
Why she chose Beloit College: I wanted to go to a small liberal arts college, and when I visited everyone seemed really excited and enthusiastic about learning, succeeding, and taking advantage of all the opportunities. I just really liked it.