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Sophomore Geology Major
Headed for Antarctica

 MAILED:  March 30, 2004

EAU CLAIRE — April 12 is circled in red for University of Wisconsin-Eau Claire sophomore Josh Kinsman.

That’s the day Kinsman, a geology major from La Valle, leaves for a once-in-a-lifetime voyage and a chance to participate in a marine geology research project to find out why the Antarctic Peninsula is warming faster than other parts of the world.

Kinsman will join a National Science Foundation-funded research cruise to the Weddell Sea, Antarctica, the site of the famed Ernest Shackleton voyage, one of the most incredible tales of human survival against all odds. Kinsman is one of seven students and seven faculty members from the United States and Canada chosen for the expedition, which is headed by Dr. Eugene Domack, professor of geology at Hamilton College in New York.

Domack, who taught at UW-Eau Claire for one year before joining Hamilton College, has 25 years of Antarctic research experience, the last 15 in the Peninsula region. He is interested in understanding the natural record of environmental variability locked in glacial marine sediments in fjords and inner coastal basins on both sides of the Peninsula. He is currently investigating the paleorecord of Antarctica’s disintegrating ice shelves.

Kinsman said the chance to join this year’s expedition came about when Domack asked UW-Eau Claire geology professor Kent Syverson to recommend a student for this year’s expedition.

Syverson said he recommended Kinsman, who grew up on a dairy farm, because he’s intelligent and knows the meaning of hard work.

“Eugene Domack’s research program requires individuals who are willing and able to learn new things in a short time,” Syverson said. “The cruise schedule allows Josh to perform high-quality field work and still leave his summer open for working on the family farm.”

“I’m very excited about the expedition. It’s a once-in-a-lifetime chance and a great opportunity to learn,” Kinsman said. “We’ll be taking core samples of the ocean floor and setting sediment traps along the ice shelf.”

The research team will be on board the Gould, an ice-strengthened vessel leased to the National Science Foundation to support re-supply and marine research in the Antarctic Peninsula region, from April 18-May 10. Researchers will issue daily reports, including photographs, by e-mail and fax.

The expedition will be a crash course on marine geology for Kinsman. It will expose him to cutting-edge research. Besides learning about new technologies and how sediment traps are placed on the sea floor, he will learn how geochemistry, sedimentology and paleontology are used to establish the ages of sediment and how scientists seek to answer complicated geologic questions, Syverson said.

“Ultimately the work that Josh and his fellow crew members perform will be used to evaluate fairly recent climatic change and its impact on the Antarctic Ice Sheet,” Syverson said. “Such information is important because complete melting of the Antarctic and Greenland Ice Sheets would raise sea level by approximately 60 meters and flood many of the world’s largest cities.”

Syverson expects the trip also might help Kinsman, who has a 3.7 grade point average, determine what interests him most in the field of geology. At the time, he is undecided about going on to graduate school or working in industry.

“Certainly this Antarctic cruise and the research project he performs in the geology department once he returns will open the door for research funding at top-tier graduate schools,” said Syverson, noting that the UW-Eau Claire geology department is nationally known for providing high-quality research projects for its majors. This summer, for example, students will be working on projects in British Columbia, Manitoba, Colorado, Maine and Wisconsin.

More information about Antarctica 2004 is available on Hamilton College’s Web site, Kinsman’s e-mail address is:


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Updated: March 30, 2004