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GPR Expert Harry Jol
Joins Research Team in Antarctica

RELEASED: Jan. 16, 2007

Harry Jol
Harry Jol

EAU CLAIRE — University of Wisconsin-Eau Claire professor of geography and anthropology Harry Jol recently returned from an international research project in Antarctica, where he used his expertise in ground penetrating radar to investigate the internal structure of the sand dunes in the Victoria Valley sector of the Antarctica Dry Valleys.

Jol was asked to join a team of four international researchers, led by Paul Augustinus, School of Geography, Geology and Environmental Science, University of Auckland, New Zealand, and Charlie Bristow, School of Earth Sciences, Birbeck University of London, U.K.

Jol flew to Scott Base, New Zealand's Antarctic research facility, in late 2006. After undergoing training and orientation, researchers flew by helicopter over McMurdo ice shelf and sound to Victoria Valley, where they camped for 2 weeks to conduct their work.

"We looked at the internal layering of the dunes and took samples to find the date of sand within the dunes," Jol said. "We were able to see into the dunes tens of meters deep, which we did not expect. We were stunned to find that the thickness of the sand and orientation of the layering were different than anyone thought, which changes the interpretation of the area."

The results will lead to increased understanding of the formation of cold climate dunes and help to interpret dunes of similar morphology on Mars, Jol said.

Few people have ever seen the Dry Valleys, where there is no animal or plant life — just snow, ice and glacially deposited rocky debris.

"It's a unique, isolated place to do research," Jol said, adding that the Antarctica New Zealand research program is a tribute to New Zealand's commitment to advancing knowledge, appreciation and conservation of Antarctica and the Southern Ocean.

"Their logistical support for research is impressive and we (university) should look at this as a model on how to create high quality research opportunities for faculty/staff and students," he said.

Antarctica NZ and the University of Auckland provided a majority of the funding for the project. Jol received additional funding from UW-Eau Claire's Provost's Office, Office of Research and Sponsored Programs, College of Arts and Science and the department of geography and anthropology.

Jol will discuss the Antarctica research trip at the Earth Science Seminar Series at 4 p.m. Jan. 26 in Room 281 of Phillips Science Hall.

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JW/JB

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