Arctic Geophysics Field Research Overview

Radford University’s professor of physics, Dr. Herman, is the instructor and coordinator of the Arctic Geophysics Field Research course. The course is an intensive ongoing research project that enables students to get real, hands on, onsite research in Barrow, Alaska. The mission is to establish whether or not a correlation between the surface temperature of Arctic Sea Ice and its thickness exists. We do this in a number of ways using a capacitively coupled resistivity array known as an OhmMapper along with electronics drills for ground truthing OhmMapper findings, and working with Arduino-based thermal sensors that collect data of the temperature of the surface and surrounding air. 

I first participated in the course as a student in Spring 2014 which was also the beginning of my research experience. I have had the opportunity to continue working in Alaska on two projects ever since. I built and deployed equipment to study the Arctic microclimate and its affect on bird nesting locations involving Arduino-based sensors recording data such as wind speed, temperature, and humidity. This research project had multidisciplinary qualities and the instruments designed gave us a new approach to the Arctic Geophysics course. How might the microclimate affect the properties of the ice? Along with continuing the research that suggests a possible correlation that can lead to better methods of studying large areas of ice. 

In Spring 2016, we will be traveling back to Barrow to grow our database as well as harness new information that may help us. It will be a pleasure to return to Barrow and be able to step hundreds of meters out onto the Arctic sea ice and close out my physics career at Radford the same way it started: studying ice!


Jesse Dodson (’14), and Sarah House (’16), drilling through the ice with an electronic drill and 2-m drill bit. Ground truthing data for the OhmMapper. (From spring 2014 trip)

Corey Roadcap (’14), and Professor Rhett Herman surveying a section of the ice with Whistler, an Arduino-based thermal sensor designed by Dan Blake. (From spring 2014 trip)

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