Taku Glacier is a tidewater glacier located southeast of Juneau, Alaska. From 2014 to 2016, it was the subject of a comprehensive monitoring project that documented some of the quickly evolving processes on the formerly advancing glacier. Jenna Zechmann first set foot on Taku Glacier in 2011 when she participated in the Juneau Icefield Research Program. “After that, I knew I wanted to study glaciers,” she says. Today, she is a Ph.D. student at the University of Alaska Fairbanks looking through the Taku Glacier passive seismic data for icequakes.
The timing, magnitude, and location of the icequakes will tell her something about how Taku Glacier moves over and interacts with its soft-sediment bed. Her research will “helps us learn more about how tidewater glaciers work, so we can better predict sea-level rise.” The huge glaciers in West Antarctica are likely to be the primary contributors to sea-level rise. These glaciers are tidewater glaciers on soft sediment beds, just like Taku Glacier. By "studying how Taku Glacier moves over its sediments (using icequakes), we can improve our understanding of the West Antarctic tidewater glaciers,” Jenna explains.
While Jenna has ample fieldwork experience, she says, “the data for this project is already collected, so everything from here on is computer-based.” That doesn’t mean that the COVID-19 pandemic hasn’t had an impact on her work. She had planned to travel to Central Washington University to collaborate with Paul Winberry, who collected the seismic data. It would have been an opportunity for her to get some firsthand insights into the passive seismic data and more experience using Antelope, an online seismology data network and analysis tool. Instead, they will “probably be meeting remotely,” she says.
Preliminary analysis of the 2014-2016 Taku Glacier active seismic data revealed some unexpected results—the bed of Taku Glacier is not exclusively soft marine deposits, as the glaciologists thought. This kind of finding motivates Jenna. “The most exciting part of my work is doing data analysis and learning something about a glacier that is not what you were anticipating. Then you know you are doing real science.” - Kim Morris
Name: Jenna Zechmann, Professor
Institution: University of Alaska Fairbanks
Mentor: Martin Truffer, firstname.lastname@example.org
Award: Graduate Student, Research Grant
Funding Period: 2020 to 2021