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MEREDITH KELLY ASSOCIATE PROFESSOR OF EARTH SCIENCE

It seems like you and your students are always traversing the globe, from Greenland to Peru to Uganda. Well, we go where the glaciers are. We’re working to unearth knowledge of past changes in climate over the centuries to advance our understanding of the mechanisms that are causing climate change today. One key to that knowledge is glaciers. Glaciers have been around for millennia but are shrinking because of warming temperatures. My own work is to figure out how their size has changed in the past and when these changes happened so that we can track times of warming and cooling.

ories to Tell

Wait a minute, glaciers in Uganda? You bet. My students and I are studying tropical glaciers in the Rwenzori Mountains in Uganda. It’s an unusual place. At 16,000+ feet in eastern equatorial Africa, the mountains are glaciated and look a lot like the Swiss Alps, but they are covered with tropical vegetation and inhabited by wildlife such as forest elephants. We meet up with a team of experienced guides and porters at a tiny village a six-hour drive from the Ugandan capital of Kampala. Together, we form a tight-knit community, moving and working as one throughout the mountains. Both undergraduate and graduate students have participated in these expeditions and have conducted their own significant research projects. Tell me something I don’t know about climate change. Well … while many people know that El Niño causes regional climate effects, these events can influence warming of the entire planet by nearly 1°C. This tells us that events in the tropics can significantly influence global climate conditions. Do you miss these exotic locales when you’re back at Dartmouth? No. Dartmouth is pretty exotic itself. Occom Pond, for example. It’s the most serene spot you can imagine. People go running around it, and skate on it in winter. My three-year-old loves it — especially the marshmallows they roast over the fire provided by the Dartmouth Outing Club on the edge of the pond. And not to be outdone by Ugandan glaciers, we’ve recently extracted sediments from below Occom and discovered that they date back 13,000 years. Oh the tales those sediments tell! You’re stuck in an elevator. What book do you want to be able to pull out of your bag? South: The Endurance Expedition by Ernest Shackleton, which catalogued his pioneering trip to Antarctica. It never fails to remind me that whatever the conditions I’m experiencing in the field, Shackleton had it worse.

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Profile for Dartmouth Admissions

3D Magazine :: 2017 NOV  

3D is Dartmouth's undergraduate admissions magazine, celebrating a vibrant community framed by nature, with challenging and welcoming profes...

3D Magazine :: 2017 NOV  

3D is Dartmouth's undergraduate admissions magazine, celebrating a vibrant community framed by nature, with challenging and welcoming profes...