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It used to be that science

drove imagery. Paul Morin and the Polar Geospatial Center have turned that around. Now

–David Marchant

craft on frozen terrain often obscured from view by weather conditions. They also create detailed maps of supply routes for overland traverses, find good sites for establishing field camps, and analyze the landing sites of instrument-bearing balloons as they circumnavigate the polar regions, among other things. The services provided by PGC have not only made it easier for researchers working at the poles to do their work, it has also advanced that work’s scope and accuracy. “What researchers want is not to do [mapping] themselves,” said Michelle LaRue, a PGC biologist. “They want someone to work with them. They want collaborators.” LaRue, whose graduate degree is in zoology, cites a recent example of this collaborative approach. Researchers have been using PGC imagery to conduct a census of emperor penguins circling Antarctica. “After working on the data I saw that the same approach could be applied to seals,” she explains. She followed up by contacting University of Minnesota wildlife ecologist, Robert Garrett, who is studying Weddell seals. “I asked if they were interested in working together,” she recalls. “They said, ‘Absolutely.’” This spirit of enterprise, observes David Marchant, a professor of earth sciences at Boston University who works with the PGC in his search for clues to prehistoric climate change in the ice of Antarctica’s glaciers, places the center in a category of its own. “It used to be that science drove imagery,” he says. “Paul Morin and the Polar Geospatial Center have turned that around. Now they are creating imagery that’s driving science.” Although the Polar Geospatial Center is only five years old, its origins go back much further. More than 20 years ago Morin, then a University undergraduate and self-described “computer nerd,” was hired by University of Minnesota earth sciences faculty member David Yuen to do programming

brad herried

michelle larue

that’s driving science.

Michelle LaRue

they are creating imagery

(Top) Researchers have been using PGC imagery to conduct a census of Emperor penguins circling Antarctica. (Middle) Research fellows Claire Porter and Brad Herried, both in the Department of Earth Sciences, get a view of Mount Erebus, the second highest volcano in Antarctica. (Bottom) PGC researchers take a break to scan for seals at the Barne Glacier, which descends from the slopes of Mount Erebus and terminates on the west side of Ross Island.

winter 2012 INVENTING TOMORROW 15

Inventing Tomorrow, Winter 2012 (Vol. 36 no. 1)  

Researchers map both ends of the globe. Students use wind to power developing communities. Corporate partnerships benefit college, students,...

Inventing Tomorrow, Winter 2012 (Vol. 36 no. 1)  

Researchers map both ends of the globe. Students use wind to power developing communities. Corporate partnerships benefit college, students,...