Imagine tracing the effects of climate change on Antarctica's
ice sheet going back at least 5 million years.
State University graduate student Cristina Millan did just that
for a project called ANDRILL, drilling into the rock for 12-hour
shifts while others worked on dating the samples.
The findings from the project, which involves scientists, students
and educators from Germany, Italy, New Zealand, the United Kingdom
and United States, have implications in other areas, including
climate change, and in Millan's particular type of research, plate
tectonics and earthquake behavior as well, she said.
"I have always been interested in the workings of the Earth," she explained. "As kids, everyone likes volcanoes and earthquakes. As you get older, you learn more about how mountains and the Grand Canyon formed. All these processes are fascinating to me."
Life at McMurdo station in Antarctica, before Millan reached the drilling site, had most of the activities of home -- music, movies, sports, yoga and ballet. "It's a little surreal because you're so far away from everything," she said, so the station did its best to keep visitors entertained.
The 24 hours of sunlight characteristic of Antarctica's summer -- during the United States' winter -- took some getting used to, said Millan. The rooms had heavy curtains lined with plastic to block out the light.
Millan worked the "night" shift from 8 p.m. to 8 a.m. The all-day sun maximized the time to drill, which was intensive -- not only did researchers have to take advantage of the weather but the ice sheet was moving, and them along with it, away from the drilling hole.
"To me, the science has been unbelievable; the fact that people from four different countries are working together," she said. "And the place is just beautiful."