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Collaborative Research: EAGER: Processing, Interpretation and Dissemination of the Proof-of-Concept Transient Electromagnetic Survey of the McMurdo Dry Valleys Region - NSF award 1344349

Intellectual Merit: The MCM-SkyTEM project mapped resistivity in the McMurdo Dry Valleys and at Cape Barne on the Ross Island during the 2011-12 austral season using an airborne transient electromagnetic method. The SkyTEM system is mounted to a helicopter enabling a broad geophysical survey of subsurface resistivity structure over terrain that is inaccessible to traditional ground-based methods. Resistivity measurements obtained distinguish between highly resistive geologic materials such as glacier ice, bedrock and permafrost, and conductive materials such as unfrozen sediments or permafrost with liquid brine to depths of about 300 m. The PIs request funding to derive data products relevant to physical and chemical conditions in potential subsurface microbial habitats of the McMurdo Dry Valleys, similar cold regions on Earth and other planetary bodies. They will use these data products to characterize the hydrologic history of McMurdo Dry Valleys as well as the subsurface hydrologic connectivity in the region to investigate the implications for nutrient and microbial transport. The PIs will make these data products accessible to the research community. Broader impacts: Polar microbial habitats are of high societal and scientific interest because they represent important testing grounds for the limits of life on Earth and other planetary bodies. Project deliverables will include teaching aids for undergraduate and graduate students. Two Ph.D. students will obtain advanced research training as part of this project. The PIs and students on this project will also engage in informal public outreach opportunities by presenting at local K-12 schools and reaching out to local media outlets on stories relating to SkyTEM research.

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