Lab Manager | Run Your Lab Like a Business

Innovative Technology Speeds Polar Research

Environmental scientists studying the world's shrinking polar ice sheets will soon get a substantial boost in computing power thanks to Indiana University's Polar Grid Project.

Register for free to listen to this article
Listen with Speechify
0:00
5:00

Environmental scientists studying the world's shrinking polar ice sheets will soon get a substantial boost in computing power thanks to Indiana University's Polar Grid Project.

 Funded by a $1.96 million grant from the National Science Foundation (NSF), Indiana University and Polar Grid partners Elizabeth City State University (ECSU) and the NSF's Center for Remote Sensing of Ice Sheets (CReSIS), headquartered at the University of Kansas, are poised to deploy a collection of customized computational resources to Antarctica that will allow scientists to more securely and efficiently process data during polar field expeditions.

 

"The news we've seen out of Greenland and Canada in recent weeks is alarming. Scientists say ice sheets in existence for thousands of years are deteriorating rapidly and breaking apart," said Polar Grid Project principal investigator Geoffrey Fox. Fox is director of the Community Grids Lab, part of Pervasive Technology Labs at Indiana University, and also chairs the Department of Informatics at IU Bloomington. "It is critical to provide polar scientists with access to advanced computing technology during field expeditions; it will help them work more efficiently as they strive to gain a better understanding of the problems facing our planet -- and will allow them to move more quickly toward finding solutions," Fox said.

 

The equipment will be used to support an extensive research expedition expected to begin in November and running through February 2009.

 

In the past, data collected during this type of expedition could not be evaluated or processed until scientists returned to their home labs at the close of an expedition. The Polar Grid Project will help scientists in Antarctica speed the time between data collection and scientific discovery by allowing them to begin processing ice sheet data collected from sensors and aerial and surface radar while still in the field. This will allow the scientists to identify problems with data collection and adjust experiments as necessary, to ensure that each expedition yields the highest possible quality of data. The deployed equipment also provides ample data storage and backup to prevent loss and damage of irreplaceable data.

 

"One of the biggest challenges was determining how to keep very sophisticated computing equipment safe and functional in harsh weather conditions," said Matt Link, director of Systems for University Information Technology Services' Research Technologies division. Link manages the IU team that assembled the Polar Grid equipment. "We had to work directly with manufacturers to design cases that will stand up to extreme cold, winds, snow -- all that Antarctica has to offer," he said.

 

Source: Indiana University