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NASA grant will help KU researcher reveal polar ice details

Wed, 07/23/2014

LAWRENCE — Researchers working to measure and predict sea level rise based on changes to ice sheets in Greenland and Antarctica will soon have a new tool to use in their assessments. 

Jilu Li, assistant research professor with the Center for Remote Sensing of Ice Sheets (CReSIS) at the University of Kansas, received a three-year $299,178 grant through NASA’s New Investigator Program to provide a complete subsurface map at the point where the ice meets bedrock for Greenland and the West Antarctic Ice Sheet. Li’s team will utilize ice sheet data collected by CReSIS and KU researchers over the past two decades to piece together the maps.

“We’ve collected all this data, but to this point, no one has integrated all of it to provide a basal condition map,” Li said. “When combined with what we already know about ice sheet thickness and ice bed elevations, this should improve the understanding of the overall dynamics of the ice sheet and help better predict future changes.”

The condition at the base of an ice sheet varies from solid ice, to melting ice, to flowing water and has a major impact on the speed of the ice flow. The faster the ice flows, the more it affects sea level rise.

“These maps essentially provide a more accurate picture of the full boundary conditions of an ice sheet,” Li said. “It means more information is available to researchers as they utilize computer modeling to predict ice flow. The more that’s known about the entire boundary conditions of an ice sheet, the more accurate those models will be.”

Li’s research was one of only 21 projects selected for funding from a pool of more than 131 proposals.

CReSIS, which was established by the National Science Foundation in 2005, has made great strides in research and fieldwork concerning changes in the ice sheets and their effect on sea level rise. Data collected by the Center were instrumental in developing a new, highly detailed map of the bedrock of Greenland. CReSIS data were also essential to the discovery of a mega-canyon buried under miles of ice in Greenland. Portions of the canyon are twice as deep at the Grand Canyon.

KU serves as the lead institution of CReSIS, which is composed of six additional partner institutions: Elizabeth City State University, Indiana University, University of Washington, Pennsylvania State University, Los Alamos National Laboratory, and the Association of Computer and Information Science Engineering Departments at Minority Institutions. CReSIS researchers collaborate with scientists, engineers and institutions around the world. 



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Wanna Skype? Chancellor gets creative to surprise Truman winner. See it here: http://bit.ly/1awodaa
Rock Chalk! Junior Ashlie Koehn named KU's 18th Truman Scholar
Ashlie Koehn, a University of Kansas junior from Burns studying in Kyrgyzstan, interrupted helping her host family prepare dinner to make a Skype call on Monday evening.

.@NYTimes columnist @WCRhoden will speak at a symposium about race and sports April 23. http://t.co/UiKA9MYNv0 http://t.co/PHwCOHqcfD
Wanna Skype? Chancellor gets creative to surprise Truman winner From KU News Service: http://bit.ly/1awodaa Ashlie Koehn, a University of Kansas junior from Burns studying in Kyrgyzstan, interrupted helping her host family prepare dinner to make a Skype call on Monday evening. To her surprise, Chancellor Bernadette Gray-Little was on the other end of the call letting Koehn know she had been named a 2015 Harry S. Truman Scholar. Koehn is the 18th KU student to be named a Truman Scholar and the only 2015 recipient from the state of Kansas. Earlier this month, she was also named a 2015 Udall Scholar. And in spite of a distance of more than 10,800 kilometers and 11 time zones, Koehn’s thrill from hearing the news from the chancellor came through loud and clear. “Ashlie’s experience at KU epitomizes a quality undergraduate experience. She challenged herself in her coursework, exposed herself to different research opportunities, studied abroad in Germany, Switzerland and Kyrgyzstan, and participated in both student government and community service projects,” Gray-Little said. “This is quite a year for Ashlie. Her hard work is a wonderful reflection on her and also a great reflection on the university, and we all congratulate her.” Each new Truman Scholar receives up to $30,000 for graduate study. Scholars also receive priority admission and supplemental financial aid at some premier graduate institutions, leadership training, career and graduate school counseling, and special internship opportunities within the federal government. Koehn, a member of KU’s nationally recognized University Honors Program, is majoring in environmental studies, economics and international studies. Her goal after earning her KU degree is to pursue a master’s degree in economics at either the London School of Economics or the University of Reading, with a focus on the economics of climate change. In 2014, she received KU’s Newman Civic Engagement Award for her work establishing the Coalition against Slavery and Trafficking. Her involvement with the issue was sparked by Hannah Britton, associate professor of political science and women, gender, and sexuality studies, who hosted national conference on contemporary slavery at KU three years ago. “Ashlie and I met several times to think about what KU students could contribute to the issue of slavery and human trafficking, and the result was her founding of KU CAST,” Britton said. “After a year as president, Ashlie successfully handed the organization over to the next student leader. She demonstrated her strong leadership qualities by setting a unique goal and then pursuing it with her sense of passion, engagement and dedication. No matter the country or context, her leadership strength is evident in her coursework, her public service and her work experiences.” The University Honors Program works with a campus committee to select KU’s nominees for the Truman Scholarship and supports them during the application process. Anne Wallen, assistant director of national fellowships and scholarships, noted it was an amazing ruse to pull off the surprise. Originally, the call was set up to be between Wallen and Koehn. “I was totally not prepared to be greeted by Chancellor Gray-Little, but it was an amazing surprise for sure,” Koehn said. “As a first-generation student, it took time to learn the collegiate system, but my parents taught me to be resourceful and independent from a young age and KU and the Kansas Air National Guard have provided me with the opportunities to drive me into the future, both at graduate school and in my career. I plan to use the Truman Scholarship to pursue a career as an environmental economist helping to shape future trade agreements and leverage action on important international environmental issues, particularly concerning climate change.” Koehn also had a surprise of her own for the chancellor — the meal she was helping to prepare was not exactly typical Kansas dinner fare. On the menu with her host family in Kyrgyzstan on Monday was a traditional Kyrgyz meal called Beshbarmak, or “five fingers,” because you eat it with your hands. The dish is made of horse and sheep and was being prepared as a birthday celebration for Koehn’s host mom. Chancellor Gray-Little, as she signed off from Skype, made sure to encourage Koehn to enjoy her Beshbarmak. Koehn is the daughter of Rodney and Carolyn Koehn of Burns. She graduated from Fredric Remington High School in Moundridge. She is an active member of the Kansas Air National Guard and currently on leave while studying abroad in Bishkek, Kyrgyzstan. She is a member of the KU Global Scholars Program and a past member of the Student Senate. In addition to being named a 2015 Truman and Udall scholar, she was named a 2014 Boren Scholar and Gilman Scholar and in 2013 was named the Kansas Air National Guard Airman of the Year.


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