Maksym will kick off the ninth season of the Town Talks, a science lecture series sponsored by the Telluride Science Research Center, on Tuesday, June 21. His presentation, “In the Footsteps of Shackleton: A natural history of Antarctic sea ice,” will be held from 6-7:15 p.m. at the Palm Theatre.
The 2011 season brings a science lecture every Tuesday evening, from June 21 through August 2 (except for July 19) and is produced by the Telluride Science Research Center. The talks are free, but donations are encouraged.
Like Shackleton, Maksym appreciates the barren harsh landscape of the Antarctic and the abundant opportunity it provides for scientific research. Maksym's current research measures the thickness of Antarctic sea ice to track the changes in its volume. Surface area of sea ice can be imaged by satellite, generating some data, but scientists need information on the volume of sea ice to understand more precisely if it is growing, melting, or moving. “Without being able to measure the thickness, we can't understand how these patterns of sea ice movement, growth, and so forth are impacting the ocean," Dr. Maksym said in a recent interview. In other words, information discovered in Antarctic sea ice increases our understanding of climate change.
Sea ice also unlocks mysteries about Earth's biodiversity. Ice floes function as floating habitats for some of our favorite species (penguins, seals and polar bears), and as tiny ecosystems composed of bacteria, algae and protists (colonial organisms), which flourish in pores and fissures within the ice itself.
And it contains critical information for astrobiology, a field of study that explores the possibility of life elsewhere in the universe. “Sea ice is used as a proxy habitat for studying what life might be like on other worlds, for instance, on some of the moons of Jupiter or Saturn,” Maksym says.
“The science that we do is still very much an exploration. There are still many things we don't know about the Earth that we need to discover," admits Maksym. But as one of the worlds leading experts on sea ice, he knows a whole lot. Come discover Antarctica for yourself at the Town Talk this Tuesday. Call Nana Naisbitt, TSRC executive director at 970/708-0004 for more information or visit http://www.telluridescience.org/pinhead/2011.