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STEM Café to offer July 9 encore presentation of ‘WISSARDs of the Antarctic’ at Geneva pub

June 24, 2013
Ross Powell and fellow NIU geologist Scherer recovered sediment from a subglacial Antarctic lake bed.

Ross Powell and fellow NIU geologist Reed Scherer recovered sediment from a subglacial Antarctic lake bed.

You can check an app on your phone to see what the weather is going to be like tomorrow, but what about 10 or even 100 years from now?

To predict climate change, geologists are drilling into the heart of Antarctic ice and studying the effects of millions of years of weather.

Chill out with NIU STEM Outreach at 6:30 p.m. Tuesday, July 9, when its popular STEM Café series presents “WISSARDs of the Antarctic” at Claddagh Irish Pub, 1702 Commons Drive in Geneva.

The program will focus on the National Science Foundation-supported WISSARD project (Whillans Ice Stream Subglacial Access Research Drilling), which is using a hot water drill to explore the environment beneath the Antarctic ice sheet.

Based on the popularity of May’s STEM Café, WISSARD’s co-leader, Ross Powell, will speak again this July.

Powell is a Distinguished Research Professor in Northern Illinois University’s Department of Geology and Environmental Geosciences. He says that the work he and his team are doing in Antarctica will give scientists clues about Earth’s warming and cooling cycles and the effects of climate change.

Ross Powell

Ross Powell

“We are gathering data on the water system under the ice to better understand how it all works so we can make more solid predictions on how the ice sheet may behave in the future and consequently, how fast sea levels may continue to rise,” Powell says.

Powell will also discuss the drilling process, which required the team to bore through 800 meters of ice using a hot-water drill fitted with a filtration and germicidal system. The drill was specially designed to prevent contamination of the subglacial environment and to recover clean samples for microbial analyses. The WISSARD team spent more than three months in Antarctica last year and will return again soon to continue its research.

NIU STEM Outreach hosts STEM Cafés every month. The events are free and open to the public and food and drinks are available for purchase from the host restaurant.

On Tuesday, Aug. 6, the program will head to Two Brothers Brewing Company in Aurora for a discussion on the Science of Beer. On Sunday, Aug. 11, the Café will be at Acquaviva Winery in Maple Park for an evening of stargazing.

For more information on upcoming STEM Cafés and other events from STEM Outreach, visit or contact Judith Dymond at [email protected] or (815) 753-4751.