Master of Natural Sciences (MNS)


Natural Sciences (Interdepartmental Program)

Document Type



Antarctica is the world’s coldest, driest and windiest continent. It is a harsh environment that few people will ever see but it is a very important part of our Earth system. Over the past 34 million years the climate in Antarctica has deteriorated from one that supported lush vegetation to the conditions observed today. By studying this trend and the associated changes to ice and vegetation we can gain critical insight into climate changes taking place today. This thesis presents three pieces of curricula that will help students and the general public understand some of the research currently underway in Antarctica while introducing them to geospatial tools that can be used to study climate and other large spatial and temporal events. The first paper guides students through an investigation of changing palynological distributions over time. In the activities described, students will use these data to infer climatic change on different geologic time scales and in different locales. Students will use published data-sets to trace changes in plant assembly over the past 34 million years on the Antarctic Peninsula as well as to understand the demise of the North American Ice Sheet during the last 20,000 years. The activity also introduces the use of GeoMapApp mapping software for the preparation of geo-spatial imagery and data processing. In the second paper, I outline a forensics activity that is based on actual cases where pollen has been used to solve crimes. This paper outlines a method to geo-locate a crime scene by combining Google Earth and data from NOAA’s paleo-climate website. Here the focus is on spatial, rather than temporal, changes in climate and flora. Finally, I present an activity that uses GeoMapApp and multi-beam sonar data from the Ross Sea to find and map megascale glacial lineations which can then be used to infer paleo-ice stream locations and grounding zone wedges that were laid down during the last glacial maximum.



Document Availability at the Time of Submission

Release the entire work immediately for access worldwide.

Committee Chair

Warny, Sophie