Ross Powell

 Professor, Geology and Environmental Geosciences

ross-powellRoss Powell is a veteran NIU professor and internationally known geologist whose work is shedding light on the global history of climate change. Whereas most people read books to learn about history, Powell reads rocks. He has gone to great lengths – from Arctic fjords to the bottom of the Antarctic sea – to recover sediments that he and other scientists use to interpret how ice sheets behaved millions of years ago and how they will react to global climate change in the future. In 2015, Powell led a National Science Foundation-funded science team that became the first ever to reach and sample the “grounding zone” along the Ross Ice Shelf, where Antarctic ice, land and sea all converge. Stunned to discover fish and other marine animals living beneath a half mile of ice in perpetual cold and darkness, the team’s discoveries made news worldwide.

Data gathered from the grounding zone’s water, sediment and ice samples will provide clues about the mechanics of ice sheets and their potential effects on sea-level rise. The information will help scientific modelers to predict the potential speed of ice sheet demise and the impact of climate change on the world’s oceans and coastal communities.

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