Student Vignettes

Catherine Prunella

About my research

Today, Antarctica’s ice sheets are losing mass, and ice loss is concentrated in areas where Southern Ocean waters are warming most. Because Antarctica’s ice sheets control global sea level, understanding ice sheet sensitivity under warmer-than-present conditions is crucial for predicting future sea level rise. For my Master’s research, I study how Antarctica’s ice sheets reacted to warm ocean temperatures in the geologic past. Using coastal Antarctic sediment cores drilled from below the seafloor, I am generating records of ocean temperatures and ice volume change over the last three million years. These records will allow me to assess the role of oceanic heat in driving Antarctic ice sheet variability during past warm climate intervals, and ultimately, improve the ability of climate ice sheet models to predict ice sheet response to modern warming.


I chose USF CMS because I wanted to use geologic tools to study climate change, and Dr. Shevenell offered the opportunity to focus on Antarctica. Applying paleoceanographic tools to ice-proximal Antarctic sediments is challenging. But because of Antarctica’s sensitivity to climate change and its potential to raise sea level, the prospect of understanding its past justifies the challenge.

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