Julie Brigham-Grette
Julie Brigham-Grette (click for larger image).
Lake El’gygytgyn Drilling site in NE Russia
(click for larger image).

Subaru Outdoor Life Lecture

Julie Brigham-Grette

Driven to Extremes — The Roadless Pursuit of Scientific Drilling at El’gygytgyn Crater Lake, Arctic Russia

Monday, 5 November, 6-7 p.m., Charlotte Convention Center

In the middle Pliocene, 3.6 million years ago, a meteorite blasted open an impact crater nearly 18 km across in central Chukotka, 100 km north of the Arctic Circle. At that time most of the Arctic borderlands were forested all the way to northern-most coasts, the Arctic Ocean lacked perennial sea ice, and the Greenland Ice Sheet did not exist in its present form. In fact, after the meteorite hit, a million years passed before the first major glaciation of the Northern Hemisphere.

Much of what geologists know about the transition from a forested Arctic to one of tundra and ice — punctuated by repeated cycles of glacial/interglacial climate change — has been derived from isolated, commonly thin stratigraphic sections that hold only small pieces of the story taken from many different parts of the Arctic. Yet the sediments that accumulated in crater Lake El’gygytgyn since 3.6 million years ago were continuous and undisturbed, making is possible for scientists in 2009 to recover an unprecedented record of Arctic change and chronicle the climate evolution of the high latitude earth system with a new perspective.

As the US Chief scientist of this international effort, Brigham-Grette will describe “the thrill to drill in the chill”, following a politically roadless and scientifically risky path while succeeding in one of the most remote parts of Northeast Russia. In collaboration with Russian and German co-chief scientists (Pavel Minyuk and Martin Melles), she will detail the 15 year long pursuit of scientific drilling with photography, videos, and bizarre stories. Her presentation will embrace how a sense of discovery, persistence, and a dash of serendipity can drive unbeaten long-term partnerships and surprising science outcomes despite trying circumstances.

Julie Brigham-Grette is a Professor in the Geosciences Department at the University of Massachusetts-Amherst. Research expertise and important contributions are in Arctic marine and terrestrial paleoclimate records of the Late Cenozoic to recent, the evolution of the Arctic climate, especially in the Beringia/Bering Strait region and as US Chief of the Lake El’gygytgyn Drilling in NE Russia.

Married, 2 sons, one of whom is a geology major at UMass!