Byrd Polar and Climate Research Center Engages through Exhibit, Education

By Alaina Bartel
Outreach and Engagement Communications Student Intern

"Nature's best thermometer, perhaps its most sensitive and unambiguous indicator of climate change, is ice. When ice gets sufficiently warm, it melts. Ice asks no questions, presents no arguments, reads no newspapers, listens to no debates. It is not burdened by ideology and carries no political baggage as it crosses the threshold from solid to liquid."

These words, by Henry Pollack in A World Without Ice, appear in white on the sky blue walls in the Thompson Library Gallery as a part of Mysteries in Ice - an interactive exhibition on polar exploration.

The exhibit, on display until Jan. 3, is a part of the 25th anniversary of the Byrd Polar and Climate Research Center Archival Program, which is a collaboration of the research center and The Ohio State University Libraries to collect, preserve and provide access to historical documents concerned with polar exploration and research.

A tent and parka from the exhibit
An interactive display at the Mysteries in Ice exhibit (photo by Alaina Bartel). 

The interactive exhibit allows visitors to try on Antarctic parkas and boots, step into polar tents used for camping and touch rock samples collected in remote areas. Jason Cervenec, the center's outreach and education director and one of the exhibit's curators, said the exhibit is meant to let people do what they naturally want to do.

"We tried to think from the perspective of what a kid would want to do. They'd want to take a selfie with the parkas on, and they'd want to go in the tent. This gives people the chance to be young again," Cervenec said. "We're unabashed in this desire to want to have people engaged with this stuff, in a way you normally don't in an exhibit."

He said although the exhibit is a celebration of the Archival Program, it is also meant to encourage the community to understand the Earth's ever-changing climate. Cervenec said sometimes people will ask him if there are people at the BPCRC that would deny that climate change is happening, or that it's human caused.

"There really is no-one. There is no-one in the scientific community," Cervenec said. "The evidence is so overwhelming right now, and that's true across the field. There have been a number of surveys done on both the literature that's been published, and the people doing the work, and between 97 and 98 percent confirm that it's happening, and that it's human-caused."

Although climate change may be the most popular topic of conversation regarding the environment, the BPCRC is not only internationally recognized as a leader of climate research, but polar and alpine research as well. There are 10 research groups that study topics including: geological sciences, geochemistry, glaciology, paleoclimatology, meteorology, remote sensing, ocean dynamics and glacier environmental change.

In addition to the extensive research being done, the BPCRC has the Byrd Postdoctoral Fellowship Program, provides research opportunities and support for graduate and undergraduate students, offers seminars and lectures, and operates a public education and outreach program that impacts the community through facility tours, school visits, film screenings, and workshops.

BPCRC tour

An instructor talks with visiting students during a tour of the Byrd Polar and Climate Research Center.

Geoffrey Dipre, a third-year Ph.D. student at the BPCRC, studies paleoceanography, or the study of sediments from the bottom of the ocean. In addition to being involved with research, Dipre also has a GRE appointment with the education and outreach department, where he conducts tours of the facility and leads classroom programs and discussions around climate issues.

Dipre said tour groups range from elementary to university students, community groups, as well as public tours that are open to anyone. He said the crowd favorite is being able to go into the -30 degree freezer that holds ice cores that have been collected over more than three decades, where his favorite part is explaining the science behind it all.

"One of the best parts is spreading the word about what our research is and how it's relating to these major global issues, such as climate change and sustainability...actually being able to express the science behind that and what our researchers are doing," Dipre said.


Contact: Jason Cervenec, cervenec.1@osu.edu

Mysteries in Ice website

Byrd Polar and Climate Research Center website