New course brings Antarctica to campus

Jan 15th, 2009 | By | Category: Campus News, Issue, January 15, 2009

During his many trips to Antarctica as a researcher, UNL geoscientist David Harwood has gained firsthand perspective of the region’s role in past, present and future global climate change.

Now, Harwood is heading into the classroom – and he’s bringing the entire continent with him.

This semester, Harwood will lead a new geology course that lets students tour Antarctica without having to take an 11,500-mile trip or endure the Antarctic climate. The course will employ the audio-visual power of the Mary Riepma Ross Media Arts Center to bring the continent to UNL.

“We’ll hear, see and feel (Antarctica) and … explore the lure and the lore of the place,” Harwood said.


The course is open to all UNL students and, using Antarctica as its epicenter, will track the evolution of the Earth and life through the past several million years.

Just as important, Harwood said, the class will give students a perspective on scientific inquiry and processes and also allow them to experience exploration of the last continental frontier as geoscientists.

Through a series of field projects, students will apply scientific methods to gain knowledge about how Earth’s various environmental systems are connected.

“It’s a mental experience to engage in real science activities and thought processes,” Harwood said. “We want the students to ask the questions and work to find the answers. They end up becoming the scientists and teaching one another.”

Harwood is research director of the ANDRILL Science Management Office at UNL. ANDRILL is a multinational collaboration of more than 200 scientists, students and educators from around the world aimed at understanding Antarctica’s historical impact on ocean currents and the atmosphere through the study of its rock layers.

In late 2006 and 2007, the ANDRILL program recovered the two deepest rock cores ever taken in Antarctica, more than 1,100 meters in each drilling season. Harwood was the co-chief scientist of 2007’s Southern McMurdo Sound Project with Fabio Florindo of Italy’s National Institute of Geophysics and Volcanology.

Harwood will share the recent work by the ANDRILL program with students during the semester, as well.

“I came here as a researcher,” Harwood said. “Now I’m excited to do more in my role as a teacher.”

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