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Villanova University Researchers Part of Expedition to the Arctic

Forty researchers from all over the world will work on board the Swedish icebreaker Oden, examining the effect of dramatic sea ice loss and rising surface temperatures on marine aerosols.

Swedish Icebreaker Oden
The Swedish Icebreaker Oden (Photo Credit: Ida Kinner)

VILLANOVA, Pa.—The Arctic climate is changing faster than anywhere else in the world with the Arctic ice pack shrinking at an alarming rate.  The key to predicting the global climate of the future is a better understanding of how climate change affects the Arctic.

A prominent and internationally-renowned expert in snow chemistry, Amanda M. Grannas, PhD, Professor of Chemistry at Villanova University, is co-principal investigator of a research team that includes colleagues Kerri Pratt, PhD, The University of Michigan (principal investigator), and Patricia Matrai, PhD (co-principal investigator), Bigelow Laboratory for Ocean Sciences. The research team was awarded a three-year, $1 million National Science Foundation (NSF) grant to study the interactions between the surface of the Arctic Ocean and the atmosphere above it. The focus of their study will be on research conducted aboard a cruise of the Swedish Icebreaker Oden—which departs July 31—into the Arctic pack ice region of the Arctic Ocean.

The biology and chemistry of seawater, and the physical and chemical nature of atmospheric aerosols, will be sampled during the cruise to better understand the physical properties and chemical makeup of marine aerosols produced from Arctic seawater. The project is expected to result in an unprecedented level of understanding of Arctic marine aerosol production and links to seawater microbiology, leading to improved predictions of Arctic aerosol composition and clouds for the rapidly changing Arctic system.

“We are excited to be part of this international research expedition,” said Dr. Grannas. Our research team— which includes Villanova University, University of Michigan and Bigelow Laboratory for Ocean Sciences—brings a unique combination of expertise in atmospheric and aerosol chemistry, microbiology and advanced measurement techniques. This partnership lets us examine at an unprecedented level of detail how changes in the nature and extent of sea ice will impact air-sea exchange processes and how this in turn could influence the composition of the atmosphere—which then feeds back to climate through cloud formation processes.”

Clouds play an important role in our climate as they regulate the amount of solar radiation that reaches the surface of the earth. They also impact on the energy that flows along the earth’s surface which in turn, affects the freezing and melting of the sea ice. Clouds are made up of small droplets and ice crystals that form in certain wind, moisture and temperature conditions. The condensation and formation of cloud droplets is dependent on the existence of small atmospheric particles or aerosols in the atmosphere. The aerosols in the Arctic atmosphere originate from the microbiological life in the sea and ice. The more the sea opens up when the Arctic ice pack melts, the more biological particles bubble out into the atmosphere—a process that may lead to increased cloud formation and the ice freezing earlier in the season. This is an area that the researchers onboard Oden want to investigate more closely.

Villanova chemistry master’s student Allison Remenapp will be on board Oden collecting aerosol and seawater samples and will analyze the samples upon their return to Villanova.

“This is a fantastic opportunity for Allison to learn advanced analytical techniques through hands-on, applied field research,” Dr. Grannas added. “It’s a great example of the type of experiences Villanova research students can gain in the lab and beyond.”

The ice breaker Oden will be moored to a large ice floe in the middle of the high Arctic Ocean for one month. During this time, various research teams with different areas of specialisation will remain onboard, taking measurements and collecting vital statistics from the sea, ice and air. Together, the different research projects aim to provide a better insight into how the varying sections of the complex Arctic system are linked together.

The researchers return from their expedition at the end of September. Arctic Ocean 2018 is a research expedition conducted by the Swedish Polar Research Secretariat together with the National Science Foundation (NSF) in the United States and the result of several years of collaborations between Sweden and the U.S., for the purpose of strengthening research in the Arctic.

Learn more about and follow the expedition via the Swedish Polar Research Portal:

About Villanova: Since 1842, Villanova University’s Augustinian Catholic intellectual tradition has been the cornerstone of an academic community in which students learn to think critically, act compassionately and succeed while serving others. There are more than 10,000 undergraduate, graduate and law students in the University's six colleges – the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences, the Villanova School of Business, the College of Engineering, the College of Nursing, the College of Professional Studies and the Villanova University Charles Widger School of Law. As students grow intellectually, Villanova prepares them to become ethical leaders who create positive change everywhere life takes them. For more, visit