An adventure moving at the speed of glaciers

Geology professor Neal Iverson.

Imagine an extraordinary glacier. Then imagine it slowly melting, exposing fascinating landforms called drumlins -- streamlined hills that formed beneath the sliding ice. Now imagine examining how these drumlins could impact glacier movement and sea level, and you'll understand part of what Iowa State geology professor, Neal Iverson, and his team of researchers have been studying at the Múlajökull glacier in Iceland.

With this international team's research, the world is learning more about how drumlins form and possibly slow down the slipping of glaciers, which could help researchers make better predictions about glacier flow and how it causes sea level to rise. "This is research that wouldn't be happening if it weren't for the recession of the glacier margin right now," said Iverson. "Glaciers in Iceland, like most glaciers elsewhere, are shrinking and that provides scientific opportunities. In this case, fresh drumlins have been exposed that formed under better-known conditions than drumlins of the last ice age."

After the team returned from Iceland, they had a rather daunting task ahead of them -- analyzing 5,000 small samples of sediment. They've used equipment at Iowa State to squeeze some of these samples under greater and greater stresses, along with equipment that helps them study the physics of how glaciers slide on a sediment bed. These analyses are helping the team build an accurate model of drumlin formation, which up to this point has been a "long-standing problem in geoscience that's generated a lot of attention but few definitive results," as Iverson puts it. His team is hoping to provide the results that the scientific community has been seeking for decades.

On your Iowa State adventure, you'll get to learn from professors who are changing how the world views everything from climate change to agricultural development. That's because Iowa State researchers are constantly busy conducting groundbreaking research that's sure to impact the world for hundreds, even thousands, of years to come.