PSU Glacier Research
Canada Glacier, Antarctica

Glacier Research at Portland State University

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People Research  Thesis

PSU Faculty and Staff




Dr. Andrew G. Fountain Departments of Geology and Geography
Dr. Maciek Obryk Department of Geology
Bryce Glenn Department of Geology
Hassan Basagic Department of Geology
Kristina Dick Department of Geology
Current Graduate students
Gunnar Johnson Department of Geology
Melissa Luna Brett Department of Geology
Local Collaborators
Robert Schlicting Cleveland High School, Portland, Oregon
Frank D. Granshaw Portland Community College and Artemis Science, Portland, Oregon

 Research Projects

Glacier Change of the American West

We are evaluating the glacier change in the American West since the early scientific explorations in the late 1800s. We are interested in the spatial and temporal variations in the change and the climatic processes that cause the change. An initial part of this effort was to locate all the glaciers and permanent snowfields in the West, then construct a photographic library depicting glacier extent over time.

GIS database of Glaciers and Glacier Change in the Contiguous 48 States
Project web site: Glaciers of the American West

Regional studies of glacier change over the past century

Modeling glacier response to climate change

McMurdo Dry Valleys, Antarctica

Long Term Ecological Research

We study the mass and energy balance of the glaciers in Taylor Valley, Antarctica. Glacier melt is the primary source of water to the ephemeral streams and ice-covered lakes in the valley and as such are critical to the functioning of the terrestrial ecosystem in this polar desert. Project web site:

Patterns of Human Activity in the McMurdo Dry Valleys

Humans have been visiting the McMurdo Dry Valleys each summer since the 1950s. Yet the impact of this activity on its pristine environment is unknown. As a first step towards understanding the impact we are creating a digital archive of photographs, supported by archival records of visits, to document the history of human activity throughout the Valleys. The archive will be made available on the world-wide-web for use by scientists, historians, and environmental managers.

Landscape Change of the McMurdo Dry Valleys

The landscape of the McMurdo Dry Valleys (MDV) has been undergoing dramatic changes over the past decade. A sediment-covered glacier has deflated tens of meters and a river in Garwood Valley has incised >3 m through subsurface ice. To document the large and small changes across the valleys we survey the valleys with an airborne LiDAR ( < 10cm vertical resolution), and compare the elevations to an earlier LiDAR survey completed in 2001. We predict that the changes are only found where massive subsurface ice is located and these regions are the most vulnerable to future climate warming.

Community Dynamics of Cryoconite Holes

Cryoconite holes are water-filled holes that develop on glacial surfaces as a result of the deposition of low albedo material. The holes provide a habitat for well-defined microbial communities featuring a complex array of primary producers and consumers. These unique systems offer an opportunity to test fundamental questions about microbial community assembly and its effects on biodiversity and ecosystem function in a real-world, contained ecosystem.

Past Projects
Outburst Flood of a Glacier-dammed Lake, Kennicott Glacier, Alaska   Project web page 
The Geometry and Hydraulics of Englacial Conduits, Storglaciären, northern Sweden Project web page
Learning about Glaciers, educational simulations on glacier processes. Project web page

Thesis Projects

In Progress

Gunnar Johnson Rock Glaciers of the Contiguous U.S.: Spatial Distribution Controls, Meltwater Chemistry Characteristics, and Riparian Vegetation Influences Webpage
Melissa Brett
Glacier Area and Volume Change Analysis within Glacier National Park, Montana Webpage


Kelly Hughes 2016 Geochemistry of water tracks, McMurdo Dry Valleys, Antarctica Web Thesis Journal
Justin Ohlschlager 2015 Glacier Change on the Three Sisters Volcanoes, Oregon: 1900-2010 Web Thesis Journal
Kristina Dick 2013 Glacier Change of the North Cascades, Washington 1900-2009 Web Thesis Journal
Josh Heard 2012 Glacial geology of Goat Rocks, Washington Web Thesis Journal
Matt Hoffman 2010 Spatial and temporal variability of glacier melt in the McMurdo Dry Valleys, Antarctica Web Diss. Journal
Jon Ebnet 2010 An Energy Balance Model of Melt-water Production for Polar Glaciers in Taylor Valley, Antarctica Web Thesis Journal
Michael Hekkers 2010 Climate modeling of the glaciers on Mt. Rainier, Washington Web Thesis Journal
Peter Sniffen; 2008 Dry Calving at the Terminus of a Polar Glacier, Taylor Glaciers, McMurdo Dry Valleys, Antarctica Web Thesis Journal
Hassan Basagic 2008 Quantifying Twentieth Century Glacier Change in the Sierra Nevada, California Web  Thesis Journal
Jan Dougall 2007 Downstream effects of glaciers on stream water quality Web Thesis Journal
Gretchen Gebhardt 2007 Glacial Geology of the Mount Hood Upland Surface Web Thesis Journal
Keith Jackson 2007 The mass wastage and flow of Eliot Glacier, Mt. Hood, Oregon. Web Thesis Journal
Amy Ebnet 2005 A temperature-index model of melt water in Taylor Valley, McMurdo Dry Valleys, Antarctica. Web Thesis  Journal
Shaun Marcott 2005 A Tale of Three Sisters: Reconstructing the Holocene Glacial History and Paleoclimate Record at Three Sisters Volcanoes, Oregon. Web Thesis Journal
Robin Johnston 2004 Channel Morphology and Surface Energy Balance on Taylor Glacier, Taylor
Valley, Antarctica
Web Thesis Journal
Thomas Nylen 2004 Spatial and Temporal Variations of Glaciers on Mount Rainier between 1913 and 1994 Web Thesis Journal
Sara Frödin 2003 The Geometry and Hydraulics of Englacial Conduits, Storglaciären, northern Sweden  (non-thesis project) Web Thesis Journal
Don Lindsay 2003 Hydrology of an Outburst Floods at Kennicott Glacier, Alaska Web Thesis Journal
Michele Cunico 2003 The Mechanical Response of the Ice Dam to the Outburst Floods at Kennicott Glacier, Alaska. Web Thesis Journal
Frank Granshaw 2002 Glacier Change in the North Cascade National Park Complex, Washington USA, 1958 to 1998 Web Thesis Journal
Patrick Bardel 2001 Mapping Polar Glaciers Using Synthetic Aperture Radar (SAR)  Web Thesis Journal
Jeremy Mennis 1997 GIS Applications to Glaciology: Construction of the Mount Rainier Glacier Database Web Thesis Journal

   Prospective Graduate Student Information

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Questions? Contact Andrew Fountain:  andrew at pdx dot edu