Dr. Blankenship uses both airborne and ground-based geophysical techniques, including laser altimetry, radar sounding, seismic reflection and refraction, and potential fields methods, to investigate dynamics of large ice sheets and subglacial geology. Much of his current research is focused on understanding the West Antarctic rift system (including the flanking Transantarctic Mountains) and the marine-based West Antarctic Ice Sheet. Blankenship's recent aerogeophysical investigations have verified that there is a strong correlation between subglacial sediments and ice streaming; these airborne experiments also give indications of active subglacial volcanism near the critical region where ice streams begin. The airborne platform that he developed to simultaneously acquire ice-penetrating radar, laser altimetry, airborne gravity, and aeromagnetic measurements has become the foundation for an NSF-sponsored national facility for airborne geophysics in Antarctica (SOAR) operating from UTIG. Building on his expertise in radar sounding and ice sheets, Blankenship has become involved in the planning of an unmanned space mission to Europa, one of Jupiter's moons, which is thought to have an ice-covered ocean that may host exotic life. He has served on several definition teams for NASA's Europa Orbiter Mission, currently planned to launch in 2006.

Areas of Expertise

Antarctic ice sheets, robotic space missions to Europa, airborne and ground-based geophysical techniques (including laser altimetry, radar sounding, seismic reflection and refraction), West Antarctic rift system, West Antarctic Ice Sheet, climate change, global warming, remote sensing


Community Service, Print Interview, Antarctica Exploration since the IG, Gabrielle Walter (2004)

Community Service, Print Interview, A History of Subglacial Exploration in Antarctica 1957-2007, Katrina Dean (2004)

Member, Science Definition Team, Jupiter Icy Moons Orbiter NASA (2003)

Community Service, Radio Interview, BBC (Europa radar sounding) (2003)

Member, Climate Change Working Group, Environmental Science Institute (2001 - 2002)

Community Service, 2001 Presentation, Northwest Austin Rotary Club (2001)

Community Service, Interview and Technical Advice, Horizon television documentary, "Lake Vostok", BBC/Discovery Channel Producer (2001)

Member, Working Group, Amundsen Sea Embayment (2000 - 2003)

Host / Professor David Besson, Big XII Faculty Fellow, The University of Kansas, Department of Physics (2000)

Community Service, Print Interview, New Scientist Europa (1999)

Chair, Instrument Definition Team, Europa Radar Sounder, NASA (1998 - 1999)

Member, Science Definition Team, Europa Orbiter, NASA (1998 - 1999)

Community Service, Technical Advice, Antarctica, Bantam Books, K.S. Robinson (1998)

Community Service, Interviews and Technical Advice, NOVA documentary, "Warnings From the Ice," PBS, Rob Gardner, producer (1998)

Community Service, Technical Advice, Earth and Sky, NPR, Deborah Byrd, producer (1997)

Community Service, Interviews and Technical Advice, Horizon documentary "The Ice Melts," BBC, Kate O'Sullivan, producer (1997)

Community Service, American Statesman (1997)

Member, Advisory Board, GLACIER (Global Links: Antarctic Climate and Ice-sheet Evolution Research), an NSF middle-school educational initiative. (1996 - 1999)

Community Service, Print Interview, Time, Chronicle of High Education, Austin (1996)

Community Service, Technical Advice, Green Mars, Bantam Books, K.S. Robinson (1995)

Community Service, Technical Advice, "Surprising Scientific Facts, Breakthroughs, and Discoveries," John Wiley and Sons, S.B. McGrayne (1994)

Community Service, Interview, As it happens, Canadian Broadcasting Corporation. (1993)

Member, Steering Committee, West Antarctic Ice-Sheet Initiative (1991)

Community Service, Technical Advice, IMAX documnetary "Antarctica" John Wiley, producer (1991 - 1992)

Member, Steering Committee, Antarctic Offshore Acoustic Stratigraphy (1990 - 1994)

Member, Scientific Committee on Antarctic Research (SCAR), Antarctic Offshore Acoustic Stratigraphy (1990 - 1994)

Member, Steering Committee, Siple Coast Project in West Antarctica (1988 - 1991)

Acting Representative for US, Scientific Committee on Antarctic Research (SCAR), Working Group on Geophysics (1985 - 1991)

Scientific Director, SOAR (Support Office for Aerogeophysical Research), National Science Foundation (a facility for aerogeophysical research in Antarctica) (1984 - 2001)

Member, Data Management Committtee, Program for Array Seismic Studies of the Continental Lithosphere (PASSCAL) (1984 - 1985)

Member, American Geophysical Union

Member, International Glaciological Society

Community Service, Technical Advice, NOVA television documentary on glaciers and ice streams

Community Service, Technical Advice, "Moons of the Solar System" Discovery Channel

Community Service, Print Interview, Daily Texas (West Antarctic Ice Streams)

Community Service, Presentation, Kirby Hall School, Austin, Texas

Community Service, Technical Advice, New Explorers, Kurtis Productions

Community Service, Print Interview, Christian Science Monitor

Community Service, Presentation, Hill Elementary, Austin, TX

Community Service, Print Interview, New York Times

Community Service, Print Interview, Tewenty First Century

Community Service, Technical Advice, Dans La Nature, Canal Plus (French Television) documentary, Laurence Labert, producer

Community Service, Technical Advice, Earth and Sky, NPR, Deborah Byrd, producer

Community Service, Print Interview, Science News, Discover, New York Times, Washington Post, Scientific American, The Economist, Austin American Statesman, Decatur Herald and Review, Reader's Digest, Mundo 21

Community Service, Presentation, LAMP (Learning Activities for Mature People), Texas Division of Continuing Education

Community Service, Presentation, Lakeway Breakfast Club, Lakeway, TX

Graduate Students

Jing Yang, Ph.D., expected 2016 (Committee Member)
My Area of Expertise: Diamond Anvil Cells, Synchrotron X-ray Diffraction, Conventional X-ray Diffraction, Brillouin Light Spectroscopy, Impulsive Stimulated Light Scattering, Raman Spectroscopy, Scanning Electron Microscopy, Electron Probe Mircron-analyzer, Matlab Programming

Chad A Greene, Ph.D., expected 2016 (Supervisor)
My PhD research is toward reducing uncertainty in projections of sea level rise by assessing the effects of ocean interaction with the East Antarctic Ice Sheet. In my masters research, I developed tools for acoustic quantification of methane hydrates and gas flow from underwater seeps.

Gail Gutowski, Ph.D., expected 2016 (Co-supervisor)
I am interested in better understanding uncertainty in climate predictions in order to reduce that uncertainty. My research explores the intersection of data and modeling efforts, in order to evaluate how uncertain models make use of uncertain data. My current projects focus on the contribution of ice sheets (Greenland and Antarctica) to rising sea level. I have been using the Community Earth System Model to evaluate the evolution of the Greenland ice sheet from pre-industrial times to 2100, focusing on the impact of model initialization on predictions. I also quantify observational uncertainty in ice-penetrating radar data collected by the University of Texas Institute for Geophysics. I participated in Antarctic field work with the Geological Investigations of Marie Byrd Land Lithospheric Evolution (GIMBLE) project in austral summer 2012.

Brad T Gooch, Ph.D., expected 2015 (Supervisor)
I am a PhD student working at the University of Texas Institute for Geophysics. I am researching the importance of basin-scale groundwater flow, geothermal heat flow, and geomechanics on the dynamics of the East Antarctic Ice Sheet via numerical modeling and geophysical observations. My expertise/interests include: * Physical Hydrogeology * Near-Surface/Reservoir Geophysics * Cryospheric Science * Crustal Heat Flow * Basin Analysis * Geomechanics * Reservoir Characterization, Modeling, and Monitoring * Inverse Theory

Jamin S Greenbaum, Ph.D., expected 2014 (Supervisor)

Dustin M Schroeder, Ph.D., expected 2014 (Supervisor)
In general, I am interested in the fundamental problem of observing, understanding, and predicting the interaction of ice and water in the earth system. In particular, I am interested in the role that subglacial water systems play in the evolution and stability of continental ice sheets and their potential contribution to the rate of sea level rise. I am also interested in the development, use, and analysis of geophysical radar remote sensing systems that are optimized to observe hypothesis-specific phenomena. I aspire to approach problems as both an observational geoscientist as well as geophysical radar system engineer by focusing on the flow of information and uncertainty through each step of the observational science processes (from instrument and survey design, through data processing and analysis, to modeling and inference). I believe that this deliberate combination of earth system science and radar system engineering is a powerful and intellectually rich approach to research on subglacial hydrology as well a wide range of other geophysical problems, processes, and settings (i.e. the radio geophysical exploration of icy planets).


The Exploration of Jupiter's Icy Moons, School of Geographical Sciences, University of Bristol, United Kingdom (2004)

Earth's ice sheets and ice shelves as an analog for Europa's icy shell, Workshop on Europa's Icy Shell, Houston, TX (2004)

Terrestrial radar sounding studies of thermal, compositional and structural interfaces analogous to those hypothesized for Europa's icy mantle., Special Session on Applications of Planetary Radars , San Francisco, CA (2003)

A science foundation for orbital subsurface radar sounding of Jupiter's icy moons., Special session of the Scientific Rationale for the Jupiter Icy Moons Orniter Mission, San Francisco, CA (2003)

Surface Radar, Forum on Concepts and Approaches for Jupiter Icy Moons Orbiter , Houston, TX (2003)

Investigating the crustal elements of the Antarctic Plate with airborne radar sounding., Structure and Evolution of the Antarctic Plate (SEAP 2003) Workshop, Boulder, CO (2003)

Investigating the crustal elements of the central Antarctic Plate (ICECAP): Long-reange aerogeophysics as a foundation for access drilling in East Antactica., FASTDRILL 2002 Workshop: Interdisciplinary Polar Research Based on Fast Ice-Sheet Drilling., Santa Cruz, CA (2002)

Structural and hydrogeological characterization of subglacial lithosphere from airborne radar sounding., Remote Views and Exploration of Antarctic Lithosphere (REVEAL) Workshop, Denver, CO (2002)

The influence of subglacial geology on ice streaming processes and ice stream evolution in West Antarctica. , Keynote Address, International Symposium on Palaeo-Ice Stream, Aarhus, Denmark (2001)

The evolution of the West Antarctic ice sheet; from global sea-level change to life on Jupiter's moons., Keynote Address, Compaq Executive Forum on High Performance Technical Computing , Scottsdale, AZ (2001)

Lithospheric controls on the evolution of the West Antarctic ice streams: An Application of high-resolution airborne geophysics., Department of Earth Science, University of Calofornia, Santa Cruz, CA (2001)

Radar detection and characterization of water systems beneath terrestrial (and other) ice sheets. , Department of Geological Sciences, University of Texas at Austin, Austin, TX (2000)

Other Lakes, International Workshop on Lake Vostok, Cambridge, U. K. (1999)

SOAR Red Eyes: Aerogeophysics in Antarctica., South Pole Station, (1998)

Remote Sensing projects and possibilities in Antarctica: Airborne Systems, NASA Workshop on the Next Decade of Antarctic Research, Madison, WI (1998)

Antarctic applications of airborne ice penetrating radar., Europa Radar Sounder Initiative Workshop, Pasadena, CA (1998)

Evolution of ice sheets and ice coverd lithosphere from from aerogeophysical and space based obeservations., Symposium on Space-Based Geoscience Observations: Looking Down at the Future , Austin, TX (1998)

A technical overview of the Support Office for Aerogeophysical Research , Workshop on Aerogeophysical Research Opportunities , Antarctica, Arlington, Virginia (1996)

Airborne geophysics in West Antarctica: Do lithospheric characteristics control the evolution of the West Antarctic ice sheet?, Lamont-Doherty Earth Observatory, Columbia University, Palisades, NY (1994)

Geophysics of the Interior Ross Embayment and Transantarctic Mountains Boundary., Workshop on the Geodynamic Evolution of the Transantarctic Mountains and the West Antarctic Rift: A linked system, Estes Park, CO (1994)

Lithospheric controls of the dynamics of the West Antarctic ice sheet: an approach based on broad-spectrum aerogeophysics., Department of Geoscience, New Mexico Institute of Mining and Technology, Socorro, NM (1994)

Geological controls on the behavior of the West Antarctic ice sheet., Department of Geology and Geophysics, Rice University, Houston, TX (1994)

Airborne geophysical profiling: laser / radar altimetry and topographic mapping., National Research Council Workshop on Airborne Geophysics, Washington, D.C. (1993)

Aerogeophysics in the Interior Ross Embayment of West Antarctica, Workshop on the Crustal Structure of the Transantarctic Mountains and Adjacent Ross Sea Depression, Trieste, Italy (1993)

The depositional environment at the grounding zone of a contemporary Antarctic ice stream., Special Session on Ice and the Sedimentary Record, Baltimore, MD (1993)

Airborne geophysics in West Antarctica., Department of Geology and Geophysics, Victoria University, Wellington, New Zealand (1993)

Airborne measurement of ice sheet elevation., Special Session on Aerogeophysical Application of Kinematic GPS. , San Francisco, CA (1992)

The dynamics and depositional environment of ice stream B, West Antarctica from geophysical evidence., Department of Geology, University of Oslo, Oslo, Norway (1991)

Glaciological influences on sedimentological processes in the Ross Embayment., International Workshop on Antarctic Offshore Acoustic Stratigraphy (ANTROSTRAT), Pacific Grove, CA (1990)

The importance of solid earth geophysics on understanding the role of West Antarctica in global climate change., Workshop on Sea Level Response to Ice-Sheet Evolution, College Park, MD (1990)

Fast-moving glaciers of the West Antarctic: Do they link global change to global calamity? , Autumn Quarter Lecture Series, The Ohio State University, Columbus, Ohio (1989)

An airborne radiogeophysical traverse of West Antarctica along 120? Meridian, Workshop on the Antarctic International Lithosphere Project (ANTALITH), Washington, D.C. (1989)

Fabric development in ice sheets: seismic anisotrophy., Special Session of Ductile Flow and seismic Anisotrophy , Baltimore, MD (1989)

A Scientific framework for corridor aerogeophysics in the Southeastern Ross Transect Zone, Antarctica., National Mapping Division, U.S. Geological Survey, Reston, VA (1989)