For US student Lauren Vargo, field work takes her out of the lab and onto a spectacular ancient river of ice.
Lauren moved to Wellington from New Mexico to research her PhD on New Zealand glaciers. Studying at Victoria University’s Antarctic Research Centre has been a chance to combine glacial modelling with field work in an extraordinary natural environment.
She’s studying the links between glacier fluctuations and changes in climate by observing glaciers in the Southern Alps, a mountain range cut through with glacial valleys and lakes.
Lauren also flew over the country’s glaciers on the annual End of Summer Snowline flight, which has taken photos of 50 New Zealand glaciers every year since 1977. Back in the lab, Lauren runs the photos through high-tech software to create 3D models of the glaciers.
“One of the reasons I wanted to get into geology was so I could get out into the field,” says Lauren.
“It is exciting to be able to make field observations about how our climate is changing, as well as using models to run experiments that cannot be done in the real world.”
She’s also been on a class trip to the west coast of the South Island to explore Fox Glacier and Franz Josef Glacier, which flow almost to sea level through beautiful rainforest.
Lauren has been impressed by New Zealand’s research quality, and its enviable work/life balance - she mountain-bikes with colleagues in her lunch breaks, and goes rock climbing in her spare time.