Pioneer of GPS in Antarctic ice-sheet research to give annual S.T. Lee Lecture

Professor Emerita Terry Wilson's work has been fundamental to understanding ice-sheet shrinkage by measuring its impact on the bedrock beneath.

Emerita Professor Terry Wilson wrapped up against the cold 'on the Ice'

The 18th annual S.T. Lee Lecture in Antarctic Studies at Te Herenga Waka—Victoria University of Wellington’s Antarctic Research Centre will be given by a pioneer in using global positioning systems (GPS) to understand the loss of Antarctic ice.

In West Antarctica, because of sustained climate and ocean warming, the vast ice sheet is shrinking at an accelerating rate, adding to global sea-level rise.

Work by Terry Wilson, a professor emerita in the School of Earth Sciences and senior research scientist at the Byrd Polar and Climate Research Center at Ohio State University in the United States, has been fundamental to understanding this shrinkage by measuring its impact on the bedrock beneath.

Associate Professor Rob McKay, Director of the Antarctic Research Centre, describes Professor Emerita Wilson as “a true innovator”.

“Her work recognised that Antarctica’s bedrock is slowly experiencing elevation change as a consequence of changes in the size of the ice sheet that covers the continent, as the weight of that ice sheet pushes the Earth’s crust downwards and when this ice is removed the crust slowly rebounds,” says Associate Professor McKay.

Understanding and measuring the magnitude of this change has implications for measuring the amount of ice sheet loss in the past and today, as well as for the very way the ice sheet flows into the ocean, he says.

“We now recognise that the changing shape of the deforming bedrock can alter how the ice sheet flows and how much ice is discharged to the surrounding oceans. Under certain conditions, these negative feedbacks can stabilise ice sheet retreat and slow sea-level rise, but these processes may operate too slowly to counter a rapid ice sheet loss event.

“Professor Emerita Wilson was a true innovator by recognising the need to develop a GPS network across the continent to monitor these long-term changes, and now these long-term datasets are critical to informing on current and future rates of sea-level rise.”

Professor Emerita Wilson was instrumental in the deployment of the first continental-scale network of remote, autonomous Global Navigation Satellite System and seismic instruments in Antarctica during the International Polar Year that began in March 2007, and still heads the Polar Earth Observing Network (POLENET) programme. She has led more than 25 field expeditions to Antarctica, cumulatively spending more than four years ‘on the Ice’. She has also served on a wide range of national and international advisory and steering committees, particularly those focused on polar science, including the Polar Research Board of the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine.

In addition to Earth science, Professor Emerita Wilson enjoys mountain hiking and exploring New Zealand, including Banks Peninsula, where she was “lucky enough” to be locked down when COVID-19 struck.

What: The 18th Annual S.T. Lee Lecture in Antarctic Studies: Weighing the Antarctic Ice Sheet: A Decade of Geophysical Imaging by Professor Emerita Terry Wilson
When: 5.30–6.30 pm, Thursday 15 April 2021
Where: Council Chamber, Hunter Building, Kelburn campus
RSVP: by Monday 12 April 2021 to or via this link: https//