Rebecca has the world’s coolest job
Although flying ice to Scandinavia may seem about as useful as sending coal to Newcastle, it’s an important part of Rebecca Pyne’s job.
The ice she packs and dispatches around the globe is priceless and almost irreplaceable because enormous resources have gone into extracting it from beneath the surface of Antarctica’s Ross Ice Shelf.
Pyne is the ice core facility coordinator and technician of the Roosevelt Island Climate Evolution project at GNS, Gracefield.
It’s her job to send the samples to the project’s far-flung partners to do their part of the ice analysis.
The ice cores stored at GNS froze tens of thousands of years ago and careful analysis of their chemistry and structure can offer knowledge of the climatic and ocean conditions at the time they froze.
It can also allow conclusions to be drawn about the causes of global temperature changes and predictions about what is to come.
The project has nine international partners – New Zealand, Australia, China, Denmark, Germany, Italy, Sweden, Britain and the United States.
Each has a different speciality and a different interest in the samples.
The ice chemistry is studied in Perth, carbon dioxide levels in Copenhagen, dust is analysed in Milan, the Scrips Institute in Florida and Oregon State University study dissolved gases.
At Maine University, researchers analyse the frozen magma from volcanic eruptions.
At GNS the ice is stored in a freezer maintained at minus 36 degrees celsius.
For transport the ice is packed in chiller boxes with cold packs and, if they are not to be used for gas analysis, dry ice.
The journey can be a stressful time for Pyne so it’s important for everybody involved to read the documentation carefully.
‘‘Each time I set this up with a company I tell them ‘this is so important’, because if they take a personal interest in it, they’ll do the best they can do, ‘‘ she said.
‘‘My biggest fear is that it’s going to melt. Somebody hasn’t read the paperwork and they don’t put it in the freezer on the stopovers, and they lose it.’’
Rebecca Pyne with her special Antarctic ice.