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Federal Shutdown Impacting NIU Antarctic Research

The National Science Foundation may cancel upcoming field research season

DeKalb, Illinois- The campus of Northern Illinois University is looking more like fall, but inside Davis Hall the federal government is putting a deep freeze on their Antarctic research program.

"I would say without contradiction that this is the worst situation the program has ever been in," said lead researcher and Professor, Ross Powell.

Working alongside fellow Professor Reed Scherer, between the two, they've traveled to Antarctica 21 times.

"The research we've been focusing on is related to global warming and trying to understand the history of the Antarctic ice sheet," said Powell.

"We really haven't been able to go to the very place where the interactions between the ocean and ice are happening,” said Scherer. “That was our intention this season."

The National Science Foundation that supports the $10 million, multi-year project is likely to cancel the upcoming field season if the shutdown continues another week. The professors aren't the only ones being affected.

"We have graduate students who are building their careers based on this project," said Scherer.

Tim Hodson is one of those students that made the three month trip last year. The shutdown is offering uncertainty to his future.

"Absolutely. I'll have to change around the dissertation, may have to rethink things and change my whole project around a little bit,” said Hodson.

Originally set for departure next month, the team is now looking at December.

 "Even if the government gets the funding, its going to be a matter of finding out from NSF whether they'll be able to kick back in to operational mode so we can get the science done," said Powell.

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