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Royal family honors University of Texas researcher

AUSTIN (KXAN) — University of Texas researcher Ian Dalziel will be honored at Buckingham Palace later this summer. This medal is awarded by the British Royal Family to scientists who have spent meaningful time in the Arctic.

“I received an email whose content apologized, first of all, for the vulgarity of communicating in this way,” Dalziel said.

Dalziel has visited the Ice Continent over 50 times since the late 1960s.

“I was interested in looking over the horizon,” said Dalziel. “I wanted to know the relationship between the rocks in this range and the rocks in that range,” says Dalziel.

This geologist joined the University of Texas in the late 1980s. His work at the Jackson Graduate School of Geosciences contributed to the study of Pangea, an ancient supercontinent that existed hundreds of millions of years ago.

“My contribution to the early understanding of supercontinents was to connect the Pacific Rim between North America and Antarctica,” Dalziel said.

Ian Dalziel has been teaching at the University of Texas since the late 1980s (Credit: University of Texas/Ian Dalziel)

live a life of adventure

Ian Dalziel (pronounced Deel) grew up in Scotland. Both of his parents were actors and took him to the Scottish Highlands for summer vacations.

“I grew up eating in a really natural place and I fell in love with it,” said Dalziel.

A career as a geologist brought him to America. On New Year’s Day 1969, he made his first trip to the Arctic. “At the time, we were operating in the Shetland Islands, which are islands off the Antarctic Peninsula,” Dalziel said.

According to Dalziel, he wanted to understand South Georgia. The island resembles Hawaii, formed by volcanic eruptions.

However, there were no active volcanoes in this area. Dalziel discovers that the island is actually part of South America left behind when the continents moved over millions of years.

“That led me to the islands of the Scotia Arc, which led me to the inland part of wanting to know about the inland part of West Antarctica,” Dalziel said.

To the ice desert of Antarctica

More than ten years after his first trip, Dalziel has set out into the depths of the Seventh Continent. Few people traveled to the places he had visited before.

“There was one party at least 25 years before the US Geological Survey party,” says Dalziel. He occasionally found relics from his previous travels, such as the hammer that he now keeps in his office.

“There is absolutely no evidence of human occupation,” Dalizel said. “Nothing but beautiful ridges and colors of snow and ice.”

Ian Dalziel’s research tracked rock samples across multiple continents. (Credit: University of Texas/Ian Dalziel)

It was hard to move. People usually fly to the coast and trek into the interior of the continent.

Dalziel and his team devised a plan to transport the British on small aircraft, while the Americans would use aviation fuel. This made it possible to bring in helicopters and small planes to travel even farther.

“Sometimes I remember sitting there many times in the evening after dinner when the wind wasn’t blowing,” Dalziel said. “You can’t help but be moved by places that very few people have ever been to.”

Life in the Arctic

Dalziel entered the University of Texas in the late 1980s, with an emphasis on expeditionary science. As part of the university, he has led student and faculty trips around the world.

He has made at least 50 trips to Antarctica. He stopped counting a while ago.

Climate change is very evident in the Arctic, he says. His most recent trip in 2014 highlighted some changes.

“There was a glacier, so to get from one beach to another, we had to climb over it,” Dalziel said. “Now they’ve stepped back significantly and can roam on snow and walk on ice from one beach to another.”

Landing planes in Antarctica is becoming increasingly difficult due to climate change. (Credit: University of Texas/Ian Dalziel)

Dalziel said large planes are having difficulty landing as well. The broken ice runway is melting in the heat.

As part of his research, Dalziel installed the first GPS device used to track ice flows in Antarctica. Dalziel said measurements from these devices show that the ice has melted significantly in recent years.

What will Antarctic explorers do next?

In 2021, Dalziel was awarded the Penrose Medal by the Geological Society of America. He called the honor the greatest because it was given to him by his colleague.

He hopes to return to the islands around Antarctica in the near future. He doubts that at his age it will be difficult to enter the interior.

After a lifetime of research, his key piece of advice for everyone is simple.

“Follow your curiosity,” said Dalziel. “Make sure you pick important workplaces that really tell you something.”

https://www.kxan.com/news/science/antarctica-explorer-and-university-of-texas-researcher-to-be-honored-with-polar-medal/ Royal family honors University of Texas researcher

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