Project Info

Investigating Antarctic subglacial lake candidates with data fusion and Bayesian statistics

Matthew Siegfried

Project Goals and Description:

Below the Earth’s ice sheets lie subglacial water features including lakes and connecting pathways. This research project capitalizes on NASA Earth Science’s flagship mission: the Ice, Cloud, and land Elevation Satellite 2 (ICESat-2), a satellite laser altimeter. The instrument’s high vertical resolution and spatial sampling density allow us to investigate lakes underneath the ice sheet that deform the ice sheet surface as ‘active’ lakes episodically drain and fill. Numerous new lake candidates have been identified that may be driven by subglacial water, but other processes can also modify the ice sheet’s surface shape. The MURF student will use data fusion and Bayesian statistics to develop predictions for the likely causal driver behind ice-surface elevation changes across Antarctica. This research will expand the current inventory of active subglacial lakes and provide refined assessments of subglacial water quantity. Ultimately this work will enhance our understanding of the roles and interactions of ice, freshwater, and ocean by quantifying the spatiotemporal variability of subglacial water.

More Information:

Grand Challenge: Not applicable.
Websites: Research group website, Mines Glaciology Laboratory at Mines ( ICESat-2 laser altimeter website (   Scientific articles: Fricker, H. A., Siegfried, M. R., Carter, S. P., & Scambos, T. A. (2016). A decade of progress in observing and modelling Antarctic subglacial water systems. Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society A: Mathematical, Physical and Engineering Sciences, 374(2059), 20140294. Livingstone, S. J., Li, Y., Rutishauser, A., Sanderson, R. J., Winter, K., Mikucki, J. A., et al. (2022). Subglacial lakes and their changing role in a warming climate. Nature Reviews Earth & Environment, (3), 106–124. Siegfried, M. R., & Fricker, H. A. (2018). Thirteen years of subglacial lake activity in Antarctica from multi-mission satellite altimetry. Annals of Glaciology, 59(76pt1), 42–55. Siegfried, M. R., & Fricker, H. A. (2021). Illuminating Active Subglacial Lake Processes With ICESat-2 Laser Altimetry. Geophysical Research Letters, 48(14), e2020GL091089. Smith, B. E., Fricker, H. A., Joughin, I. R., & Tulaczyk, S. (2009). An inventory of active subglacial lakes in Antarctica detected by ICESat (2003–2008). Journal of Glaciology, 55(192), 573–595.

Primary Contacts:

Wilson Sauthoff <a href=""></a> | Dr. Matthew Siegfried, <a href=""></a>.

Student Preparation


Working knowledge or interest in learning about cryospheric processes, hydrology, and climate science Computer programming experience (ideally Python or a willingness to learn Python) Background knowledge in statistics (helpful but not required)


4-5 hours


Cryosphere, hydrology, and climate science knowledge Computational earth science experience including data access, manipulation, and visualization of large data sets based in Python programming Data fusion and Bayesian statistics


Mentoring will take the form of meetings between the MURF student researcher and MURF primary mentor, Hydrologic Science and Engineering PhD candidate, Wilson Sauthoff, and Geophysics Department faculty mentor, Dr. Matthew Siegfried. In meetings, the MURF student researcher will set the agenda, which will typically include project updates, questions for mentors, etc. Mentors will provide feedback and assistance with the research project. Mentors will work the student researcher to scope achievable project goals, track progress, overcome roadblocks, and discuss interesting results. In all likelihood, the student researcher will have the option to author and submit a scientific abstract to deliver a poster or oral presentation at a scientific conference. Additional mentoring support is available to the student through engagement in a weekly group meeting of the Mines Glaciology Laboratory of researchers, which includes research talks from group members and guests as well as professional development and scientific article discussions. This group will consist of Master’s, PhD, and post-doctoral researchers, as well as other undergraduate student researchers. Optional participation in this meeting will offer the chance to learn how to approach scientific literature, overcome research problems, make professional decisions, and interact with other scholars researching the cryosphere.


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