Dare to do
Standing outside of his temporary classroom and laboratory overlooking Greenland’s Disko Bay, Brad Markle breathes in the big picture. The big picture is something that’s always on his mind, which is reflected in both his art and science. As a photographer, he captures sweeping scenes, from giant, rippling cloud masses and never-ending skies, to massive, bobbing icebergs in a vast ocean. As a scientist who studies paleoclimatology, he asks questions on a sweeping scale to untangle the complexities of the Earth’s climate history over millennia.
Brad Markle, Ph.D. candidate
Area of research: Glaciology
Most recently: Markle contributed to a multi-institutional study that demonstrates the link between sudden warming events in Greenland’s past and corresponding periods of cooling in Antarctica. Crucial to making this connection, which spans thousands of miles and tens of thousands of years, were precise analyses of oxygen molecules from miles beneath the surface of Antarctic ice.
Markle, who is pursuing a Ph.D. in the College of the Environment’s Department of Earth and Space Sciences, studies the West Antarctic Ice Sheet (WAIS) Divide, a U.S.-led deep ice-coring project funded by the National Science Foundation. He sifts through 70,000 years of climate data locked within ice core samples to unearth signals and indicators related to a changing climate over time. In doing so, he can decipher likely scenarios of change that predate any potential human-made impacts and inform our understanding of future climate trends and events.
But this isn’t a project that any one scientist can tackle alone. Researchers across the globe are working in tandem to analyze and interpret various data from the WAIS Divide. Markle, a native Oregonian, is one of those scientists. He chose to pursue his Ph.D. at the College of the Environment in part because it houses two world-class departments, Earth and Space Sciences and Atmospheric Sciences. The departments sit next to each other physically, and researchers are encouraged to extend the scope of their knowledge into other disciplines. For Markle and his faculty advisor, Professor Eric Steig, thinking outside of their disciplinary silos is hugely beneficial for furthering their work and expanding their network of scientists beyond any one program at the UW.
Over the past several years, Brad Markle’s research has taken him to some of the world’s coldest places — and most beautiful, provided they’re not covered in clouds.