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Sarah Child '07

Where most people see giant masses of ice, Child sees a lifetime’s worth of work in the more than 130,000 glaciers across the globe. The second-year doctoral student of glaciology at the University of Kansas already has traveled to East Antarctica multiple times to study the Byrd Glacier, one of the continent’s largest and least-studied glaciers, and its potential contributions to a rising sea level.

The former geographic information systems (GIS) major developed her passion for research at SUNY Cortland, where she pursued several independent studies projects under Associate Professor Scott Anderson and Distinguished Teaching Professor David Miller from the College’s Geography Department.

Child, a native of Cooperstown, N.Y., also excelled for four years as a member of SUNY Cortland’s field hockey team.

Twice her research has brought her to Antarctica to use a network of global positioning units to track Byrd Glacier’s ice speed and surface elevation changes from tidal fluctuations. Those observations, in turn, improve current ice flow models and predictions related to the behavior of the East Antarctic Ice Sheet.

Child takes what she learns and shares in unique ways; this summer, for instance, she will discuss the importance of glacial research at the 2013 Association of American Women in University Tech Trek Camp, a weeklong experience for 12-year-old girls to gain hands-on experience in the fields of science, technology, engineering and mathematics at the University of California in San Diego.

“My hope is to inspire these young girls to grow up to become scientists,” said Child, who has presented her research in locations ranging from the United Kingdom to Alaska.

Prior to pursuing her Ph.D. at the University of Kansas, Child earned a master’s in geographic information science from the University of Edinburgh in the United Kingdom. She performed GIS work during that time for scientists and contractors in Greenland and Alaska, locating roughly 78 percent of the U.S. Geologic Survey’s Antarctic aerial imagery collection, which equates to approximately 280,000 photos.

Child plans to teach undergraduate GIS skills and continue her glaciological research with her doctorate, which she is anticipated to earn in 2015.

“With over 130,000 glaciers in the world, they will provide a lifetime of research, which I love and find hugely fascinating and important,” she said.