Philosophical Society of Washington

Art, Adventure, and Discovery Down Under

Michael Van Woert
National Science Foundation

2206th Meeting Abstract
Friday, April 21, 2006 at 8:15 PM


The late 1800ís and early 1900ís represent the heroic age for polar exploration and discovery. International Polar Year 2007-2008 commemorates 125th anniversary of the first International Polar Year (1882-1883). This talk illustrates some of the challenges that the modern polar researcher faces in performing their research and contrasts those with those encountered by the early explorers. In the process we will touch on and discuss a number of key contemporary Antarctic science issues.

Mike Van Woert

About the Author:

Michael Van Woert received a BS degree in Physics from the University of California, Davis and a Ph.D. from Scripps Institution of Oceanography at the University of California, San Diego. His dissertation work focused on the application of emerging satellite technology to the study of oceanic fronts north of the Hawaiian Islands. The work attracted keen interest from fisheries biologist working both in the open-ocean and coastal regions.

After graduating from college, he spent 10 years working in industry. He had the opportunity to make the “rough” 5-day cruise across the great “Southern Ocean” to Palmer Station, Antarctica to establish a NOAA polar orbiting satellite receiving system. It was then that he first got the “Polar Bug”. Two years later, he traveled to McMurdo station, where conditions were distinctly “Polar” comparted to Palmer station, to install a Defense Meteorological Satellite Program satellite receiving system. It was the combination of the important scientific issues that confront Antarctica along with the rich historical significance of the region that forged his real passion to return to the “Frozen Continent”.

In 1993, he joined NASA as a Program Scientist and Program Manager in the Physical Oceanography Program. Deciding that the snowfall in Washington DC was inadequate to satisfy his Polar Bug, he joined the Arctic Research Program at the Office of Naval Research (ONR) in 1994. He is now the Executive Officer for the National Science Foundation Office of Polar Programs.

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