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Honors Thesis Spotlight: Hannah Baranes '12

Hannah Baranes '12

Hannah Baranes '12 measures a boulder in preparation for sampling on a glacial moraine in one of the valleys west of Quelccaya Ice Cap, Peru, June 2011.

Department: Earth Sciences (EARS)

Topic: Surface Exposure Dating of the Huancané-III Moraines in Peru: A Record of the Last Glacial Maximum in the Tropics

Advisor: Meredith Kelly, Assistant Professor, Earth Sciences

An off-campus program led to an incredible research experience for Hannah Baranes, an Earth Sciences major from Washington, DC. Hannah participated in the "Stretch" program, a travel-study term run by the Earth Sciences department as a required part of the EARS major. The Stretch provides an opportunity for undergraduates to gain experience in traditional and emerging field techniques, travel the country, and use hands-on learning methods with Dartmouth faculty and fellow students.

"The Stretch is like an Earth Sciences major's FSP [Foreign Study Program]," Hannah said. "I was doing field work with Professor Kelly and at the end of the Stretch she invited me to research with her in Peru. It was easy to say yes. Professor Kelly's project is amazing and she's a passionate teacher who cares about engaging her students." A Stefansson Research Fellowship from the Dickey Center's Institute of Arctic Studies helped fund Hannah's travel to Peru.

For her honors thesis, Hannah Baranes drew on her experience studying glacial landforms around Quelccaya Ice Cap in the Peruvian Andes. Her research was supported by the National Science Foundation and was funded by an NSF program called "Paleoclimate perspective on climate change (P2C2)."

Hannah is helping develop a paleoclimate record in the tropics by applying surface exposure dating to a set of glacial moraines that mark the largest ice extent of Quelccaya Ice Cap during the last glacial period. "The Last Glacial Maximum is well recorded in the northern and southern hemispheres because there are long ice core records from Greenland and Antarctica. However, scientists still debate the nature of the event at tropical latitudes because it is more difficult to study paleoclimate in parts of the world where there are no large ice sheets," Hannah explained.

"Unfortunately I can't draw a lot of conclusions from my work [in Peru] yet because climate models for the area are still being developed," said Hannah, "but I look forward to analyzing the work once models have been produced."

Professor Kelly noted that Hannah's thesis project will have an impact on our scientific understanding of the Last Glacial Maximum. "The data that Hannah has produced are exciting and valuable for testing the mechanisms which cause tropical climate change," she said. "In addition, they will contribute to a larger project effort combining paleoclimate records and global circulation models to understand climate change." The data will be published in a peer-reviewed scientific journal.

Hannah states, "I was nervous about formal scientific writing, but by the time I sat down to write, I had read so many scientific papers that writing about my research was really easy to do. It's not that bad writing a senior thesis. You just need to pick something you're interested in."

Upon graduating Hannah hopes to work for an environmental consulting firm. She has also applied for AmeriCorps.

Last Updated: 5/22/12