National Science Foundation/USGS Internship Opportunities

Resolving spatial and temporal variability of snow accumulation in mountain and glacier environments

The complex nature of snow limits our quantitative understanding of its distribution on the landscape. This internship will focus on a unique data set of snow radar profiles collected at multiple glaciers in Alaska over several years. The data has potential to transform our understanding of snow accumulation processes on glaciers.

Link to PDF Version.

Project Hypothesis or Objectives:

Quantifying precipitation as snow continues to challenge modern science. A robust, programmatic method to measure the magnitude and variability in snow accumulation does not yet exist using geophysical methods. This is further complicated in glacierized ecosystems, where runoff is altered by glacier mass loss. The work undertaken during this internship will enable quantitative characterization of spatial and temporal variability of snow accumulation to better inform regional hydrological and ecological processes. The intern will focus on analysis of Ground Penetrating Radar (GPR) data collected over multiple seasons from glaciers in Alaska. Primary objectives include 1) resolving winter mass balance (snow accumulation) at the basin scale, and 2) characterizing controls on variability in snow within and among the various basins surveyed. We expect the work to be disseminated at geophysical conferences and via contributions in peer-reviewed glaciological literature.

Duration: Up to 12 months

Internship Location: Anchorage, AK

Field(s) of Study: Geoscience

Applicable NSF Division: AGS Atmospheric and Geospace Sciences, EAR Earth Sciences, PLR Polar Programs

Intern Type Preference: NSF Graduate Research Fellow (GRF) via the Graduate Research Intern Program (GRIP)

Keywords: Glaciology, mass balance, snow, glaciers, geophysics, groundpenetrating radar

Expected Outcome:

We expect the intern will not only help to process large amounts of data, but they will interpret them in the context of snow distributions in space and time. A peer-reviewed journal paper is the desired outcome of the internship.

Special skills/training Required:

A bachelors or Masters degree in Earth science is a pre-requisite. Background and experience in glaciology, snow science or hydrology is desired. Scientific computing skills are central to this position. Experience with scientific programming languages such as MATLAB or Python is a plus. Glaciological field work may be an option, but is not required.


The intern will work with a strong team of USGS and academic scientists to process and interpret ground-penetrating radar data collected during between 2013-present. We strive to offer interns a field opportunity if desired, although field work is not a primary emphasis of the internship. It is expected that the later portion of the experience will be focused on manuscript preparation.


Shad O'Neel, Ph.D.

Research Geophysicist
Alaska Science Center
Phone: 907-786-7088