CWU receives $2 million to study polar ice caps

CWU receives $2 million to study polar ice caps »Play Video

ELLENSBURG, Wash. -- Central Washington University will be front and center to study the polar ice caps. A pair of research professors at Central Washington University will use $2 million in grant money to develop new technology.

It’s not only a profession, but a hobby for Audrey Huerta and her husband, Paul Winberry. Both are professors at Central studying everything from rocks to glaciers to the movement of the Earth.

"Me being a geologist, I worry about how the glaciers shape the Earth because they carve it and work over it, so we meet in the middle,” said Audrey Huerta.

The couple spent years collecting seismic data from the polar ice caps. They turned that in to the National Science Foundation who offered the pair a $2 million dollar grant.

The money will be spent to examine and develop new instruments measuring the Earth and the structure of polar ice caps.

"It's very satisfying because you know your work is being appreciated,” said Paul Winberry.

But the grant money was still a surprise.

"It's starts with ‘oh boy’ and then ‘oh no’ we have so much work to do and we only have three years to do it,” said Huerta. “So it's a mixed blessing. Yeah we're really excited.”

Most of the money will be spent on new technologies and equipment.

The duo will develop a device that would be like a giant cat scan, producing clear, internal images of Earth. This will help with collecting data and provide images of what the Earth would look like if the glaciers were peeled away.

"If you want to understand what the Earth looks like underneath these glaciers, you have to sort of come up with clever ways to pull away the ice,” said Winberry.

A select number of students have been able to visit the polar ice caps for the research. And more will be able to do so in the future.

Student trips will be sponsored by the National Science Foundation. Selected students will get hands on experience and paid for their research work.