Andrew Moy - drilling and core analysis

Andrew Moy
Dr Andrew Moy will measure water isotopes using a Picarro laser spectrometer. (Photo: Wendy Pyper)

Australian Antarctic Division and Antarctic Climate and Ecosystems Cooperative Research Centre

My primary role in the Aurora Basin Project is to analyse ice core samples for water isotopes (oxygen and hydrogen isotopes) using a Picarro laser spectrometer. I will also assist with the drilling of ice cores using the Danish Hans Tausen and the Eclipse ice core drills.

Naturally occurring oxygen and hydrogen both come in rare heavier forms called isotopes. In the oceans, one in about every 500 oxygen atoms is the heavy isotope, while one in about 70 hydrogen atoms is heavy. However, as the water evaporates and is transported to polar regions, the mix of the heavy isotopes changes. These changes are mostly influenced by temperature and it turns out that by measuring water isotopes in ice cores we can infer temperatures when the snow originally fell.

The Picarro analyser is purpose-designed and built for field deployment as well as laboratory-based work, and this will enable the Aurora Basin project team to measure oxygen and hydrogen water isotopes in the field. This capability will enable us to have at least a 2000 year temperature record as soon as we come out of the field.

Career highlights

I completed a Bachelor of Science with Honours in Earth Sciences at La Trobe University in 1993 and spent the next five years as a mine geologist in northern Queensland. In 2000 I enrolled in a PhD at the University of Tasmania and the Institute of Antarctic and Southern Ocean studies (IASOS), after a chance meeting with Dr Will Howard at the Antarctic Climate and Ecosystems Cooperative Research Centre (ACE CRC). Under Dr Howard’s supervision I used marine sediment records from the South Tasman Rise to reconstruct past deep water circulation and carbonate chemistry in the Southern Ocean. My subsequent post-doc looked at the effect of ocean acidification (caused by increasing amounts of carbon dioxide dissolving in the ocean) on calcareous shelled organisms in the Southern Ocean. By comparing modern-day calcareous shells collected from sediment traps, to shells from the pre-industrial era, we detected a decrease in shell weight over time. This study provided the first field observation of the negative effect of ocean acidification on calcareous organisms and fitted well with carbonate chemistry work by others.

In 2007 I took up a position as an ice core research scientist at the Australian Antarctic Division. Ice cores are like marine sediments in that you can measure various chemical and physical properties to detect changes over time. I’m currently using water isotopes of oxygen and hydrogen (deuterium) in ice cores from Law Dome and Mill Island, to look at changes in snowfall, temperature, atmospheric composition and atmospheric circulation. These records will help us to understand, quantify and determine the natural variability of climate processes, and changes caused by human activities.