SEA Days: Understanding Ice

by Rasheed I. Al Kotob, Volunteer Programs Assistant

Each month, the third Saturday is a special day at Birch Aquarium: SEA Days! As the tagline suggests, SEA Days are always full of  “Science, Exploration and Adventure.” Visitors and members can meet a Scripps Institution of Oceanography or UC San Diego researcher and get hands-on with science, participate in activity stations, and get creative with a thematic craft.

What do you think of when you picture the world’s water content? You may imagine our oceans as vast bodies of water that span most of the globe. However, a large amount of the water on Earth also exists as ice. For example, the ice on the continent of Antarctica alone accounts for 90% of the world’s ice, and 70% of our fresh water. Now that’s impressive! Understanding all that ice is important. For example, researchers study ice to help predict the rate of sea level change around the world and to learn about microscopic life in other areas of our solar system.

Our visiting scientist for December’s SEA Days is Sasha Peter Carter, Ph.D., a researcher at the Scripps Institution of Oceanography, who has the opportunity to closely observe and participate in a variety of research projects that study the incredible phenomena that take place in ice. Below, Sasha answers questions about his experience in the field and gives advice to future scientists.


Where did you go to college?

I started by taking college classes as a high school student at UC Riverside, then completed four years of College at UC Santa Cruz.  Following that, I spent seven years at the University of Texas, Austin completing my Ph.D.

What is your area of research?

I study the river systems beneath the Antarctic ice sheet.  They are as complex and varied as any of the rivers you may know, but buried beneath hundreds if not thousands of feet of ice.  We now know that these systems harbor life, which bears similarity to that we might expect to find elsewhere in the solar system.  These rivers are also of critical importance for how fast ice flows into the ocean, which matters if you want to predict sea level changes.

Who or what inspired you to become involved in marine science?

I always loved being outdoors, and I was concerned about pollution and change to the environments.  I saw studying science as a way to make the world a less polluted place.

What qualities do you need in order to become a scientist?

Never forgetting to play.  

What will you be bringing with you to SEA days?

Flubber, a material that like glacial ice, is solid, but flows under its own weight.  

What is the best advice you have for people interested in becoming involved in your field of research?

Look around you. Then look deeper.  

What are your favorite ocean organisms?




Join us on Saturday, December 20 for SEA Days: Understanding Ice—there’s something for everyone!

SEA Days are 11 a.m – 3 p.m., are included with aquarium admission, and always free to aquarium members. Not a member? Join today!

SEA you there!


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Scripps Institution of Oceanography UC San Diego