Young geologist goes to North Pole

Publication Date

Kyle McQuiggan '14

Two months after graduating Union, Kyle McQuiggan '14 embarked on a great Arctic expedition.

A biology-turned-geology major, Kyle never imagined he’d be going to the North Pole, but that’s just what he did. The purpose of the trip, run the by the U.S. branch of GEOTRACES, was to establish baseline measurements of chemicals in the Arctic (water, ice, sediment, snow and air).

The reason?

In the future, McQuiggan said, when a metal is found in the ocean and it seems high, our data will show if concentrations have increased since 2015. This work will help develop trackable levels of elements.

Kyle McQuiggan '14

McQuiggan, who has never been at sea or experienced the perpetually cold conditions, was thrilled with the experience.

“I really enjoyed the work, the field, and the people,” he said, “I have always loved the ocean and truly enjoyed being at sea.”

The adventure lasted 64 days (early August—mid-October), with the team navigating the icy waters from DutchHarbor, Alaska to the North Pole and back. After 6,000 miles, with good weather and thinner ice than expected, the expedition was declared a success—the researchers got all the samples they wanted.

These samples are now in Norfolk, Va., being analyzed. During this time, McQuiggan will also be working towards his master’s degree in chemical oceanography at Old Dominion University.

McQuiggan expects the Arctic research to be published in multiple papers, conference presentations and a summary book. And after that? He looks forward to more opportunities of this kind. He did, after all, discover that there really is a red-and-white striped pole (think Santa Claus) at the North Pole.

Kyle credits Union with making such things possible. It’s where he was inspired—in part by courses in biogeochemistry and advanced oceanography—to become a geology major in the first place.

These same courses, combined with the hands-on research he did in Union’s graduate-level labs, have prepared him well for his work at Old Dominion. They’ve given him a great understanding on which to build his expertise, he said, and his dream job in chemical oceanography.


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