Meet our scientists: Katrina Bartek

Today we get to know Katrina Bartek (subproject 7). She is a PhD student at the University of Erlangen-Nuremberg and works at the Institute of Geography in Erlangen together with Prof. Dr. Matthias Braun. She started an exciting project this year using deep learning techniques to study Greenland's supraglacial lakes. Let's hear more about it!

How did you come about the GROCE project?

Having had a passion about using science to help improve the world in some way, I gained my master’s degree in remote sensing/applied Earth observation at the Technical University of Munich. Throughout my courses there, not only was the importance of polar region observation emphasized, but also the usefulness of remote sensing in such a domain. Upon finishing my master’s, I was determined to find a Ph.D. project where I could use remote sensing to improve the understanding of the changes that are happening in the polar regions. I was thrilled to find this position in the GROCE project where I can combine my personal interests and my scientific skills.

What is your contribution to GROCE?

My contribution to the project is focused on developing better techniques to detect and analyse supraglacial lakes.  This will be achieved through a combination of satellite data, as well as in situ data acquired during field work. Firstly, I will develop an algorithm to differentiate surfaces within a satellite image in order to determine the boundaries of these lakes throughout the melting season. While this is helpful in estimating the total area of lakes on the glaciers, an estimate of their total water volume would be even better to help calculate variations in the mass of the glacier at the surface, thereby improving predictions of climate models. Thus, I will also be developing a supraglacial lake depth algorithm based on satellite observations, which will be validated through field work.

Currently there is an expedition planned for next summer (July-August 2022) with the goal of directly measuring the depths of some supraglacial lakes. We will journey with the German research ship Polarstern, which will anchor at the shore of the 79N Glacier for a week. While the ship waits there, we will use a helicopter to fly out to the glacier every day and land next to a lake. There, we will send a small remote controlled boat equipped with an echo sounder out onto the lake to measure the depths.

What are you most passionate about in your job?

I really enjoy how multidisciplinary this work can be. Not only do I get to bring in computer science and remote sensing skills by coding and analyzing satellite data, but I also get to come in close contact with natural sciences like glaciology, hydrology and atmospheric sciences. Another dimension is brought in when preparing for and conducting field work, as you need to engineer the equipment you are bringing to take measurements and have to prepare yourself physically and mentally for such a remote expedition.