Meet the Norfolk oceanographer who has just had an Antarctic glacier named for her

Karen Heywood Picture: supplied

Karen Heywood Picture: supplied - Credit: supplied

Q&A with Karen Heywood

What is the closest you have been to the Heywood Glacier?

The closest is 390 miles as the crow flies, when I visited the UK’s Antarctic research station on the other side of the Antarctic Peninsula.

Would you like to visit the actual glacier?

Of course! It would be very exciting. But I’m not likely to ever go. One of my meteorologist colleagues at UEA, Ian Renfrew, studies the effect that warm winds have on the melting of glaciers, so maybe I will be able to convince him to study the region around the Heywood glacier!

What would you find there?

A vast expanse of ice as far as the eye can see. Probably full of crevasses. Very little wildlife, if any.

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How did you become an oceanographer?

I originally studied physics, and then I wanted to apply this to understanding to what was happening in the real world around me. I studied for a PhD, went off to sea on a research voyage and was bitten by the oceanography bug. It’s so exciting to make observations of how our planet works that no-one’s ever made before.

What are autonomous ocean gliders and what inspired you to use them as research tools?

I call them mechanical dolphins – they’re about the same size and shape, and they go up and down in the ocean by themselves making measurements for us. Every time they come to the surface, they put their antenna out of the water and phone home to send us the data. When I first heard about ocean gliders I was so excited – I love the idea of something out there in all weathers sending us new measurements all the time.

What can we do here in Norfolk to protect Antarctica?

That’s a good question. Drive an electric car, install solar panels, fly and drive less, anything you can think of to reduce our carbon dioxide emissions. And try to throw away less plastic, for example packaging – minuscule particles of plastic have even reached Antarctica!

Is your glacier at risk?

Certainly. The glaciers in the Antarctic Peninsula are particularly at risk of melting – it’s one of the regions of our planet that are warming rapidly. Melting of glaciers is one of the causes of sea level rise, and that increases erosion of our lovely coastline back here in Norfolk.

Do you enjoy traditional Norfolk seaside activities?

My favourite place is Holkham beach, but it’s far too cold to get me in the sea in the UK! We are mostly to be found tramping the muddy fields around Norfolk with our Labrador puppy Barley. If it counts as a traditional Norfolk activity – we are fervent Norwich City supporters, season ticket holders in the City stand. OTBC! u