Donald Blankenship

Dr. Donald Blankenship joined the faculty of the University of Texas at Austin in 1991, after completing his Ph.D. at the University of Wisconsin at Madison. He has worked as a research scientist at the UT Institute for Geophysics (UTIG) since 1996, and received the Leverhulme Fellowship from the University of Bristol in the United Kingdom, where he worked as a visiting professor in 2004. He won the NASA Achievement Award for his work on the JIMO Science Definition Team in 2005.

Blankenship uses both airborne and ground-based geophysical techniques, including laser altimetry, radar sounding, and seismic reflection and refraction, to investigate dynamics of large ice sheets and subglacial geology. Much of his current research is focused on understanding the West Antarctic rift system (including the flanking Transantarctic Mountains) and the marine-based West Antarctic Ice Sheet. Blankenship's recent aerogeophysical investigations have verified that there is a strong correlation between subglacial sediments and ice streaming; these airborne experiments also give indications of active subglacial volcanism near the critical region where ice streams begin. The airborne platform that he developed to simultaneously acquire ice-penetrating radar, laser altimetry, airborne gravity, and aeromagnetic measurements has become the foundation for an NSF-sponsored national facility for airborne geophysics in Antarctica (SOAR) operating from UTIG.

Building on his expertise in radar sounding and ice sheets, Blankenship became involved in the planning of an unmanned space mission to Europa, one of Jupiter’s moons, which is thought to have an ice-covered ocean that may host exotic life.

Session(s) by Donald Blankenship: