Kathy Licht, Ph.D.

Professor and Department Chair, Earth Sciences

SL 118K
(317) 278-1343
Research Areas:
Glacial Geology | Paleoclimatology/Paleoceanography | Sedimentology


Overall my research focuses on understanding the history of the Antarctic ice sheet so we can better determine what causes it to advance and retreat and how that fits in with the global climate system.  I have several active grants through the National Science Foundation that have provided opportunites for us to collect field data, which provides important new data to help us determine Antarctica's history. One project builds on our previous work in the Ross Sea (Licht et al., 2014) and includes provenance analysis of glacial sediments in the Weddell Sea region of Antarctica.  A second grant provided funding for us to collect radar data that lets us see beneath the ice surface and characterize the internal structure of the ice.  The glacial deposits at this research site are unusual in that they contains a relatively continuous sequence of glacial deposits spanning more than one glacial-interglacial cycle, allowing us to document ice sheet changes on these long time scales.  If you want to know more about our field seasons, you can scroll back through our Twitter account (@IUPUIonice).

The scientific objectives of our work dovetail with an international effort strongly focused on studying and modeling Antarctic ice sheet history, in part because of its potential impact on global sea level rise. The variation of till compositions through time also allows for better down core interpretation of cores from the Ross Sea and the Southern Ocean. Additionally, till exposures at the head of some East Antarctic outlets have been shown to contain subglacial material derived from East Antarctic bedrock, providing a window through the ice with which to view East Antarctica’s inaccessible bedrock.


  • Ph.D., Geological Sciences, University of Colorado, Boulder, 1999
  • M.S., Geological Sciences, University of Colorado, Boulder, 1995
  • B.S., Natural Science, St. Norbert College, 1992

Publications & Professional Activity

Graly, J., Licht, K., *Bader, N., and Bish, D., 2020. Chemical weathering signatures from Mt. Achernar Moraine, central Transantarctic Mountains I: Subglacial sediments compared with underlying rock. Geochimica et Cosmochimica Acta 283, doi:10.1016/j.gca.2020.06.005

*Kassab, C., Licht, K., Petersson, R., Lindbäck, K., Graly, J., and Kaplan, M., 2019.  Formation and Evolution of an extensive blue ice moraine in central Transantarctic Mountains, Antarctica.  Journal of Glaciology, doi:10.1017/jog.2019.83

Licht, K., *Groth, T., *Townsend, J., *Hennessy, A., Hemming, S., Flood, T. and Studinger, M., 2018. Evidence for Extending Anomalous Miocene Volcanism at the Edge of the East Antarctic Craton. Geophysical Research Letters 45, doi:10.1002/2018GL077237

Graly, J.A, Licht, K.J., Druschel, G.K., and Kaplan, M.R., 2018. Polar desert chronologies through quantitative measurements of salt accumulation. Geology 26, 351-354.

Graly, J.A., Licht, K.J., *Kassab, C.M., Bird, B.W., and Kaplan, M.R., 2018. Sediment entrainment mechanisms and ice origin in an Antarctic blue ice moraine assessed through stable isotope analysis and internal structures of shallow ice cores. Journal of Glaciology, doi: 10.1017/jog.2018.4

*Kassab, C.M., *Brickles, S.L., Licht, K.J., and Monaghan, G.W., 2017. Exploring the use of zircon geochronology as an indicator of Laurentide Ice Sheet till provenance, Indiana, USA. Quaternary Research, 1-12, doi:10.1017/qua.2017.71.

Kaplan, M.R., Licht, K., Winckler, G., Schaefer, J.M., *Bader, N., Mathieson, C., Roberts, M., *Kassab, C.M., Schwartz, R., and Graly, J.G., 2017. Late Pleistocene stability of the East Antarctic ice sheet, as seen from the Transantarctic Mountains. Geology 45, doi:10.1130/G39189.1

Licht, K.J., and Hemming, S., 2017.  Analysis of Antarctic glacigenic sediment provenance through geochemical and petrologic applications (Invited Review). Quaternary Science Reviews 164, 1-24.

*Bader, N.A., Licht, K.J., Kaplan, M.R., *Kassab, C., and Winckler, G., 2017. East Antarctic ice sheet stability since the mid-Pleistocene recorded in a high-elevation ice-cored moraine. Quaternary Science Reviews 159, p.88-102.

Farmer, G.L., and Licht, K.L., 2016. Generation and Fate of Glacial Sediments in the central Transantarctic Mountains based on Radiogenic Isotopes and Implications for Reconstructing Past Ice Dynamics. Quaternary Science Reviews 150, p.98-109.

*Welke, B., Licht K., *Hennessy, A., Hemming, S., Pierce-Davis, E., *Kassab, C., 2016. Applications of detrital geochronology and thermochronology from glacial deposits to the Paleozoic and Mesozoic thermal history of the Ross Embayment, Antarctica. Geochemistry, Geophysics, Geosystems, 17, doi:10.1002/2015GC005941.

Licht, K.J., *Hennessy, A.J., and *Welke, B.M., 2014. The U/Pb detrital zircon signature of West Antarctic ice stream tills in the Ross Embayment, with implications for LGM ice flow reconstructions.  Antarctic Science 26, 687-697.

Licht, K.J., and *Palmer, E.F., 2013.  Erosion and transport by Byrd Glacier, Antarctica during the last glacial maximum.  Quaternary Science Reviews, v.62, p.32-48.

*Palmer, E.F., Licht, K.J., Swope, R.J., and Hemming, S.R., 2012. Nunatak moraines as a repository of what lies beneath the East Antarctic ice sheet, in Rasbury, E.T., Hemming, S.R., and Riggs, N.R., eds., Mineralogical and Geochemical Approaches to Provenance. Geological Society of America Special Paper 487, 97–104, doi:10.1130/2012.2487(05).

Goodge, J., Fanning, M., *Brecke, D., Licht, K., *Palmer, E., 2010.  Continuation of the Laurentian Grenville province across the Ross Sea margin of Antarctica.  Journal of Geology, v. 118, p. 601-619.

*Nelson, J.A., Licht, K., Yansa, C., and Filippelli, G., 2010. Climate-related cyclic deposition of carbonate and organic matter in Holocene lacustrine sediment, Lower Michigan, USA.  Journal of Paleolimnology. DOI: 10.1007/s10933-009-9381-0

Farmer, G.L., Licht, K., Swope, R.J., and Andrews, J.T., 2006.  Isotopic constraints on the provenance of fine-grained sediment in LGM till from the Ross Embayment, Antarctica.  Earth and Planetary Science Letters, v.249, p.90-107.

Licht, K.J., *Lederer, J.R., and Swope, R.J., 2005. Provenance of LGM Glacial Till (sand fraction) across the Ross Embayment, Antarctica.  Quaternary Science Reviews, v.24, p.1499-1520.

*Student authors