Studying geography is not where Shelley MacDonell thought she would end up after high school - after all, she had been a science and maths student. However, after taking the first year Physical Geography paper she was hooked!
By combining her interest in the environment with mathematics, Shelley was able to measure and model melting and drainage on an Antarctic glacier as part of her PhD thesis. This work has enabled a better understanding of the way glaciers in Antarctica produce and route water, which is critical for reducing the uncertainties surrounding sea-level rise predictions from Antarctica.
Shelley believes that she could not have done her research in any other department.
'That's the beauty of geography, it's such an integrated subject, you are able to combine skills from different disciplines, and approach problems with a whole system view. Without my background in geography it would have been difficult to integrate the climate, hydrology and glacier principles required for my research.'
Now that she has finished her PhD here at Otago, she is off to tackle icy questions in other parts of the globe. First up is a postdoctoral research position in Chile where she will work on glacier hydrology in the Andes.