A View from the Top


Few people get to experience the rush of deploying a CTD from a helicopter hovering hundreds of feet above a frozen body of water in Greenland. And even fewer get to witness scientific seal tagging efforts in the Arctic. Denise Holland can say she’s done all of this. And lucky for us she’s been recording!

Denise Holland is a student and art history major at New York University (NYU) who has spent the past several years assisting her husband, researcher David Holland, on preparations for and documenting his research missions to Greenland. Dr. Holland is director of the Center for Atmosphere Ocean Science at New York University.


Dr. Holland studies ice-ocean interactions and develops computer models to explain how the world’s ice and oceans may fare in a changing climate. The ice sheet interactions at the Ilulissat and Helheim glaciers in the fjords of Greenland are one area of focus for the Holland duo.

The work is part of a five-year (2009-2013) National Science Foundation-supported effort to improve the understanding of how warm, deep ocean waters are influencing ice sheet retreat.

Click here for more of Denise Holland's work

In addition to documenting the research through videos and photographs, Denise plays a key role in making sure the research trips run smoothly. Months before the mission starts, she tests and re-tests equipment, reviews the plans and makes sure all the equipment and necessary supplies arrive in Greenland.

And once she sets foot in Greenland the work doesn’t stop.

“I help schlep equipment, set up tents, shop for supplies, document everything in film and photographs, and basically try to make sure the team has everything it needs.  I also make a special effort to do outreach – we have found that the people of the towns we visit are always keenly interested in what we do, and in sharing their experiences of the environment with us,” Denise said.

Through her videos and photographs Denise lets viewers experience the beauty of Greenland’s terrain, as well as get a glimpse into what conducting research in the high Arctic is like. Her work is currently featured at NYU and now people can check it out right here on field notes.

“I hope people will get a sense of the complexity and difficulty of gathering the data that scientists like David use.  It takes a lot of work!  But I also hope they can relate to the rugged beauty and the breath-taking landscapes in which these field missions take place,” she said. “We have a video wall at NYU where I’m fortunate enough to be able to run slide shows of our Greenland field work and I always get a thrill when I see students, parents, and children stopping to look at an iceberg or a Greenlandic puppy.”

Check back with us for more of Denise’s videos and photographs. —Alicia Clarke