National Ice Core Laboratory
Denver Federal Center
Revised: October 2009
The U.S. National Ice Core Laboratory (NICL) is a government-owned facility on the grounds of the Denver Federal Center. NICL provides approximately 50,600 cubic feet of safeguarded freezer space, which is maintained at a temperature of -35 degrees C for the storage of ice cores collected from the polar ice sheets and glaciers from around the World. NICL currently contains approximately 17,000 meters of ice cores collected mostly by scientists funded by the National Science Foundation. NICL also includes a series of cold examination rooms, staging and changing areas, as well as instruments and equipment for routine examination and processing of ice cores.
The National Science Foundation supports 100% of the costs of operating NICL. This statement, developed by the Ice Core Working Group (ICWG) (a group of scientist who discuss scientific issues related to ice cores), establishes the policy for use of the NICL facility and allocation of samples stored at NICL. Core examination and processing are provided at the NICL facility.
NICL's objectives are to (1) insure maximum availability of samples to approved investigators, (2) encourage analysis over a wide range of research disciplines without unnecessary duplication, and (3) encourage prompt publication of results.
Decisions on sample allocation will be coordinated by the NICL-Science Management Office (NICL-SMO) and made by the Sample Allocation Committee (SAC), appointed by the ICWG, with final approval from NSF-OPP. The Scientific Coordinator of NICL-SMO is the central point of contact for requests for ice core samples. Through the NICL-SMO, the ICWG has developed a communication system to allow for prompt handling of all requests. Once a decision has been made to allocate samples to an investigator, the NICL Curator will assist investigators in accessing the ice core samples and making arrangements for transportation of samples to home institutions, or for analyses to be performed at NICL.
Some ice cores stored at NICL have special protocols for allocation of samples. Requests for these cores need to go through the Scientific Coordinator and are reviewed by the SAC and the coordinator or representative for that core. The coordinator or representative has specific knowledge of the core, which allows them to assist the Committee in allocations.
Requests for samples from NICL are coordinated through the NICL-SMO. Samples are available to any qualified investigator, but NSF funded investigators may be given priority to certain core sections. Generally there are three types of requests: pilot studies, funded proposals, and de-accessed ice.
The ICWG recognizes the valuable information archived in ice cores. To further the scientific knowledge available from the ice cores at NICL, requests for limited samples are available to any qualified investigator. Each request must be accompanied by a complete and concise statement describing the study for which samples are needed, methods and procedures to be used, the specific problem or objective of the study, and names and addresses of collaborating investigators. This request is sent to the Scientific Coordinator for review by the SAC and NSF.
All investigators (including NSF and non-NSF) must contact the Scientific Coordinator at least 3 weeks prior to submission of proposals if samples from NICL are being requested. This will help assure availability of samples after the review process. The project investigator must submit a request with a complete and concise statement describing the study for which samples are needed, methods and procedures to be used, the specific problem or objective of the study, and names and addresses of collaborating investigators to the Scientific Coordinator. The Scientific Coordinator will review the request and possibly send it for review by the SAC and NSF. This information will be kept confidential. If your request is approved by the Scientific Coordinator and/or the SAC, the NICL-SMO will provide you with a letter of support, which must be included as Supplemental Information with your NSF proposal.
If the proposal is funded, the PI must contact the NICL-SMO Scientific Coordinator at least 3 weeks prior to their expected NICL sample visit to obtain a core allocation grant. 3 weeks is needed for the Scientific Coordinator to obtain the appropriate SAC/NSF approvals for your proposed sample allocation. NICL cannot release any core nor allow any core to be cut without the appropriate core allocation grant verification from the NICL-SMO. Contact the NICL Sample Allocation Committee Coordinator, Mark Twickler at 603-862-1991 or email@example.com to begin the allocation process. Once access to the core has been granted, the scientist can call 303-202-4830 or e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org to set up a site visit.
The ICWG has selected a group of ice cores that have been placed on a de-accession list. These ice cores are generally older cores and have received minimal scientific interest in the last 10 years. These cores are available to any qualified investigator for testing analytical procedures, methods development, outreach activities and other scientific studies. The procedure for obtaining the cores is the same as the Pilot Study requirements. To assist in finding the de-accessed core best fitted for your study, please contact the Scientific Coordinator for more information.
Once a request has been approved by the SAC and NSF, the Scientific Coordinator will notify the requesting investigator. The investigator should then contact the NICL Curator to arrange for a visit to NICL to work on samples or to arrange for transport of samples to their home institution. NICL may charge investigators to recover labor, freight or mailing expenses involved in filling requests. The NICL Curator will furnish a charge estimate, if required, before processing the request. Data derived from measurement and analysis of all samples from NICL must be archived at an appropriate Data Center, as described in the NSF-OPP data policy.
Subsequent sample requests for the same investigation must include a statement that describes progress of the study, the need for additional samples, and the status of previous samples. Approval of an initial request does not constitute approval for subsequent access to the core collection. New requests by the same applicant or group will be honored when results from previous requests have been published as research papers in scientific journals, as research reports, or as data is archived at an established data center. Any conflicts between NICL, NICL-SMO and an investigator will be referred to the Office of Polar Programs (OPP).
If any work is to be done on samples that is in addition to, or different than, that stated on the original request, the Scientific Coordinator must first be notified. In order to prevent duplicative efforts, recipients of samples must not allow research projects that differ substantially from projects originally proposed in sample requests to be undertaken by themselves or others without first obtaining permission and approval from the Scientific Coordinator. Samples must not be transferred to other investigators without prior notification to the Scientific Coordinator. Any unused samples or portions of cores must be returned to NICL for re-archiving and possible allocation to another investigator. The objective of this provision is not to restrict research; on the contrary, the objective is to insure that the best possible use is made of the samples and that the Scientific Coordinator is fully informed as to their use and disposition.
Investigators who simply wish to make a brief examination of specific cores (without sampling or conducting analyses) may apply informally to the Scientific Coordinator. A decision will be made quickly to facilitate this activity.
Ice cores from glaciers and ice sheets obtained through NSF-funded programs will be accepted for storage at NICL. Investigators must contact the NICL-SMO during the planning stages of a project when the proposal is being submitted to get permission to ship their cores to NICL if the proposal is funded. Only ice cores made of meteoric ice are authorized for storage at NICL. No sea ice cores or permafrost cores are permitted in the NICL facility.
Conditions of the Principal Investigator's proprietary rights to the core must be established when an investigator first contacts NICL to ask permission to store ice cores there. NICL expects that investigators, either individually or in groups, may want exclusive access to a core obtained by them for a limited but defined period of time following acquisition of the core. The conditions of these exclusive rights (including the duration of the period of exclusive access) should be established at the stage of proposal funding, so that the conditions may be considered as part of the peer review process. For cores from NSF-funded programs, these conditions should be established by the program supporting the work, with the concurrence of the Scientific Coordinator. NICL will accept cores with proprietary rights attached under these circumstances.
NICL is funded by NSF and NSF-funded investigators may access the facility's resources. Investigators must contact the Scientific Coordinator at least three weeks prior to submitting a proposal to the funding agency, and must include details of expected usage of the NICL facility in the proposal. Multi-investigator projects should designate a single point of contact who will work with the Scientific Coordinator and NICL.
Investigators funded by agencies other than NSF who wish to use NICL must contact the Scientific Coordinator prior to proposal submission to obtain permission to use the facility. Use includes but is not limited to storage of ice cores or samples, use of NICL workspace, use of staff time or other resources. The Scientific Coordinator will work with the investigator and NICL staff to determine the scope of work and provide a cost estimate. These costs will be born by the agency funding the work and must be negotiated in advance of access to the facility.
Computerized records for all information available on archived cores (handling, distribution, sub sampling, analytical results, location of core in core storage) are available to visiting scientists at NICL on a Data Management System. Information on the availability and location of cores at NICL is available on the Internet at the NICL website.