PhD Candidate, Northwestern Presidential Fellow
BFA Steinhardt School of Culture, Education, and Human Development, New York University, 2009
Under the advisement of Dr. Yarrow Axford, Laura's research explores the recent and long-term history of Greenland’s mountain glaciers. Over the last two decades, air temperature in the Arctic has risen by more than double the global average, and consequently, most of Greenland’s ~20,000 glaciers peripheral to the Greenland Ice Sheet have retreated. Despite their importance to 21st century sea-level rise and to freshwater resources, little is known about their history, pre the satellite era. More knowledge of past glacier change will allow for improved estimates of their sensitivity to temperature change, including sustained warming like that predicted for the future. To address this knowledge gap, Laura uses two complementary approaches. Her first project documents glacier length change over the last ~120 years using a combination of early 20th century aerial photographs from Danish mapping expeditions of Greenland, declassified Cold War-era spy satellite imagery, and imagery from modern satellites. Combined, these datasets allow her to distinguish how unusual 21st-century retreat rates are in the context of the past ~120 years, and to assess when southern Greenland’s glaciers will likely disappear in the future.
Laura's second project evaluates glacier fluctuations over the Holocene (the geologic epoch spanning the past ~10,000 years) using lake sediment records. In 2018, she led an expedition to collect sediment cores from three lakes in South Greenland, which currently have glaciers in their watersheds. Her analyses revealed that glaciers in southern Greenland melted away later in the Holocene than those in northern Greenland, supporting the hypothesis that the timing of maximum Holocene warmth varied spatially across Greenland. Laura holds an MS in earth and atmospheric science from City College of the City University of New York and a BFA from New York University. She is committed to creative communication of climate science to the broader public and participation in K-12 outreach.
Awards & Fellowships
- 2018 National Science Foundation, Doctoral Dissertation Research Improvement Grant, awarded $18,000
- 2020 Northwestern University, Presidential Fellow
- 2020 Denise Gaudreau Award for excellence in Quaternary studies, American Quaternary Association
Lasher, G. E., Axford, Y., Masterson, A.L., Berman, K.S.*, and Larocca, L.J. 2020. Holocene temperature and landscape history of southwest Greenland inferred from oxygen isotopes and geochemical lake sediment proxies. Quaternary Science Reviews, 239, p.106358.
Larocca, L.J., Axford, Y., Bjørk, A., Lasher, G.E., and Brooks, J.P.* 2020. Local glaciers record delayed peak Holocene warmth in South Greenland. Quaternary Science Reviews, 241, p.106421.
Larocca, L.J., Axford, Y., Woodroffe, S.A., Lasher, G.E, and Gawin, B.* 2020. Holocene glacier and ice cap fluctuations in southwest Greenland inferred from two lake records. Quaternary Science Reviews, 246, p. 106529.