Graduate Students

Toby                                               Meierbachtol

Toby Meierbachtol


Curriculum Vitae

Personal Summary

I'm currently in my 3rd year of the PhD program working under Joel Harper, investigating dynamics of the Greenland ice sheet.  After growing up in Hood River, OR, I slowly migrated east to Walla Walla, WA where I earned a BA from Whitman College, and on to the University of Montana.  I earned my Master's degree working with Joel on the subglacial hydrology of Bench Glacier, Alaska in 2007.  An additional year in Missoula as a research assistant, one year spent as a groundwater consultant in Seattle, and I found my way back to the U of M to begin work on my current project.



M.S. Geosciences, The University of Montana, 2007 

B.A. Geology, Whitman College, 2003

Research Interests


My research interests are focused on subglacial and englacial processes, and the impact on ice motion.  From the subglacial perspective, I am currently concentrating on spatial and temporal dynamics of the subglacial hydrologic network at the local scale.  Our current understanding of subglacial hydrology stems from theoretical work and field investigations confined almost entirely to smaller mountain glacier systems.  Recently observed changes on Greenland have motivated interest in drainage dynamics at the ice sheet bed, yet in situ investigations have been largely unsuccessful.  By using water levels in boreholes drilled to the ice sheet bed as tools of investigation, we are characterizing the drainage network across a transect of sites and elucidating processes acting at the bed.      

Furious note taking as we drill one of our marginal holes, summer 2010.

It would be a shame to go through all the work of drilling a borehole only to through a single pressure transducer down.  To take full advantage, we have also been outfitting our boreholes with sensor strings which freeze in and measure ice temperature and deformation.  I am interested in investigating the processes dictating ice deformation through the use of a numerical ice flow constrained with our measured data.  The temperature and deformation measurements in conjunction with bedrock topography recently gathered as part of the ICEBRIDGE mission constitute one of the most well-constrained transects on the ice sheet. 

Home away from home.

Field of Study

Glaciology, Cryosphere science

Selected Publications



Brinkerhoff, D. J., Meierbachtol, T W, Johnson, J. V., Harper, J. T.  2011.  Sensitivity of the frozen-melted basal boundary to perturbations of basal traction and geothermal heat ?ux: Isunnguata Sermia, western Greenland.  Annals of Glaciology.  52(59), 43 – 48.


Harper, J T, Bradford, J H, Humphrey, N F, Meierbachtol, T W.  2010.  Vertical extension of the subglacial drainage system into basal crevasses.  Nature.  467, 579-582. doi:10.1038/nature09398.


Meierbachtol T W, Harper J T, Humphrey N F, Shaha J, Bradford J H. 2008. Air compression as a mechanism for the underdamped slug test response in fractured glacier ice, J. Geophys. Res., 113, F04009, doi:10.1029/2007JF000908.


Meierbachtol, T W, Harper, J T, Humprey, N F.  2010.  Perturbations to Subglacial Water Storage through Integrated Borehole Impulse Testing: Western Greenland,  Abstract C21B-0540 presented at 2010 Fall Meeting, AGU, San Francisco, Calif., 13 - 17 Dec.


Meierbachtol, T W, Harper, J T, Moore, J N. 2007. Modeling Spring Snowmelt Dynamics in a Northern Rockies Basin using a Modified Temperature-Index Model, Eos Trans. AGU, 88(52), Fall Meet. Suppl., Abstract C21B-0475.


Meierbachtol, T W, Harper, J T, Humphrey, N F, Bradford, J. 2006. Englacial and Subglacial Water Flow Elucidated by Active and Passive Borehole Experiments: Bench Glacier, Alaska, Eos Trans. AGU, 87(52), Fall Meet. Suppl., Abstract C31A-1229.

Professional Experience

Staff Hydrogeologist, 2008 - 2009

Landau Associates, Edmonds, WA


Maintaining a balance between work and 'other' is critical.  Luckily for me, Missoula offers a trail network out my back door which is difficult to beat.  Most of my spare time is spent ripping singletrack on my mountain bike.  For all things cycling in Missoula (and Montana in general), check out this blog.  Head here to check out the local shop I've been riding for.  The racing scene in Missoula is also running strong, and the fall cyclocross series has been gaining momentum.  

Early morning laps during the High Cascades 24 hr mountain bike race.

When the snow flies it's time to hang up the bikes and think about skiing.  At just a 30 minute drive from town, Snowbowl is a great downhill option.  Recently, I've been trying (mostly unsuccessfully) to pick up nordic skiing as well.  There are some great skating and classic options near town as well. 

The Rattlesnake mountains just north of town.  I can see these from my office window!