Robin E. Bell

Robin Bell, AGU president (2019 – 2020), has been a member of AGU for more than 30 years. She is a past president of the Cryosphere section and was elected as an AGU Fellow in 2011. Bell received her undergraduate degree in geology from Middlebury College in Vermont and her Ph.D. in geophysics from Columbia University in 1989. Since completing her doctorate, Bell has led the research at the Lamont-Doherty Earth Observatory on ice sheets, tectonics, rivers, and mid-ocean ridges.

Currently, Bell is a Palisades Geophysical Institute (PGI) Lamont Research Professor, directing research programs in Antarctica and Greenland, and she has developed technology to monitor our changing planet. Bell has coordinated 10 major aero-geophysical expeditions to Antarctica and Greenland, studying what makes ice sheets collapse. She has discovered a volcano beneath the West Antarctic ice sheet, several large lakes locked beneath two miles of ice, and demonstrated that ice sheets could thicken from below. Bell also led a Lamont team to map the Hudson River from Staten Island to Albany.

In 2006, Bell received an honorary degree from Middlebury College and had an Antarctic Mountain named after her. During the International Polar Year, Bell led a major expedition to Antarctica to explore the last unknown mountain range on Earth, the Gamburtsev Mountains, which were completely covered with ice. Bell’s team discovered that water hidden beneath the ice sheet runs uphill. Using the new IcePod and gravity technologies, Bell’s team is currently exploring the Ross Ice Shelf, a floating piece of ice the size of France that covers the least-known piece of Earth’s ocean floor.

Fields of Interest

  • Ice Sheet Dynamics and Mass Balance, Science of Diversity, Continental Tectonics, Estuarine Processes
    • Linkages between ice sheet processes and subglacial geology.
    • Interaction of ecosystems and geologic systems from microbes to benthic habitats.
    • Tectonic uplift and feedback mechanisms Interaction of tectonics and ice sheet dynamics.
    • Gravity and magnetic measurement techniques for marine and airborne applications.
    • Gravity gradiometry.


  • Middlebury College - B.A. magna cum laude (Geology) 1980
  • Columbia University - M.A 1984
  • Columbia University - M. Phil 1985
  • Columbia University - Ph.D (Geophysics) 1989

Honors & Awards

  • AGU Fellow 2011
  • USGS Names Antarctic Ridge After R.E. Bell 2006
  • Middlebury College, Honorary Doctorate of Science 2006
  • Emma Willard School Young Alumnae Award 1996
  • Stroke Doherty Junior Scientist Award 1992
  • Outstanding Student Paper, Geodesy - Fall AGU 1988