updated 10/24/2007 5:43:15 PM ET 2007-10-24T21:43:15

The U.S. Board of Geographic Names has chosen to name an island off the western edge of the Antarctic peninsula after a husband-and-wife team of University of Alabama at Birmingham scientists who spent 30 years working in the cold waters off the continent.

The board chose to name Amsler Island after marine biologists Chuck and Maggie Amsler. James McClintock, also a UAB marine biologist, had nominated the Amslers after being honored in 1998 with the naming of a point for him along the Antarctic coast.

"I nominated them because they are unique, being a couple who has devoted so much of their time and energy and lifetimes to working in the field of Antarctic marine biology," McClintock said.

Maggie Amsler told The Birmingham News in a story Wednesday that she's "dumbfounded" the island was named for them.

"That's very humbling," she said.

Chuck Amsler said they'd been working long enough that he knew something would eventually be named for them.

"I expected it to be a rock outcropping somewhere out in the middle of a place I would never go," he said.

But both Amslers have been to that uninhabited island that, until recently, no one knew was an island.

Amsler Island, a triangular plot of land about 1.3 miles long and just over a half mile at its widest point, was once thought to be part of a larger island called Anvers Island. A glacier that covered the gap between the two had begun receding noticeably by the early 1990s. The fast-receding glacier exposed about a 1,000-foot-wide channel between the larger and smaller islands in 2004.

Chuck Amsler said the rate at which the glacier is receding is consistent with change due to global warming.

The Amslers will return to Antarctica in February for another four-month expedition.

Copyright 2007 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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