Spring is approaching, and for me this isn't time for beaches and swimming pools, instead I'm off with my Canada Goose gear up into the cold glaciated regions of the Northern Hemisphere to conduct my research – and I couldn't be more excited. The summer months mark the time of Northern Hemisphere glacial melting and pose an ideal time to study how glacial discharge is changing with temperature. Glaciers contain about 75% of the fresh water on Earth, and with the significant decline of temperate and alpine glaciers predicted to occur within the next 20 years, impacts from the loss of both water and associated chemical and sediment fluxes from glaciated terrains will have a major impact on human infrastructure and fragile ecosystems. And the challenge here is not only to understand the impact of these changes but also to how to disseminate this new knowledge to a wider audience, in particular in the context of science education.
With the latter in mind, my first trip this summer is to teach and inform high-school to graduate level students about my research on subglacial environments. Subglacial environments are unique and have been described as 'natural macrocosms, isolated from the weather, seasons, and celestially controlled climatic changes that establish fundamental constraints on the structure and functioning of most other Earth environments', but yet these isolated, and important environments are not measurable via remote observation. Out of all glacial environments, subglacial systems are probably least understood and are extremely difficult to access and study. Yet it remains that an essential prerequisite for understanding both mathematical and conceptual modeling of glacier dynamics is the validation of any model results with genuine field data, in which glacial geochemistry, where my techniques are focused, can play a prominent role.
For the next couple of weeks I am joining the Juneau Icefield Research Program (JIRP) , which provides an unrivaled educational and expeditionary experience in the Coast Mountains of Alaska and British Columbia and give students a wide range of training in Earth sciences, wilderness survival, and mountaineering skills. Students learn from leading scientists in a wide range of disciplines, including glaciology, geology, climatology, and biology.
The classroom is the Juneau Icefield, situated in the Coast Mountains of the Tongass National Forest and Atlin Provincial Park. During the trip students, staff and faculty traverse this terrain, conduct research, participate in a curriculum of lectures and research projects, and live in this amazing landscape – thus the need for durable, weatherproof and warm gear from Canada Goose! And I feel privileged to be able to contribute this year to what has been described as "... the best – and grandest – Earth Sciences classroom in the world." — Dr. Benjamin Santer, JIRP Faculty; Investigator of Climate Change, Lawrence Livermore National Labs; Member U.S. National Academy of Sciences. The ability to stimulate cross-disciplinary collaboration among students from the United States and around the world with scientists engaged in all aspects of Earth systems science greatly benefits glaciological research in the long run as it encourages interdisciplinary research and interpretation, a goal that's a priority with the Association of Polar Early Career Scientists (APECS), and one I'm proud to be associated with.
Will update again when I'm back from the Juneau icefield!