Pre-JIRP Readings: Icefield-to-Ocean Linkages

The reading this week is as follows:

Icefield-to-Ocean Linkages across the Northern Pacific Coastal Temperate Rainforest Ecosystem. O'Neel, S. et al, 2015. Icefield-to-Ocean Linkages across the Northern Pacific Coastal Temperate Rainforest Ecosystem. BioScience (May 2015) 65 (5): 499-512. doi: 10.1093/biosci/biv027

Glaciers are often considered to be slowly changing ice blocks on the landscape, biological deserts some might say.  This paper walks you from the icefields (like you will be traversing this summer) to the nearshore ocean ecosystem, demonstrating how glaciers are connected to many processes along the way. Processes like phytoplankton blooms might not seem at first glance to care about the health of the glaciers, but they do.  And phytoplankton make a good base to the food web, feeding the things that Salmon, whales and bears like to eat. In turn, this type of connection links glacier change back to the economy of Alaska, and encourages us to better understand the connections between the physical and biological components of the icefield-to-ocean ecosystem.

That's all for today! 


Pre-JIRP Readings: Rapid Wastage of Alaska Glaciers and Their Contribution to Rising Sea Level

For this blog post, we'll provide some key points to think about rather than the questions as in previous posts.  We look forward to some stimulating discussions in Juneau!

The reading this week is as follows:

Arendt, A.A., Echelmeyer, K.A., Harrison, W.D., Lingle, C.S., Valentine, V.B., 2002. Rapid Wastage of Alaska Glaciers and Their Contribution to Rising Sea Level. Science 297, 382–386.

Alaska represents only a small fraction of the world's glacier ice, but is among the largest sources to new water contributions to sea level rise.  To understand why, think about two buckets filled with the same amount of water.  Its a hot sunny day, and you and the buckets are hanging out in a parking lot. You trip over one bucket and spill it on the ground.  That spilled water will evaporate much more quickly than the water in the bucket, in part because the surface area to volume ratio has changed.  This is a good analogy to why Earth's mountain glaciers have more rapid rates of change than do the ice sheets. Climate and geography play a part as well, but this is a good place to start when thinking about differences between glaciers and ice sheet mass balance.

Another aspect to consider as you read this paper are the research methods used and possible errors associated with them.  All methods have errors, which can significantly impact research results.

That's all for today.  See you all soon!

Pre-JIRP Readings: IPCC AR5 Summary for Policy Makers

These questions come to us, again, from both Dr. Shad O'Neel and Dr. Jeffrey Kavanaugh and are related to the second reading on the required pre-JIRP reading list. Please read, reflect, and provide your input in the comments section. 

From Dr. O'Neel:  How does the confidence presented in IPCC AR5 SPM compare to public perceptions of climate change?  What do these venues base their positions on?  Do you feel that the claims made in the SPM are well-justified?

How does glacier change contribute to the global sea level budget?  Summarize the different components of this budget, and identify any common misperceptions that are associated with sea level rise. Why are ice dynamics (what are ice dynamics) important to sea level budgets?

This document is loaded with statements that end like this: {6.5, 7.7} which are references to the full IPCC report available here: 

We encourage you follow at least one of these linkages to explore a topic of interest to you in greater detail. 

From Dr. Kavanaugh: Shad offers good questions here. I will just add to/clarify one of them: The authors of the IPCC AR5 state that that "Warming of the climate system is unequivocal, and since the 1950s, many of the observed changes are unprecedented over decades to millennia." Briefly summarize the distinct lines of evidence drawn upon to support this conclusion.

We hope that in addition to your readings, you are staying active and keeping up your fitness so that you arrive in Juneau ready to go! Cardio and core work are both important.


Pre-JIRP Readings and Discussion Questions

JIRP has rolled out some pre-expedition readings to students participating in the 2015 field season. We have heard from students in past years that they wanted more content before the season begins so we have answered that call and will be posting both discussion/reflective questions and details on student projects here on this blog. Over the next 11 weeks, students will be able to check here for the weekly post which will either pose questions on your readings or give you a detailed outline on one of six student projects on deck for this summer.

We encourage students to begin the process of engagement by participating in the discussion in the comment section. You will have a chance to ask questions of the Principal Investigators on the student projects and start learning from one another.

The questions this week are posed by two of our faculty and relate to your reading of Post and LaChappelle, Glacier Ice.  Students were asked to READ THE TEXT of this coffee table book.  

Our first set of questions are from Dr. Shad O'Neel. "Image 38 in Glacier Ice shows the 'three congruent glaciers'. We often talk about how climate is a principal control on glacier mass balance (glacier health) - aren't they supposed to be the 'canary in the coalmine'? How can the behavior in this image be explained? What is a less obvious control on the health of these glaciers? What are some other controls that may not apply to all glaciers but certainly produce examples that buck the mainstream trends?"

Our second set of questions are from Dr. Jeffrey Kavanaugh. "A defining characteristic of glaciers is that they move, slowly making their way down slope under their own immense weight. This motion is evident throughout the photographs presented in Glacier Ice and includes both viscous behaviors (where ice flows like a thick fluid) and brittle behaviors (where ice fractures like a rigid solid). What features visible in the photographs demonstrate these two forms of motion? Under what conditions or in what areas does flow appear to be fluid-like? Where do brittle behaviors seem to dominate?"

Photo by Ben Partan

Photo by Ben Partan

All Good Things Must Come to an End

by: Natalie Raia, The University of Texas at Austin

Portable JIRP Blog, this is Portable Natalie conducting her two-month post-JIRP check-in.

            Exactly two months ago, 33 students solemnly, groggily departed from University of Alaska-Southeast housing. We were returning to family, friends, school, modern conveniences, and once-familiar, but now seemingly foreign lifestyles. Today, I sit on a plane bound for the Geological Society of America conference in Vancouver, where many JIRPers will be gathering to present the research products from our summer on the icefield.

            Now, our last blog entry leaves us packing up a charter bus in Atlin, and though many of you may now have heard stories from JIRPers you know, or have been through the journey yourself, Id like to fill in the gaps of those final, turbulent, poignant days.

            August 15th: We departed Camp 30 in Atlin, B.C. and took a scenic drive to Skagway, AK. We waited in Skagway for the ferry to Juneau. How bizarre it was to walk confined to sidewalks streaming with tourists, to stand in the ferry station surrounded by fluorescent lights, and to hear the voices of relatives on the phone. Looking at fellow JIRPers glazed, wide-eyed faces, it was apparent that I was not the only one who was overwhelmed by the sudden shift in environment. Boarding the ferry, JIRP overtook the solarium on the top deck, and settled in for the ~5-hour ferry ride with our sleeping bags. The rainy weather cleared (its burning off!) as we proceeded down the Inside Passage. Soon, sleeping bag sumo wars, ballroom dance lessons, and general JIRP revelry filled the upper deck, to the entertainment of the occasional non-JIRP passerby. All too soon, that glorious ride ended as dusk settled and we docked in Juneau. Wrestling our gear onto school buses (again, much to the amusement of passerby wondering precisely what we could possibly be doing with skis in August!), we returned to University of Alaska Southeast housing.  Dorm mattresses had never seemed so luxurious! Truly, we were coming full circle, and going home.

JIRP overtakes the top deck of the ferry from Skagway to Juneau.  Photo by Natalie Raia

JIRP overtakes the top deck of the ferry from Skagway to Juneau.  Photo by Natalie Raia

            August 16th arrived. Like a point in the horizon that the safety staff swore was Camp such and such on a traverse, August 16th had always been a day way off in the future, something hazy that never really seemed to be getting close until all of a sudden, you arrive. Well, that final day began with JIRPers pretending to go about business as usual. I wrote a plan of the day in my journalas usual; we had cereal at the pavilionas usual; we even had morning announcements and work detailsas usual. Nevertheless, this was anything BUT a usual day. After practicing presentations in the morning, we went on one last hikeappropriately, to John Muir's cabin. The day passed in a dizzying blur of science, meals, and trails through the woods, and soon I found myself on a bus headed back to Mendenhall Glacier Visitors Center. In an all-too-fitting fashion, a misting rain descended on Juneau as we gathered to complete our one last task.

One final hike to John Muir's Cabin.  Photo by Natalie Raia

One final hike to John Muir's Cabin.  Photo by Natalie Raia

            I think I had an unshakable grin on my face the entire presentation. It was impossible to not be moved, proud, and content to watch and listen to my JIRP family talk about their hard work and passions. I looked upon the face of each person I had lived with, learned from, worked through challenges with, and come to respect and appreciate to the utmost extent. As I sat in the audience, I reveled in the fact that I could count myself in this group of remarkable, eclectic people. The atmosphere was loose and it was obvious that JIRPers (and the audience) were having fun recounting the summers activities. And then it was overI distinctly remember boarding the bus and Princes 1999 was playing on the radioin some sense, the perfect songupbeat and celebratory, but the lyrics tell a slightly darker story about endings, about running out of time.

            Sleep is for the weak was the unofficial motto from there on out! With just hours left (shout out to the 4 am departure crew!), we attempted to bring some sort of closure to a two-month, perspective-altering ordeal. Ha. Good luck! JIRP awards, a final video, and a well-written rap closed out the evening as people drifted about saying goodbyes and trying to maximize every minute left.


            No more mass balance pits. No more sunset skis. No more tan line contests. No more wet socks and sun-screened faces. No more Pilot Bread with peanut butter and brown sugar. No more glacier dragons. No more Science! No more icefield. And just one traverse left: the traverse without a trail party, the traverse no one tells you aboutthe hardest traverse of all.

            Somehow two months had passed, and this bizarre, beautiful social experiment (Hey, lets throw 30+ complete strangers together and have them live in confined spaces in the middle of an icefield under less than ideal conditions!) was at an end. Through quietly irrepressible tears that surprised this normally reserved author as the plane took off from Juneau, I was left with a singular line of questioning: How? How does this social experiment succeed? What is the secret of JIRPs transformative power in the lives of generations of young, aspiring scientists? How?

            The largest part of the answer involves the development of the program under Dr. Miller and his wife, JoanI am convinced. Their lifes work and legacy live on not only in the incredibly valuable scientific record JIRP produces, but also in the alumni and people who return year after year because it is such a transformative program. The second part of the answer is the students. The experience succeeds because JIRP assembles a group of diverse individuals from all corners of the U.S. and beyond. Despite our individuality, I thought about the common core values we necessarily share, and Id like to describe some of them briefly.

            We are dreamers. We dream of a healthier planetone in which our own human footprint is reduced. We dream of graduate school, of careers in engineering, environmental science, geology, and the list goes on. We dream of lives lived close to and in harmony with nature. Lives lived deliberately, surrounded by people we care about. We are dreaming.

            We are seekers. A never-ending thirst for knowledge drives us forward. Always searching for new ways to examine our beliefs, change our perspectives, and expand our horizons. We aim to learn from each person we meet.  We seek out and celebrate their best qualities. We are seeking.

            We are explorers. Testing our physical limits, pushing the bounds of our comfort zone, we never stop moving and never settle. Every new corner must be rounded, for we know that around each bend lies a new adventure, a new way to reinvent and reimagine ourselves and the world we live in. We are exploring.

            And finally, we are free spirits. Each JIRPer brought a unique addition to the summer. Artists, musicians, writers, singers, dancers, athletes, thinkers, and outdoorsmen (and women!) abound. We are compassionate characters, possessing a delicate sensitivity coupled with extremely tough mental faculties and willpower. We are soaring.

Kelly Hughes takes an incredible sunset above the Gilkey Trench.  Photo by Natalie Raia

Kelly Hughes takes an incredible sunset above the Gilkey Trench.  Photo by Natalie Raia

            The bruises and blisters have healed. Clothes have been washed (I hope!). Photos shared. Departing tears have dried. But memories prevailStep, step, stepping up the Ptarmigan. Prusiking on July 4th, surrounded by delightful pandemonium. Aching through the snow at 3:23 am. Kick, step. Kick, step. Stark red, white, and blue waving in front of resolute Towers and miles of dazzling white snow. The ping of shovels striking scientific gold. Kick, glide. Kick, glide. Haunting silence in a cavernous crevasse. The joyous laughter on sunny days. Swish. Swishcrunch. Marmot calls and gurgling glacial streams pointing down, down. Step. Step. Step. During our last radio contact with the icefield, a catch in the strongest voice does me in: “…going clear. The unsaid phrase, for the last time, hangs in the air. A single tear escapes me, for as she packs away the disassembled radio, the thunderous icefield is silenced. The Icefield. Perched on the hill, turning my back on that staggering, immense place. One last, fleeting glancequickly, quickly, the trees are swallowing us. Will I ever return? Rain strikes still waters in that pristine inlet, disrupted by the inconvenient arrival of civilization. Wonderful wind whistles on that massive, open deck, sweeping us closer, closer to the end. The End. A new kind of deep-rooted ache, stamping memories on my heart that read, Delivered via Icefield. Delivered via JIRP. Yes, memories prevail.

            And so, with the tenor of life permanently, beautifully disrupted, we carry on. Step, step, stepping. Never settling, never stopping, always fulfilling that Emersonian ideal: Books. Nature. Action.

            We are dreamers. We are seekers.

            We are explorers. We are free spirits.

            Now and forevermore, we are JIRPers.

All good things must come to an end. And through this end, all is well. Mighty fine, mighty fine.

JIRP 2014, going clear.

For the last time.

The sun rises through the clouds on the last day at Camp 17.  Photo by Natalie Raia

The sun rises through the clouds on the last day at Camp 17.  Photo by Natalie Raia