Our Time In Atlin

By: Danielle Beaty, University of Colorado Boulder


Emotions were high as I stepped off the boat onto the docks in Atlin. For one thing, the sun shone brightly on the newly showered faces (some people were even wearing jeans which was a shocking sight) of all the people I had missed the last couple of days. I ran to them (which proved to be difficult considering my legs were so sore from the previous day’s traverse) and there were hugs all around. The sadness I had felt toward leaving the icefield was replaced by my excitement about being together again in such a beautiful little town. After a quick passport check from the mounties, Luc greeted me with a box of freshly picked flowers, berries and scones, and then I threw my gear down hoping I could eat some scones and relax for a bit. Mary was quick to gather my trail party, however, and give us a camp tour of the place. The final camp we stayed in was an old hospital building, and the rooms were quite eerie so most people opted to sleep out on the docks. I preferred this anyway, because we were there during a meteor shower. That first day I did laundry, showered, explored the small town of Atlin (I was startled every time a car drove by), lounged on the docks, went thrift shopping to buy clothes for our JIRP Thanksgiving celebration, and enjoyed fresh food which was such a treat. That night the sky was clear, and we enjoyed a meteor shower on the docks until our tiredness overtook us. 

The best sleeping spots around (Photo: Alex Mischler).

The best sleeping spots around (Photo: Alex Mischler).

The next day was a bit rainy, which gave my group an opportunity to finalize our project presentation. Afterwards, while most of us were out goofing around (eating ice cream, skipping rocks, roller skating, playing on a play structure, dancing in the street) Maya, Kurt and some staff prepared a phenomenal Thanksgiving meal, complete with turkey, stuffing, two kinds of gravy, mashed potatoes, green beans, fresh baked bread, corn, cranberry sauce, pumpkin pie and apple pie.

Tristan and Luc skating around town (Photo: Laurissa Christie).

Tristan and Luc skating around town (Photo: Laurissa Christie).

The first serving of many more to come (Photo: Laurissa Christe). 

The first serving of many more to come (Photo: Laurissa Christe). 

Luc, Laurissa, Danielle, Lindsey, and Kate after Thanksgiving dinner (Photo: Laurissa Christe). 

Luc, Laurissa, Danielle, Lindsey, and Kate after Thanksgiving dinner (Photo: Laurissa Christe). 


The next day was presentation day, so we all practiced giving our presentations to one another, and gave each other feedback. I was very impressed by all the hard work everyone had put in this summer. There were several people on cookie duty, which meant preparing tons of cookies for the townspeople to enjoy. After dinner, we all walked a few blocks to the Atlin Rec Center. Everyone really took the feedback from earlier in the day to heart, as I thought the presentations had improved tremendously. I was very proud of my fellow JIRPers. After everyone had shared their research, I stuck around talking to the locals. Everyone I met was very passionate about the work JIRP does, and many of them had been coming to the JIRP presentations for 10, 20, even 30 years. It was great to know our summer’s work was appreciated. After dinner, I walked back to camp and the realization that JIRP was coming to a close really hit me hard. I wasn’t ready to accept that the next day we would leave behind the quaint town of Atlin to head to Juneau. I was nervous for the culture shock of being in a big town full of people I didn’t know, where not showering for two months or dressing in JIRP style would be scoffed. We spent one final night on the docks, then packed up and boarded a bus after one last final group photo.

Tristan killin' his presentation (Photo: Laurissa Christie). 

Tristan killin' his presentation (Photo: Laurissa Christie). 

Everyone joins the group photo before leaving Atlin (Photo: Alex Mischler)

Everyone joins the group photo before leaving Atlin (Photo: Alex Mischler)





The Final Traverse

By: Melissa “Luna” Brett, Radford University

Saying goodbye to Camp 26 with a view of the medial moraine we used as the first part of our trail, and a view of Atlin Lake in the distance (Photo by: Maya Smith)

Saying goodbye to Camp 26 with a view of the medial moraine we used as the first part of our trail, and a view of Atlin Lake in the distance (Photo by: Maya Smith)

The last few minutes at camp 26 were spent with a handful of rock samples, turning each one and weighing them in either hand, carefully deciding which couldn’t be lived without and which were too heavy to carry on the long and icy journey ahead. With a pack full of the “can’t live without pile” and an empty “too heavy to carry pile”, I set out with our trail party across the immense Llewellyn Glacier. The weather was cold and sprinkling, but staying on the move kept everyone warm as we quietly walked along the medial moraine watching the sunrise.

“The Great Blue Landscape of my Wildest Dreams” (Photo by: Elizabeth “Lizzie” Kenny)

The Great Blue Landscape of my Wildest Dreams (Photo by: Elizabeth Lizzie Kenny)

The sun was fighting the gray sky, casting long and sharp shadows into every corner of my vision. The crunch of crampons under our feet and the whipping wind was all that could be heard at first, and all around was the lonely morning light illuminating the colorful, sharp peaks jutting from their ice covered feet. Small meandering streams trickled along atop the glacier, joining forces as wild rivers, drilling deep and roaring holes down into the dark blue depths of the glaciers’ heart. Some places were as clear as glass, with a colorful variety of sediments locked in place, others areas were filled with a variety of stripes and swirls of every shade of blue imaginable, and everywhere there was a sense of slow and steady change. Giant, unimaginably deep crevasses were all around, and we slowly made our way through the groaning maze toward the lake and beyond the mountains ahead.

The journey takes us beyond ourselves, and into another world (Photo by: Elizabeth “Lizzie” Kenny).

The journey takes us beyond ourselves, and into another world (Photo by: Elizabeth Lizzie Kenny).

One last step and the ice would be behind us. I stood there for a second, looking ahead to the outwash plain, and then over my shoulder, looking back not just to the blue ice behind me, not just to the long challenging weeks on the icefield, but back at all the things that brought me here; all the hard work, all the risks, all the right choices and all the wrong ones. All the people who have helped me along, all the times I looked out the window and didn’t go, and all the times I opened the door and left. They were all there with me, and with a deep and satisfying breath, I wiped the tears from my face, turned and stepped off the ice. With an exciting strength the group hiked on, through rocks and sediment of every shape, size and color imaginable. Chatting with each other to make the time pass we moved swiftly through the quickly changing landscape, through a variety of ecosystems with their exciting and forgotten scents. Trees! Beautiful trees and shrubs creeping in around us until we were fighting our way through, which isn’t an easy task with new blisters and tall skis sticking out from the tops of our packs, but the sound of laughter and encouraging words kept the group going.

Trees! Finally back to the land of plants (Photo by: Elizabeth “Lizzie” Kenny)!

Trees! Finally back to the land of plants (Photo by: Elizabeth “Lizzie” Kenny)!

Dry boots were a thing of the past once we hit the marsh, and people were just tromping through creeks now with reckless abandon. Beaver dams, lynx and bear tracks, birds and squirrels were all welcoming signs that the Atlin Lake inlet was near! One last break on top of the ridge with a view of the now far-off glacier, one last group picture full of smiles and pride, one last hoist of the overstuffed and heavy packs, and on we went, dropping down into the woods. The forest was like a good long hug from an old friend, deep green pines, bright green mosses, the sound of water and wind through the aspen leaves, all so familiar. The last few steps brought us to the shore of the lake, and in that moment we had crossed the Juneau Icefield, traversed from Juneau to Atlin inlet on what will always be for many of us, the greatest journey of our lifetime.  

The team says one last goodbye to the Juneau Icefield (Photo By: Matt Pickart)!

The team says one last goodbye to the Juneau Icefield (Photo By: Matt Pickart)!

Connecting Glaciology, Hydrology, and Ecology on the Juneau Icefield

By: Kim Quesnel, Stanford University; Lindsey Gulbrandsen, State University of New York, Oneonta; and Laurissa Christie, University of Guelph


Since the main focus of JIRP fieldwork is mass balance (digging snow pits to determine the annual health of the glacier), the hydrology group decided to examine the relationship between mass balance and stream flow on the Lemon Creek and Taku glaciers. Both glaciers have historic mass balance data and also feed into United States Geological Survey (USGS) gaged streams, giving us two datasets to use in our analysis. Additionally, we will also be using meteorological data (temperature and precipitation) in our models.

Laurissa cores a sample of snow in the mass balance pit. 

Laurissa cores a sample of snow in the mass balance pit. 

The goal of our project is to examine the fluxes in glacial accumulation and ablation and to determine the impact of changing glacier dynamics on downstream ecosystems (both terrestrial and marine) which are dependent on glacial melt water. For example, salmon habitats require specific streamflow and sediment conditions to spawn, and changes due to accelerated melt may impact their habitat and breeding environments. We are excited to see different relationships between all of the variables, and we are waiting to get back to our respective universities to continue to analyze data.

Kim looks at a supraglacial stream.

Kim looks at a supraglacial stream.

French Alex, Kim, Laurissa, and Natalie measuring a stream.

French Alex, Kim, Laurissa, and Natalie measuring a stream.

In addition to looking at the overarching hydrology of icefield, we also took several field trips while we were at Camp 26 to look at the water features in the ablation zone. We mapped hydrologic features, looked at the evolution of supraglacial streams, and explored ice caves under the Llewellyn glacier. 

The hydrology group! Laurissa, Kim, Lindsey, and Carrie.

The hydrology group! Laurissa, Kim, Lindsey, and Carrie.


Geobotany and Entomology on the Juneau Icefield

by Polly Bass, University of Alaska, Anchorage, Matanuska Susitna College

Today I am at camp 18 above the Vaughan Llewis Icefall and Gilkey Trench.  Some of the objectives of the geobotanical and biological sciences research group this summer include: Continued monitoring of permanent vegetation quadrats; Evaluation, retrieval and redeployment of temperature data loggers at some of the permanent plots; Investigation of possible invasive species at C18; evaluation of Saxifraga sp. found on the Mount Moore nunatak in 2013, re-evaluation of an observed Taraxacum sp., and investigation of a Draba sp. not before seen on the icefield nunataks. Work at camp eight on Mt. Moore revealed a second species of Saxifrage present. The two Saxifraga members are the only vascular species observed and recorded on Mt. Moore during the relatively long history of JIRP.  The vascular plants on Mt. Moore were found to inhabit a specific geological dike of fissile aphinitic intrusive igneous mafic composition.

Polly Bass leads the JIRPers on a geobotanical field lecture at Camp 10.

Polly Bass leads the JIRPers on a geobotanical field lecture at Camp 10.

Grasses are being collected for a collaborative project with Saewan Koh at the University of Alberta in Edmonton. Saewan is exploring the relationship between the Neotyphodium ungus in grasses, and grazing by herbivores. In the Ruby Range of the Yukon Territory, the presence of the fungus has been identified as a deterrent to grazing. Poaceae family members and, in particular, Festuca genus members were collected at several sites to determine if the observed influence of the fungus on the forb impacts grazing across a latitudinal gradient.

Sean Schofield from the University of Wisconsin, Madison, has joined us to continue the investigation of Nebria lituyae and N. nivalis, two species of Arctic/alpine beetles. Dave Kavanaugh began an investigation of Nebria sp. in the Paradise Valley region of the icefield in 2012. In 2013, student, Ben Slavin collected Nebria at several nunatak sites for Sean Schofields research. This year, Sean is expanding on Bens work to include more sites. He is interested in understanding the distribution of the species across the icefield nunataks, and how the species migrated to the sites. He will also explore the adjacent environs. Additional collections and observations were made adjacent to the icefield in the Mt. Roberts and Mt. Gastineau areas. Future work will benefit from further collaborative field efforts between the geobotanical and entomological research groups. These joint efforts will strive to correlate habitat, substrate, and microclimate variables influencing the presence and absence of icefield flora and microfauna.

Phyllodoce glanduliflora on the icefield.  photo by Alex Micheler

Phyllodoce glanduliflora on the icefield.  photo by Alex Micheler

JIRPers gather around during the geobotanical lecture.

JIRPers gather around during the geobotanical lecture.

Field Work of the Seismic Bandits

by Dan King, State University of New York at Oneonta

The Other Seismic Bandits:

Lizzie Kenny, Bowdoin College; Julian Alwakeel, Florida International University; Josh Ivie, Tarleton State University; and Mike Staron, Keene State College

Our Project:

Most research groups here at Camp 10 have now prepared, or already begun, their various projects. The seismic group, or the Seismic Bandits as weve come to call ourselves, has completed our research because all of our fieldwork needed to be done on the Taku Glacier.

Our research became a race against the clock upon our arrival at Camp 10. The delayed departure of the latter trail parties from Camp 17 certainly didnt help our cause. Our faculty research advisers, Don Voigt and Kiya Riverman (both from Penn State University) were set to fly out of camp just under two weeks after the arrival of the first members of our research group  ( Lizzie and I) and our fieldwork needed to be concluded prior to their departure. Don and Kiya were also kind enough to provide the group with all of the essential equipment needed to conduct our fieldwork. Just a few days after arriving at Camp 10, our group began testing the field equipment in Icy Basin, just a couple hundred meters Southeast of Camp 10. Collection of the critical data for our research project did not begin until all of the Bandits had arrived at Camp 10 several days later.

In the past, Don and Kiya have typically used explosives for their seismic work. However, since we didnt have permits for seismics, we used a sledge hammer, and occasionally an instrument known as Betsy, for a sound making device. Betsy is a surprisingly light piece of equipment that fires blank 12 gauge shotgun rounds into the glacier.

Before I get too specific, Ill take a step backward Our original goals were to use standard methods of seismic reflection to determine the depth of the Taku Glacier, and also to determine the underlying material (bedrock, sediment, water, etc.). We also planned to do seismic refraction surveys in areas of both low and high strain on the Taku Glacier in order to create firn density profiles. Firn is snow that has survived at least one entire melt season. It is denser than fresh snow, but not as dense as glacial ice. Using the firn density profiles that we create from our surveys, we hope to better understand how regional strain can affect the rate at which firn densifies into glacial ice. Firn densification is important to consider when trying to understand ice flow dynamics this is where our work becomes valuable.

After getting into our fieldwork, we decided unanimously that we would prefer to devote our time to the refraction surveys, and to drop reflection from our work entirely. We did this, in part, because we were crunched for time, but mainly for other reasons: While seismic reflection had been used on the Taku Glacier before, refraction surveys to examine properties of firn densification have not. The Bandits agreed that it would be best to devote our time to a single research project that was unique to the area, and our advisers supported that decision.

We conducted 4 refraction surveys: two in areas of relatively low strain, and two in areas of relatively high strain. Each individual survey, however, was conducted in the same manner. We would start by laying out 500 meters of cable in a line, with nodes at 20 meter intervals. At each node, we dug a hole, buried a geophone, and connected it to the node. The cable was connected to a magical box called the geode. Also connected to the geode, was the trigger switch, which we connected to the end of the sledge hammer, or to the mallet used to trigger Betsy. We ended up using the sledge hammer much more than Betsy because it was faster and worked just as well, if not better. The geode was connected to a battery and our laptop. These connections made up our temporary seismic station for each survey.

One of several temporary seismic stations.  Don Voight - left, Kiya Riverman - right;  photo by Dan King

One of several temporary seismic stations.  Don Voight - left, Kiya Riverman - right;  photo by Dan King

Starting at the closest geophone, and gradually moving to a distance of 20 meters, we would place the “shot” then take several recordings. The “shot” is the term for each sledge hammer hit. When ready, the Bandit manning the computer would say, “Quiet on the line,” to eliminate noise interference from the group, and the person manning the sledge hammer would strike a metal pipe on the surface of the glacier. The impact would trigger the switch and start a timer. The computer then recorded the magnitude and time of arrival of the sound wave(s) produced by the shot at each individual geophone, which we analyzed back at camp. Shots were usually taken 0-20 meters away from the first geophone, at an interval of 2 meters each.
 

Although the fieldwork was repetitive, we never got bored. Each of the Bandits learned the various team roles, and became masters of using the equipment. After a while, I became the designated sledge hammer-er… The team even started calling me “Thor.” Mike’s ski ballet was also a brilliant source of entertainment during our brief moments of down time. In the end, we were all able to walk away with great data and close bonds from our memorable moments in the field. All that’s left now is to return to camp and crunch our data.

Don, Josh, Julian, Lizzie, Dan, Kaya - right to left; Mike - center; photo by Randall Stacy

Don, Josh, Julian, Lizzie, Dan, Kaya - right to left; Mike - center; photo by Randall Stacy

Id like to thank Don Voigt and Kiya Riverman, not only for their instruction and the use of their equipment, but also for the enthusiasm and patience they expressed while working with the Bandits. I speak for us all when I say that it was a pleasure to work with you two. We couldnt have done it without you. Perhaps the Bandits will someday reunite.