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.