Back with JIRP

By P. Jay Fleisher, Director Emeritus

JIRP ’68, ’69, ’79, ’86. ’87, ’93, '10, ’11, ’13

It is a pleasure and privilege to be back with JIRP (Juneau Icefield Research Program) after a one-year hiatus.  My initial JIRP experience decades ago was followed when I returned several times in subsequent years as a visiting faculty.  The Program, initiated and directed by Dr. Maynard M. Miller, evolved into a superb training ground for students heading to careers in Glaciology, Glacial Geology, Climate Science, and Arctic Sciences.  It is gratifying to see that the same high level of spirit and enthusiasm continues today in the current staff and students.


Dr. P. Jay Fleisher leads a geology field trip near Camp 10.  Photo by Mira Dutschke

Situated on the “high ice” central to the icefield, Camp-10 is currently the hub of research involving field measurements on multiple glaciers related to icefield mass balance and a variety of precision GPS projects that monitor glacier movement and elevation.  The scientific staff is eager to involve an enthusiastic group of 23 students (13 women and 10 men) who rotate in and out of projects, while attending to the logistical tasks of running the field camp.  An interesting variety of independent student projects is currently beginning formulated.  Soon the entire operation will shift to Camp-18 situated at the head of the Gilkey Trench, which in my humble opinion is the most photogenic place in all of Alaska.  The students will make the journey (about 15 miles) on skis, as they did two weeks ago when traversing from C-17 (20 miles) situated on the southern edge of the icefield and perched above Juneau.  Unfortunately, I am scheduled to depart prior to the C-18 move and will have to bid farewell to this dynamic group of students and staff.  But before I go I will offer the JIRP 2013 students a few farewell comments, comments that I hope will inspire them in their future efforts and perhaps inspire you as well.

My advice is to seek a mentor, one who will provide guidance when defining career goals.  For me their were three; my father who taught me, “if its worth doing, its worth doing right”, my wrestling coach who offered, “as you approach an initial goal, set another”, and finally a college professor who said to me years into my teaching career, “don’t tell me what you plan to do, tell me what’ve done”.  

I will advise the students “to follow their bliss, never stop questioning, and to find something to love”. 

Within this isolated icefield community, where the benefits of common values resonate most meaningfully, I hope the JIRPers will find inspiration and motivation in my comments.

So, until my return, hopefully next summer, I will add my name to the wooden rafters that record the annual roster of participants that goes back decades.