JIRP 2014: Kicking Things Off in Juneau, Alaska

By: Kirsten Arnell, Columbia University

The past couple days in Juneau have been fantastic. We had a couple lectures on Monday at the University of Alaska Southeast (UAS) campus to introduce us to the program, making us even more eager to get up onto the icefield than we already were to begin with. We learned how glaciers affect all branches of the Earth system and humans – climate, ecology, oceanography, and even economics, to name a few. These lectures were just a small taste of everything we will be exposed to over the course of the summer.

I have really enjoyed meeting all of the people. There are 36 students total on the trip, from all over the place. I have loved talking to everyone, hearing about their interests, learning about where they come from and what they study. A handful of us, including myself, have already found some crazy “small world” connections with others who are here.

Participants of JIRP 2014 at the University of Alaska Southeast campus. (Photo by: Alexandre Mischler)

I’m super excited to be spending the next two months with everyone on the icefield. I can already tell it is going to be a riot. The group dynamics are fantastic, and the people are so cool! I can really feel the mutual excitement about science and about being on the icefield. It’s neat to be part of a group of people with so many common interests – which have brought us together to embark on such a terrific expedition – but who are also quite different in terms of each individual’s particular interests, personalities, and backgrounds. 

I don’t think I’ve ever been part of such a group of people who are so similar to me in numerous ways. We’re all here because we love science, we love the Earth, and we want adventure on ice. Yet I know that I have a tremendous amount to learn from every single person on this trip, because we all have such unique sets of knowledge. As one Junior Staff Member said, with such a large group of people with their own particular interests, chances are we will have at our fingertips the answer to nearly every question or curiosity that arises, because someone in our group will know it. Without internet or much access to the outside world, together we will still be like our own walking “google” up on the Juneau Icefield. We are in this to learn together, and to share our knowledge with one another, and to do some incredible research. I can’t wait!