Learning to Live on the Ice

By Kelcy Huston, University of Minnesota Duluth

Adjusting to life on the ice comes with learning a unique set of skills and routines. Some of the daily chores are variations of familiar things (like using water and sweeping), and other skills are things I think many of us thought we would only see in the movies if it weren’t for JIRP. The following pictures capture highlights of our time at Camp 17.

One of the first things we did upon arrival to camp was set up water collections. We did this by framing tarps with 2x4s to funnel into a gutter and then into a bin after shoveling surrounding snow onto the tarp. It’s good to scrape off the top layer before shoveling, but no filtering or purifying needed! Photo credit: Kelcy Huston.

One of the first things we did upon arrival to camp was set up water collections. We did this by framing tarps with 2x4s to funnel into a gutter and then into a bin after shoveling surrounding snow onto the tarp. It’s good to scrape off the top layer before shoveling, but no filtering or purifying needed! Photo credit: Kelcy Huston.

Our first week had a heavy focus on ski training and safe glacier travel practices, which requires learning to “rope up” in case someone in a trail party falls into a crevasse. This way, if someone were to fall in, everyone else on the rope team drops to the ground to prevent a long fall and prepare the next stages of rescue. Photo credit: Kelcy Huston.

Our first week had a heavy focus on ski training and safe glacier travel practices, which requires learning to “rope up” in case someone in a trail party falls into a crevasse. This way, if someone were to fall in, everyone else on the rope team drops to the ground to prevent a long fall and prepare the next stages of rescue. Photo credit: Kelcy Huston.

Building on roping up, we’ve also been practicing building anchor and pulley systems to actually be able to pull people out of a crevasse. Snow anchors allow us to take the weight of the fallen person off of ourselves and the pulley systems give us mechanical advantage to pull them up more easily (it was an added training bonus that it stopped raining and the sun shined for the first time in 6 days!). Photo credit: Kelcy Huston.

Building on roping up, we’ve also been practicing building anchor and pulley systems to actually be able to pull people out of a crevasse. Snow anchors allow us to take the weight of the fallen person off of ourselves and the pulley systems give us mechanical advantage to pull them up more easily (it was an added training bonus that it stopped raining and the sun shined for the first time in 6 days!). Photo credit: Kelcy Huston.

When not out in the field we’ve been having evening lectures from guest faculty, starting to think about our own upcoming research, and taking in the views. Photo credit: Kelcy Huston.

When not out in the field we’ve been having evening lectures from guest faculty, starting to think about our own upcoming research, and taking in the views. Photo credit: Kelcy Huston.

****Special happy belated birthday to my Dad – hope it was a great one, I love you!

 

A Chain of Mentorship

Matt Beedle

Director of Academics and Research

Today is a special day on the JIRP calendar. As you read this, the 2017 JIRP staff team – with excitement for the new field season despite the weather – is hiking to Camp 17 for “Staff Week”. These 12 days of opening JIRP’s first main camp, wilderness first aid training, glacier travel/rescue training, and (let’s be honest) at least a few runs on the Ptarmigan Glacier to test skis and snow conditions, kicks off the field season. It establishes more than physical goals and hard skills, however. The culture, community and camaraderie of JIRP 2017 begin to form today. While each season is unique, there are threads of commonality that span the many generations of JIRP field seasons and individual JIRPers. One of the most powerful threads in each field season is that of mentorship.

We’ve done quite a number of short pieces on JIRP history in recent years (see some of them here, here and here), but a component of JIRP that hasn’t been communicated in particular is the long history of mentorship. Post-JIRP, students regularly comment on the value of having tremendous access to inspiring staff members and faculty. The often cheek-by-jowl conditions of a JIRP camp, skiing for hours in a driving rain, discussion of ideas, problems and dreams allow for JIRP students to get to know one another well. These moments, however, are also shared with faculty and staff, moments that have been shared on the Juneau Icefield for decades. The JIRP story begins in the 1940s, but a chain of mentorship can be traced back in time even further.

John Muir first ventured to Alaska in 1879 for the first of his fabled canoe journeys through southeast Alaska. He wasn’t the first to journey here, as western sailors had been poking into the bays and fjords of southeast Alaska since Chirikov’s voyage of 1741, and the Tlingit people had called this part of the world home for many thousands of years prior. Muir’s 1879 voyage, however, did initiate a western investigation of the glaciers of southeast Alaska, enabled by his Tlingit guides.

John Muir and Reid's team at the Muir cabin in Glacier bay, 1890. Source: National Park Service

John Muir and Reid's team at the Muir cabin in Glacier bay, 1890. Source: National Park Service

On a subsequent trip to southeast Alaska in 1890, Muir spent time in Glacier Bay with Harry Fielding Reid and a team of scientists investigating the dynamics of Muir Glacier.  Reid’s subsequent Variations of Glaciers work would be a foundational effort for the World Glacier Monitoring Service of today. One of the individuals that Reid mentored and inspired was William O. (Bill) Field, known as one of the founders of modern glaciological study in North America. For his 1941 expedition to southeast Alaska, Field inquired with Bradford and Barbara Washburn in looking for a capable field assistant.The Washburns pointed him to Maynard Miller, a Harvard undergraduate who had been on their expedition to Mount Bertha the previous year. Field and Miller’s shared field experiences in 1941 and subsequent years gave rise to this important new direction to explain glacier behavior:

It became fairly clear to us in 1941 that a full explanation was more likely to be found in the upper elevations rather than at the terminus.
— W. O. Field and M. M. Miller, Geographical Review, 1950
Maynard Miller (right) explores the remnants of the Muir cabin in Glacier Bay during the 1941 expedition led by Bill Field. Source: Field, William Osgood. 1941 No Glacier: From the Glacier Photograph Collection. Boulder, Colorado USA: National Snow and Ice Data Center. Digital media.

Maynard Miller (right) explores the remnants of the Muir cabin in Glacier Bay during the 1941 expedition led by Bill Field. Source: Field, William Osgood. 1941 No Glacier: From the Glacier Photograph Collection. Boulder, Colorado USA: National Snow and Ice Data Center. Digital media.

After a few years of aerial reconnaissance and further investigation of the termini of glaciers of southeast Alaska, followed by a first exploration of the “high ice” of the Juneau Icefield in 1948, JIRP the annual field expedition began in 1949. It has continued ever since, and this chain of mentorship has been ongoing, from Field and Miller, to individuals such as Ed LaChapelle, Austin Post, Kurt Cuffey, Christina Hulbe, Steven Squyres, Kate Harris, Alison Criscitiello and many hundreds more. From this annual traverse of the Juneau Icefield, dreams, careers, adventures are launched.

It is challenging to keep track of the inspiring work that recent JIRP alumni are taking on, let alone the many hundreds who have come before them. A part of this inspiration has come from interactions with JIRP mentors: the long ski traverses filled with academic discussions, songs, and stories; the hardships and smiles shared in the field and back at camp; the guidance during the season and in the years that follow. With this view back at the long chain of mentorship through many decades of exploration of the icy corners of southeast Alaska, it is exciting to think of the JIRP staff of 2017. Slowly making their way to Camp 17 today, hiking in the literal and figurative footsteps of the many hundreds before, they are setting in motion the foundational community of JIRP 2017 - the community of staff, faculty and students that will continue this chain.

Note: Thanks to Bruce Molnia for being a JIRP mentor of mine and for pointing out the linkages back in time from Mal Miller, to Bill Field, to Harry Reid, and to John Muir.

A Basic Introduction to the Juneau Icefield Research Program

Annie Boucher

JIRP Senior Staff and Faculty Member

Welcome to the Juneau Icefield Research Program blog! We’re gearing up for the new season: students will soon be connecting with staff mentors to navigate expedition preparation, staff are making plans for staff training week in June, and faculty are sketching out plans for student research projects.

At this time of year, when our new students are preparing for the field season, we know there are a lot of people getting to know JIRP (pronounced “jerp”) for the first time. In the coming weeks, we will use this blog to give you a taste of who will be involved in the expedition this summer, what all goes into expedition prep, and some background on a few of the returning JIRPers who make everything happen. Over the course of the field season - June through August - we will use the blog to post daily updates from the field about what we’re up to. Students will post photos, essays, drawings, and video clips covering both the science research and the day-to-day mechanics of moving more than 50 people across the Icefield.

We have a lot to look forward to! To start, though, here’s a quick and dirty overview of what’s about to happen.

What is JIRP?
JIRP is an expedition-based field science education program. Over two months, we traverse the Juneau Icefield in southeast Alaska and northwest British Columbia, moving between permanent camps while we teach a variety of field research and glacier science topics. Because we are living right on the glacier, JIRP students are immersed in their studies. They don’t just learn about glacier ice flow from a textbook, they go out onto the glacier and explore the real-life markers of flow dynamics from the ice surface, from inside crevasses, from under the ice in sub-glacial caves, and from the bird’s eye view atop nearby mountains. JIRP students spend every waking minute soaking up their surroundings; this leads to a deeper understanding of the environment than any student could get inside the classroom.

Faculty member Billy Armstrong (right, red jacket) holds an evening lecture on ice flow dynamics above the Gilkey Glacier.

Faculty member Billy Armstrong (right, red jacket) holds an evening lecture on ice flow dynamics above the Gilkey Glacier.

Who makes up the JIRP team?
There are three groups of people at JIRP: students, staff, and faculty. At any given time, there are 50-60 people participating in the expedition. Our students are mostly undergraduates, although we often have high schoolers, graduate students, and in-between-schools students as well. Our students come from schools across the U.S. and around the world. Everything that happens at JIRP revolves around student education. This summer we expect to have 32 students, all of whom will be part of the program for the whole field season.

Students Matty Miller (blue jacket) and Tai Rovzar (green jacket) repel into a crevasse and observe their surroundings.

Students Matty Miller (blue jacket) and Tai Rovzar (green jacket) repel into a crevasse and observe their surroundings.

Our staff facilitate field safety and expedition logistics. The Icefield-based field staff spend the first two weeks of the program teaching the students and new faculty required glacier safety skills. For the rest of the season they manage our camps and accompany every group that goes out onto the ice to oversee technical mountaineering challenges and take care of any first aid needs. The Juneau-based staff organize personnel, equipment, and groceries for our helicopters, as well as maintaining daily radio communication with the expedition. This summer JIRP has 12 staff members on the Icefield and two in Juneau, all of whom will work for the whole season.

Field staffer Kirsten Arnell (center, blue jacket) discusses setting routes for rope team travel on the Norris Icefall. The field staff works closely with the students every step of the traverse, teaching them the skills to travel safely through the terrain. Photo credit: Ibai Rico.

Field staffer Kirsten Arnell (center, blue jacket) discusses setting routes for rope team travel on the Norris Icefall. The field staff works closely with the students every step of the traverse, teaching them the skills to travel safely through the terrain. Photo credit: Ibai Rico.

Our faculty are researchers, professors, graduate students, journalists, medical doctors, and other professionals. While their backgrounds vary, they share a deep commitment to education and expertise in a field relevant to the Juneau Icefield. They are on the program primarily to teach and while they’re with the expedition all their work includes JIRP students. Faculty rotate throughout the summer; most weeks there are between 5 and 10 faculty members on the icefield.

Student Joel Gonzales-Santiago and faculty member Lindsey Nicholson download meteorological data from a weather station. Photo credit: Allen Pope.

When does JIRP happen?
JIRP is a summer program. Our team is in the field from mid-June through mid-August. The program has been running on this schedule every year since 1949. For more on the history of JIRP, check out our history page and stayed tuned for some JIRP legends to be posted to the blog this spring and throughout the summer.

On clear nights toward the end of the summer JIRPers often sleep outside. Everyone falls asleep around 11:00 pm when it’s getting dark, but it’s not uncommon to wake up three hours later to shouts of “Lights! Northern lights!” Photo credit: Brad Markle.

On clear nights toward the end of the summer JIRPers often sleep outside. Everyone falls asleep around 11:00 pm when it’s getting dark, but it’s not uncommon to wake up three hours later to shouts of “Lights! Northern lights!” Photo credit: Brad Markle.

Where are we working?
The Juneau Icefield is one of the largest icefields in North America at 3,700 square kilometers, covering an area a bit larger than the state of Rhode Island. An icefield is a collection of several contiguous glaciers that flow more or less outward from an area of high snow accumulation. The ice surface of an icefield is low enough that the glaciers flow around, not over, the highest mountains (distinguishing it from an ice cap). The Juneau Icefield straddles the border between southeast Alaska and northwest British Columbia. The western side of the Juneau Icefield abuts the city of Juneau, AK - our students begin their traverse hiking just beyond the Home Depot parking lot. In contrast to many icefields of a similar size, proximity to Juneau makes the logistics of JIRP relatively easy.

The hike down to camp for dinner. At the top of the rocky hilltop in the fore ground you can pick out the buildings of our largest camp. Beyond camp, Taku Glacier flows from right to left in front of the distant Taku Towers. Photo credit: Kenzie McAdams.

The hike down to camp for dinner. At the top of the rocky hilltop in the fore ground you can pick out the buildings of our largest camp. Beyond camp, Taku Glacier flows from right to left in front of the distant Taku Towers. Photo credit: Kenzie McAdams.

JIRP maintains several permanent camps across the Icefield; we are based out of these for most of the summer. Our large camps include bunk room housing for all 50-60 members of the expedition, cooking facilities, outhouses, generators, and lecture space. All permanent structures are built on the bare rocky hilltops above the flowing glaciers. The buildings are modest and space is sometimes tight, but it makes all the difference for us to be able to get out of the weather at the end of the day.

Our last large camp, near the divide between the U.S. and Canadian side of the icefield. Photo credit: Kenzie McAdams.

Our last large camp, near the divide between the U.S. and Canadian side of the icefield. Photo credit: Kenzie McAdams.

Why study the Juneau Icefield?
People study the Juneau Icefield for a host of reasons. Geologists seek information about the complicated tectonic and geologic history of Alaska. Biologists examine the flora and fauna of the rocky mountain islands isolated by the flowing ice. Physicists use seismic data to look into the ice itself to understand how the glaciers flow.

Students DJ Jarrin and Riley Wall set up the delicate gravimeter. The gravimeter measures tiny anomalies in the local gravity, which the students use to deduce information about the bedrock buried beneath almost a mile (1500 m) of ice. Photo credit: DJ Jarrin.

Students DJ Jarrin and Riley Wall set up the delicate gravimeter. The gravimeter measures tiny anomalies in the local gravity, which the students use to deduce information about the bedrock buried beneath almost a mile (1500 m) of ice. Photo credit: DJ Jarrin.

Glaciers are also a “hot topic” right now because of climate change. Glaciers form and flow in areas where annual snow accumulation is high enough that substantial snowpack survives the summer. Because they rely on the snowpack, glaciers are sensitive to two central pieces of climate: temperature and precipitation. Measuring and observing different aspects of glaciers can tell us about past and present trends in temperature and precipitation. Climate research is a central component of the JIRP curriculum, but it is far from the only topic we cover.

Students Kate Bollen, Kristen Lyda Rees, and Louise Borthwick measure the density of the snow accumulated over the past year. Even at the end of the summer the last year’s snow accumulation is often 4-6 m/13-20 ft. deep high on the icefield. Measurements of the each year’s snowfall are compared with a continuous dataset that stretches back to the 1940s. Photo credit: Victor Cabrera.

Students Kate Bollen, Kristen Lyda Rees, and Louise Borthwick measure the density of the snow accumulated over the past year. Even at the end of the summer the last year’s snow accumulation is often 4-6 m/13-20 ft. deep high on the icefield. Measurements of the each year’s snowfall are compared with a continuous dataset that stretches back to the 1940s. Photo credit: Victor Cabrera.

That’s all we’ve got for now. Blog posts will be published periodically this spring and almost daily during the summer on every aspect of working and living on the Juneau Icefield. In the meantime, we hope this gives new students, their friends and family a basic idea of what to expect in the coming months.

 

Stuck with strangers?

Kit Cunningham

Montana State University

Coming into this program, I didn’t know what to expect. I knew the various aspects of glacial travel and academics that I would be learning; however, I didn’t know how this group of 40ish people would shape the dynamics around me.  Now, after the program, I realize the intense impact they had on my experience.

These people, who came from all walks of life and from so many different backgrounds, had the ability to create a unique environment where all forms of growth were welcomed and could flourish. I realize in hindsight that this growth began through the initial questions surrounding the journey, which could only be approached with unabashed curiosity and high excitement. These questions could be something like, “How do I put my foot in my ski binding?”, “What does ablation mean?”, “How many cans of spam would you use to feed this camp?”, and, my personal favorite, “Is the rainfly just a rain jacket for the tent?” These questions, as innocent and rudimentary as they seem, sparked the fire for continuous curiosity that would surround the group for the rest of the summer.

Other factors that fueled the fire of inquisition were the traverses from camp to camp. When you have been skiing through what looks like the inside of a Ping-Pong ball for six hours, and still have seven hours more to go, the only source of entertainment are these weird beings beside you also trudging along. The traverses led to new forms of questions revolving around life stories, embarrassing moments, and of course, the weirdest places everyone has ever pooped. When there is nothing to do and the people around you are the only outlet for mental stimulation, it’s no surprise that some weird and very personal stories emerged. In any other circumstance, I would have never heard the situation in which Tae held a dead cat. Or when Mo was forgotten in the back of the truck or when Auri almost died in a plane crash. I am normally hesitant to surround myself with strangers due to my own antisocial tendencies, but after learning facts about the people around me that I normally would never begin to unfold, I realize the special environment for vulnerability and friendship that traverses tend to create.

A trail party traverses the upper Thomas Glacier on day one of the two-day traverse from Camp 17 to Camp 10. Photo by Matt Beedle.

A trail party traverses the upper Thomas Glacier on day one of the two-day traverse from Camp 17 to Camp 10. Photo by Matt Beedle.

The last main factor that contributed to the atmosphere around me was the people themselves. These people are all so special, in both similar and completely different ways. They all have this drive for adventure that makes them ask more, dive in a little deeper, and want to look just around the next corner. The constant fear of missing out (fondly known as FOMO) is deeply embedded in all members, causing impromptu dances in the moonlight, sing-alongs to guitar, and sunset ski runs. Everyone also has unique characteristics they bring to the table that add to the group’s flavor. If you give Kellie a rusty spoon and an expired can of cream of mushroom, for example, she will undoubtedly create a culinary or artistic masterpiece out of it. Or if you tell Annie B. a dream you had the night before that is only interesting to you, regardless, she will raise her eyebrows, open her eyes a little wider, and look at you like you are telling her the most exciting thing she has heard all day. Or if you are listening to music, Joel will demonstrate crazy, psychedelic hand motions that will both hypnotize and entertain.

While I can’t speak for the rest of the 2016 JIRP crew, the comfortable space created this summer has had a permanent impact on my life. I personally struggle with emerging from my shell, and more specifically, talking about myself. I have never been around a group of people who have not only welcomed my oddities and my presence, but have pleasantly harassed me for personal quirks. Off of the icefield, I feel like I can blend in with the people around me and be one with the wallpaper, but being in an area as beautiful as Camp 18, and surrounded by people equally as beautiful, I can’t help but remove myself from the sidelines and let myself be engulfed by the wonderful aroma of curiosity, vulnerability, foot stank, and immeasurable love and acceptance that the 2016 JIRP crew has fostered.
 

To top it off, here is a photo of Molly popping a pimple on her leg, Victor feeling “one” with the rock, and I don’t know what Tai and Alexandra are doing. Photo by Kit Cunningham.

To top it off, here is a photo of Molly popping a pimple on her leg, Victor feeling “one” with the rock, and I don’t know what Tai and Alexandra are doing. Photo by Kit Cunningham.

Our Beautiful Machine

Annie Zaccarin

UC San Diego

I love embarking on expeditions: being able to discover new places, explore the wilderness, and learn more about the world around us. Yet, expeditions are a lot of work and for an expedition to be successful, a certain degree of planning and teamwork is required. As Howard Tomb says in his essay Expedition Behavior, the Finer Points, “Think of your team - the beautiful machine - first. You are merely a cog in that machine”.  Inadequate planning and cooperation often leads to chaos and poor execution of an expedition. JIRP runs for 8 weeks, with an average of 50 people, or cogs, in camp consisting of 32 students, 10 staff, and 6-8 rotating faculty and professors.  The larger the expedition, the more planning and gear required. Each individual requires personal gear (sleeping bag, clothes, skis, etc.), fuel, food, and bunk space. As the quantity of individuals increases, not only does the quantity of supplies increase, but so does the amount of people needed to support and help make the expedition run. It becomes imperative that expedition logistics and teamwork be running smoothly to prevent falling into disarray. Here’s a look into how our little community resists falling into such chaos through logistics, flexibility in the face of weather, and teamwork.

JIRP’s organization, leadership, and staff played a vital role in helping the JIRP machine run smoothly as we traversed across the Juneau Icefield. There were four main pieces that make up the bulk of the logistics concerns: food, fuel, machinery, and movements. Food and fuel were perhaps the easiest to understand. Food was of utmost importance in keeping us all fed, healthy, focused and enthusiastic. We used fuel to cook food, run the generator for lectures, and power the snowmobiles. Snowmobiles (known locally as “snow machines”), some of our most important machines, went out in the field almost every day to help the GPS Survey group complete transects of the glacier. They were also used for hauling supplies (tents, food, scientific equipment) out to temporary base camps for overnight scientific excursions. In addition to the smaller snowmobiles, a trusty old Thiokol (snow cat) towed out-of-commission snowmobiles and heavy sled loads up the steep slope back to camp. The fourth part of logistics, movements, might be the hardest component to understand for those readers who have not been up on the icefield. During our expedition, we slowly traversed 90 miles from established base camp to base camp across the Juneau Icefield from Juneau, Alaska to Atlin, British Columbia. Overall, this required movement of people, equipment, food, and fuel. When it came to organizing the traverse, the field staff had to consider: forming trail parties to go to the next camp, time needed for research, available camp space, and significant time just for opening and closing camps. Luckily, much of life on the icefield was intertwined with helicopter support. They brought us food, fuel, and mail and took away our waste metal and outgoing mail. In addition, new faculty arrived, and exiting faculty left on the helicopters. Helicopters also helped transport gear and scientific equipment from camp to camp when snowmobile transportation was limited due to crevasses and topography. 

Coastal Helicopter bringing us new supplies and personnel at Camp 17. Photo by Annie Zaccarin.

Coastal Helicopter bringing us new supplies and personnel at Camp 17. Photo by Annie Zaccarin.

 

However, a tricky part of running logistics and making all the pieces fit together was flexibility in the face of weather. So much of what we did relied on either going out in the field to conduct research or having helicopter flights arrive on time. When bad weather drifted in and camp was surrounded by a white out, research was delayed without new faculty arriving, fresh food could not be flown in, and weather-dependent field work had to be put off. While this may seem frustrating to those of you reading back home, we JIRPers are resilient folks who always found ways of making the most of any weather that came our way. The role of overseeing all of these components fell on our field staff and Juneau staff. It could very easily be argued that while everyone on the icefield were the engine and the heart and soul of the program, the expertly-run logistics, by the Juneau and field staff, was the motherboard that kept the expedition going. 

While staff kept the big picture and organization in perspective, all expedition members were key cogs in making the expedition machine run smoothly through teamwork and cooperation. Imagine having all 50 expedition members cook their own meals or clean the outhouses; not very practical. Within the camp, the camp manager assigned cook teams every day, and everyone pitched in on other camp chores and maintenance tasks every morning. Typical chores ranged from maintaining our makeshift snow-fridge, to refilling fuel barrels, or to touching up paint around camp. Although some of the chores were intimidating at first, such as figuring portion sizes for over 50 people, eventually we grew in learning not only how to complete each chore, but also each one’s importance in maintaining camp life. An important lesson I learned during cook crew was how to make and keep gallons of coffee ready for the never-ending cups needing refilling throughout the day. While these small tasks definitely helped keep camp from falling into chaos and disorder, less obvious forms of teamwork and community were similarly instrumental in helping our community come together.

We saw teamwork in the staff member that helped you tape up your blisters, in the faculty who worked in challenging conditions to impart their knowledge, in the friend that slowed down to ski with you, in the rope team that arrested your fall, and in the community that became a family. None of us would have been as successful up there on the icefield without that community around us. Every day, as I looked around, I saw our friendships deepen, our team grow stronger, and our community turn into its own 50-person family isolated up on our little nunatak. Our community came together as seen through the cooks that got excited to serve new culinary creations, everyone’s genuine interest in each other’s research projects, and our willingness to share dry clothing. It’s amazing how these all helped contribute to the positive, pleasant, and productive environment whatever the circumstances we were facing on the icefield. In the end, whether we were student, field staff, faculty, or Juneau staff, we all had a role to play in helping make the JIRP machine run smoothly and continue to be the remarkable program that it is. I am ever thankful for getting to be part of the amazing community that is JIRP, and all of the new found friends (students, staff, and faculty) that were instrumental in making the community and experience incredible.

Thank you to Newt for providing me with some of the insight needed for this blog post.

Coming together over dinner at Camp 10 to enjoy the view and each other's company. Photo by Annie Zaccarin.

Coming together over dinner at Camp 10 to enjoy the view and each other's company. Photo by Annie Zaccarin.

Maintaining a Balance

Written by Sarah Bouckoms, with contributions from Lindsey Nicholson and Gabrielle Gascon

For the past two years, JIRP has had more female students than male students. In addition, this year’s field staff and faculty include many powerhouse females. The notion that science is a male-dominated field may still be true in some areas, but not at JIRP.  JIRP’s focus is on science and outdoor learning, regardless of gender, race, religion, or sexual orientation/identification. In this blog, JIRP participants Lindsey Nicholson, Gabrielle Gascon and Sarah Bouckoms write on their experiences as women who have worked to attain advanced science degrees.

Lindsey Nicholson is a post doctoral researcher at the University of Innsbruck joining JIRP for four weeks as a visiting faculty member. Lindsey writes:

I'm happy to say that I have not felt discriminated against because of my gender in any way in my career so far. In fact, it seems more common at present to see job advertisements which state that preference will be given to suitably qualified women in order to achieve gender equality in the composition of faculty and staff. Similarly, my current research grant is specifically targeted to women in science, which gave me a better chance of winning the funding.  Clearly, although I would prefer to see a simple meritocracy determine the allocation of funding and appointments, I am not above taking advantage of these “positive” gender discrimination tactics that are currently in place. My perception is that current academic faculty in Earth sciences is still strongly dominated by men, but that the cohort of upcoming young scientists is increasingly equally made up of men and women, and in the future I expect that gender will not play any role in appointing scientists or allocating funding money.

That said, I am pleased to see so many young women participating in JIRP, particularly because the combination of group expedition and scientific endeavor encourages all participants to see themselves as equal parts of a whole. Each member has something different to bring to the group and all contribute to the group well-being and scientific success.

JIRP is a particularly powerful program as the expedition focus means that people have to take both individual and collective responsibility for their safety and that of the group. I am concerned that it is not uncommon to observe in science (and in wider society) that women do not take up leadership positions as readily as men, and while I do not wish to take away from instances of great leadership from men in science and society, I think this imbalance is a pity and a potential loss to the community. So, seeing both young men and women filling leadership roles at JIRP, and both male and female students working and cooperating on an equal footing in all the activities of JIRP is a great pleasure.

I hope that I can serve as a scientific role model here at JIRP and play a part in stimulating the participants to be interested in science and the environment, and believe that they can have important roles to play within these spheres of our society.

Gabrielle Gascon also joins us as a visiting faculty member for four weeks from Camp 10 to Camp 18. Gabrielle writes:

I am also happy to say that I have not felt discriminated by my gender so far. I’ve had equal opportunity to undertake field work in the Canadian Arctic, and have not felt disadvantaged when applying for scholarships. I think women should not believe that they are disadvantaged compared to men. Ambition, personality and hard work can take anybody far.

Although most faculties in Earth sciences are still male dominated, Undergraduate classes are becoming increasingly male/female balanced. During my Undergraduate studies in Atmospheric Sciences at McGill University, the program had an equal number of male and female students, and the 4th year Undergraduate course in atmospheric modeling I taught at the University of Alberta for the last two years was female dominated. Over the next few years, I believe that this wave of increasing female students will help balance faculty gender ratios.

Summer programs like JIRP provide equal opportunities to men and women, and teaches them to work together as a team. Everyone shares daily tasks,  goes out to dig (deep!) mass balance pits or cook for 40 people. Most importantly though, everyone feels equal, and I believe that this reflects of the  characteristics of the new generation of scientists to come.

Sarah Bouckoms is a JIRP field safety staff member this summer and a high school physics teacher during the school year. Sarah writes:

My mother pursued a career in a heavily male dominated field to become the first female dentist in Waterbury, Connecticut. Just as she followed after her father, I took example from my mother when choosing a profession. While I did not pursue dentistry, rather Physics, I followed her lead to enter a field usually left for the Y chromosomes.  

During my Undergraduate and Masters Degree in Physics, I would find myself tallying the head count of male vs. female. In a lecture of 30 or more students, only two or three would be female. At first this ratio made me nervous, but soon it became the normal and I thought nothing of it. From the study groups that formed, not only did I take away some great science lessons, but also both male and female friends.  I have had some great professors of both sexes but happened to have most of my supervisors as females.

Next year I am looking forward to teaching high school physics at an all-girls school.  I think it will be a great experience to see how the dynamics of a single sex classroom work. I hope that I can be an inspiration to my students motivating them to pursue a field in science. A generation later, Dentistry is now a field with an equal sex ratio, if not more women than men. I feel that transition is starting to take place across the sciences with the Juneau Icefield Research Program setting a great example.

While there is gender equality on the Icefield, this principle does not try to make everyone the same. In fact, each sex is allowed to express themselves however they feel. No one is made to feel uncomfortable by the way they dress, wear their hair or what they choose to shave. Both men and women have shown their excellent skills in the kitchen and in cleaning the lovely outhouses. The dress up parties for dinner are a special celebration enjoyed by all. So it is not at all that women are on the Icefield trying to fit into the mold of a man’s job, but that women are on the icefield doing a job. From pearl earrings to hairy armpits, there is a range of ways that the women on JIRP choose to express their feminine side and all levels are accepted.

In closing, the most important message to take away is that no matter what degree or profession is chosen, the anticipated challenges can be overcome. Anticipated gender inequality in the sciences is not an obstacle that should stand in anybody’s way of pursuing their dream career or following their passion for research in remote and harsh environments. Mental attitude has such a big part in overcoming any challenge regardless of gender. The determination and passion, not the roles traditionally assigned to the sexes, will have the biggest impact on the success of any career choice. Both Lindsey and Gabrielle have expressed their positive experiences as women in the sciences. They are great role models for all the students of JIRP and serve as an inspiration to any women wanting to pursue a career in science.

So, you want pizza for dinner?

By Sarah Bouckoms
Inspired by Salvador G. Candela

So you want pizza for dinner? So do we at Camp 10, but it's not as easy as calling up your favorite local pizza joint and handing over $20. There is a lot more love that goes into making pizza on the Juneau Icefield. Let my pictures explain.....

[NOTE:  Click on any of the images below to open a slideshow with all photos and captions.] 

This meal was made for 32 people, since 10 were out on an overnight trip. All total we made six pizzas with 15 pieces each, and the quinoa salad to ensure everyone was full. Brownies are always a welcome addition to any meal on the Juneau Icefield. If that seemed like fun, imagine what it's like cooking for the full camp of 42!  Bon Appetite from the 2013 JIRPers!

Connections

By Adam Taylor

Jon and Christy reflecting on the mountains as they make memories that will last a lifetime.  Photo:  Adam Taylor

Day 12 of the JIRP experience and the weather has changed quite drastically. The past few days students and staff have seen higher winds and rain which apparently is "more like Camp 17 weather".  But even with the change in weather, morale is still soaring with the eagles and yesterday we were able to dig our first snow pit.  Snow pits are a way for us to study how much mass the glacier is gaining or losing. We have also been skiing, setting up z-pulleys, and learning to safely navigate the icefield. Alongside our safety skills we've also been developing relationships.  JIRP students and staff are forming bonds not only with each other but with former and future JIRP members as well.

Adam Toolanen, Jamie Bradshaw, and Jai Beeman tying knots and friendships that if dressed properly, can last a lifetime. Photo:  Adam Taylor

JIRP students and staff will make friendships and memories that will last a lifetime. Everywhere you look at Camp 17, JIRP members are laughing and enjoying each other's company. And although most of the individuals have only known each other for a short time, they are beginning to form a family. We feel safe and comfortable with each other, which is important when traveling across the icefield. Trust will be needed during our traverse, since the time will come when your life will be put in another's hands.  

I relate the JIRP experience with my time spent in the military. Both experiences are difficult to relate to others if they haven't been participants themselves. The time spent in Camps and on different glaciers will only be shared among the few members on the icefield. When leaving, this connection stays between the students and staff. Stories will be told and memories shared with others outside, but the bonds formed will remain within the family members of JIRP.

Not only are current JIRP members creating memories with each other but they are forming bonds with former and future JIRP members as well. When blogs are posted, the experiences will be read by all; however, only fully understood by those who have experienced it before. I would hope that readers wanting the same connections would view the blogs as a motivator to attend JIRP in the future. These connections do not stop at the blog, they carry over in all aspects of life. When JIRP 2013 is written on a resume, anyone who reads it and has attended JIRP will more easily relate to the experience than those who have not been through the program. 

The memories created and time spent during the Juneau Icefield Research Program will last a lifetime. In addition to the science being done, we are gathering memories alongside data points. My feeling is that five, ten or fifteen years from now the data collected may become a bit clouded but names like Annie Cantrell, Grayson Carlile, and Brooke Stamper will hold strong. Since 1946 JIRP has been creating friendships and will continue to form them into the unforeseeable future. As Scott McGee says, "once a JIRPer, always a JIRPer". This in itself, says it all.

A JIRP trail party settles in for the night at Camp 17A over tuna-macaroni and cheese. Photo:  Adam Taylor

Greetings from Camp 17!

By Sarah Cooley, Photos by Sarah Bouckoms

We all woke up a little sore this morning after our long hike up to Camp 17, and we started off the day with a lot of pancakes and coffee.  Then began the camp orientation tour, followed by the cleaning and organizing that comes with opening up camp after a long winter. Since we were the first party to arrive, it was our responsibility to prepare camp for the arrival of our teammates. We spent the morning washing every single dish in the kitchen, pulling out and taking inventory of all of the food that spent the winter here, bleaching down all of the counter tops, and organizing the pantry. Hidden in the back corner of the pantry was a vintage can of chicken, lovingly labeled "DO NOT OPEN UNTIL 2061".

Mary Gianotti in the Camp 17 cook shack with the "Do Not Open Until 2061" funky chicken.  Photo:  S. Bouckoms  

With all the food organized, we were ready to make lunch -- just in time for the second trail party to arrive. They had split the hike into two days, and spent the night at Camp 17A located a few hours' hike below Camp 17. When they came into view below the ridge, we headed out to the edge of camp and cheered them up the final stretch of the snowfield.  We enjoyed hearing about their hike up over a bowl of chili, relaxed for a bit, and then continued the cleaning and camp opening.

The Camp 17 pantry.  Enough food to feed a small army . . . of JIRPers!   Photo:  S. Bouckoms

My afternoon job involved digging a snow pit to use as our refrigerator. It was great to get outside after spending the morning in the kitchen, and with four of us working on it, we finished the task quite quickly. We also had a bit of excitement with three helicopter arrivals, bringing up our skis, more fuel, and three faculty members. After a few days in Juneau, it's great to finally be on the icefield -- after all, that's why we're all here -- and the arrival of each trail party adds excitement to the camp.  For now, we'll be cleaning, organizing, and getting used to life on the icefield, all in preparation for the upcoming safety training and the science.  In the meantime, it's great to have started our adventure!

Christian Hein, Sarah Cooley, and Annie Cantrell digging the "refrigerator".  Photo:  S. Bouckoms

Welcome to the 2013 JIRP Expedition Blog

By Jeff Kavanaugh, JIRP Director

Taku Towers as seen from Camp 10, JIRP 2012.  Photo:  J. Kavanaugh

Welcome to the 2013 Juneau Icefield Research Program expedition blog.  Over the course of the program, students, staff, and faculty will post entries describing their experiences on the icefield.  Through these entries, you will be able to traverse the icefield with us, participate in a wide range of field research, and share in the day-to-day life on the icefield.  You will also meet and get to know the members of this year’s expedition.

The main program begins on June 21, and runs through August 16.  In the days leading up to our arrival in Juneau, we will be bringing you a few pre-JIRP posts that will demonstrate some of the preparations that go into a successful expedition – and will set the stage for both the field season and the main blogging effort.    

We invite you to check back regularly.  If you would like to be notified of new postings, please follow us on Facebook and Twitter; your comments are also welcomed.  If you have a question you would like answered “from the ice”, please feel free to ask – we’ll do our best to answer them!  Post your questions in the blog comments or on Facebook.

Here’s looking forward to a fantastic summer on the icefield – please join us!

Dr. Jeff Kavanaugh

Director, JIRP

 

Links:

JIRP 2012 – Blogging From the Field

JIRP on Facebook

JIRP on Twitter

JIRP on YouTube