The Juneau Icefield Research Program's mission is to provide an unrivaled educational and expeditionary experience in the stunning Coast Mountains of Alaska and British Columbia. We give students a wide range of training in Earth sciences, wilderness survival, and mountaineering skills, and provide unique opportunities for team building and personal growth.
Participants are active partners with leading scientists pursuing groundbreaking research. We stimulate cross-disciplinary collaboration among students from the United States and around the world with scientists engaged in all aspects of Earth systems science.
The field-based curriculum and stunning mountain environment has inspired students for over sixty years, leading many to careers in science but also as teachers, doctors, artists, and explorers. Students learn from leading scientists in a wide range of disciplines, including glaciology, geology, climatology, and biology. The science curriculum is augmented by presentations by professional photographers, film makers, and doctors specializing in wilderness medicine. Student-faculty interaction extends past lectures to mentoring, training in the field, and conversations. Students have near round-the-clock access to the faculty during meals, on field trips and around camp.
The Juneau Icefield Research Program (JIRP) is an eight-week immersion in the wilderness of the Juneau Icefield, during which participants (undergraduate, graduate, and high school juniors and seniors) traverse from Juneau, Alaska to Atlin, British Columbia.
The program starts in Juneau where students receive initial mountain safety training, introductory academic lectures to prepare them for the Icefield, and field trips to nearby glaciers.
From Juneau, members of the safety staff lead students and faculty on a one- or two-day hike up to the first of JIRP's primary field camps, Camp 17. Camp 17 is accessible on foot and straddles the ridge between the relatively small Ptarmigan and Lemon Creek Glaciers. This makes it an ideal base for both safety training and further introductory lectures.
From Camp 17, students and staff ski two days to Camp 10, our second major camp, located above the Taku Glacier. Here students start their individual projects guided by faculty mentors, assist in faculty research, and continue with the academic program.
After field research, exploration, and in-camp academics at Camp 10 participants travel to Camp 18. This camp is perched between two icefalls above the awe-inspiring Gilkey Glacier. It's location, in an entirely different type of glacial environment, lends itself to fresh set of field trips, research objectives, and discussions. Students and faculty continue work on their research projects and do preliminary data analysis.
The final leg of the journey consists of a one-day ski from Camp 18 to Camp 26, followed by another day's hike down the Llewellyn Glacier to Atlin Lake. Students complete their projects in Atlin, where they communicate their results to local residents during a public presentation before returning to Juneau by bus and ferry.
The Juneau Icefield
Our classroom is the Juneau Icefield, situated in the Coast Mountains of the Tongass National Forest and Atlin Provincial Park. This natural setting serves as educator, inspiration, and host for our summer program. Students, staff and faculty traverse the Icefield, conduct research, participate in a curriculum of lectures and research projects, and live in this amazing landscape.
The Juneau Icefield covers an area the size of Rhode Island, and includes some 50 outlet glaciers. The Icefield straddles the Coast Mountains and exists because of the predominantly cool, wet maritime climate.
While crossing the Juneau Icefield students traverse the Ptarmigan, Lemon Creek, Norris, Taku, and Llewellyn glacier systems. One- and two-day journeys lead us from one established camp to another. These permanent camp serve as a base for one or two weeks and trail parties travel locally for day trips and short overnights.
We maintain 11 permanent field stations and a dozen temporary camps on the Juneau Icefield and peripheral areas. The Icefield covers a wilderness region of 5,000 square miles, about half of which is covered by glacial ice. Our main research stations are groups of permanent buildings and we maintain a range of camping equipment to set up temporary snow camps. Throughout the summer we maintain communications with Juneau, Atlin, and between camps with VHF radio and satellite phones. Most participants travel every day by foot or by ski, but we use snow machines and helicopter support for logistical support where necessary. Ground transport is on foot or on skis. All members take their turns with camp chores, from cooking, to radio duty, weather observations, and repair work.
For over 60 years, The Juneau Icefield Research Program has maintained the longest running study of any glacier in the Western Hemisphere. Such comprehensive and continuous studies are rare, yet they are crucial to our understanding of past and present climate change.
Over 1,000 reports and publications have come from research conducted with JIRP or with the assistance of FGER. In addition, some 70 M.Sc. and Ph.D. dissertations have resulted. JIRP seeks to conduct the highest quality research, collect the reliable data, and cooperate with academic institutions and leaders of the scientific community.
Nearly 2,000 individuals, including students and professionals, have participated in the Juneau Icefield Research Program. JIRP is unique in that it conducts significant research in an expeditionary environment while seeking to train and inspire new scientists by including active student participation.
Over the years participants of JIRP and members of FGER have established over 30 camps on the Juneau Icefield, some of which are permanent camps that survive each harsh winter and which are maintained by JIRP participants. We are currently working with the US Forest Service to streamline and consolidate our footprint on the Icefield.
Copyright 2014 Foundation for Glacier and Environmental Research (FGER), unless otherwise noted.