CReSIS students join and document summer research program in Alaska


By Elise Reuter and Vicky Diaz-Camacho
Spring 2014

Two former CReSIS undergraduate student researchers will trek across Alaska as part of the 60th annual Juneau Icefield Research Program (JIRP) this summer.

Maya Smith and Ya’Shonti Bridgers joined 30 other students as they hike, ski, and camp from Juneau, Alaska to Altin, British Columbia to gain information on how climate change is affecting the ice field ecosystem. Each student will contribute to CReSIS blog postings to give an inside look to their research and experiences.

“I would like to get the experience of not being behind a computer all day, but going outside and getting to do field work and seeing it for myself,” Smith said.

Smith, a junior studying information technology at Winston-Salem State University (WSSU), worked previously with CReSIS as an REU under John Paden in 2012 and 2013 to create programs using echograms to gather information about glaciers.

“I can definitely relate it to this experience,” Smith said. “The purpose is to collect different data related to the glacier elevation and melting that CReSIS can use to broaden their research, but I also think it’s something everyone needs to know is going on. “

Bridgers’ previous experience as an REU with CReSIS from 2011 to 2013 also prepared her for the JIRP program this summer. Bridgers, a senior studying math at Elizabeth State University, examined the receding ice shelf in Antactica’s Pine Island Bay.  While the research topics during the eight-week program will vary widely, from ecology and glaciology to geology, all prior experience is helpful.

Several graduate students will be posted at research stations along the journey to help JIRP students conduct research at each site. Kiya Riverman, a Ph.D. student from Pennsylvania State, will study the Taku glacier, the world’s thickest glacier outside of Antarctica and Greenland. Unlike most other glaciers, the Taku glacier has actually advanced, rather than melted, in the past few decades.

 “We're interested in learning how the material underneath the glacier has played a role in the ability of this giant glacier to advance when all other glaciers around it are retreating,” Riverman said.

To accomplish this, the students will make small earthquakes on the ice using dynamite and measure the resulting quakes using sensitive instruments called geophones. Riverman and the students will present their research at the end of the eight-week program.