Former CReSIS student Alexis Moyer continues her research in British Columbia


By Lauren Debes
Summer 2014

Former CReSIS student Alexis Moyer continues her research in British Columbia

Alexis Moyer, former CReSIS REU (Research Experience for Undergraduates) participant graduated from Gettysburg College in 2013, completed an internship with NASA, and is now working on her thesis with the University of British Columbia. CReSIS caught up with Alexis to learn more about her trip this summer to Bridge Glacier and her future plans.

(LEFT) Alexis Moyer preps her gear on Bridge Glacier for work on her thesis. Credit: Courtesy of Alexis Moyer 

What has your focus been since your work with CReSIS? At NASA I was working on calculating sea ice thickness in the Arctic Circle using remotely sensed surface brightness temperatures from a recently launched NASA satellite (Aquarius Mission).  After NASA, I moved to Vancouver, British Columbia to start a MSc program in Physical Geography at the University of British Columbia [in August of 2013.]  This past summer I spent 19 days, spread over three separate trips, at Bridge Glacier, BC doing fieldwork for my thesis. I am calculating a volumetric budget for a proglacial lake, with a specific focus on input from iceberg concentration and how that influences discharge in a river located downstream from the lake.

Lead me through a basic day working on your thesis at Bridge Glacier.  A basic day at Bridge Glacier started with an early morning wake-up call, just as the sun was coming up from behind the mountains, which paints a spectacular view on the lake. Depending on the day, we would hike up to a lower ridge overlooking the north side of the glacier to take aerial photos of the iceberg configuration in the lake - later used to quantify ice cover - or potentially hike up to a higher ridge top on the north side to check on the time lapse camera focused on the glacier terminus.  Then we'd climb back down to camp and start the iceberg work for the day, which entails forging a path through the icebergs with a small Kodiak boat.  Sometimes this was easy with a clear path, and other times we had to push icebergs out of the way or boat to shore and carry the boat over land until we passed the obstacle. Once out in the lake basin, we boated around selected icebergs, creating GPS trails to quantify iceberg surface area and taking photos for identification purposes.  Finally, we took some temperature profiles near and far from selected icebergs to determine the temperature gradient with depth and distance from the iceberg.

(RIGHT) Moyer often stops to capture images for both research and her love for the environment. Photo credit: Alexis Moyer

Has anything surprised you on your trip?  I was surprised by the amount of movement of the icebergs in the lake on a daily basis due to wind. To mark the icebergs for identification on future trips, we tossed painted rocks onto the tops of the icebergs. However, on our second trip to the glacier, we could only find 1 of the 10 marked icebergs! There is so much movement that the rocks all fell off (due to iceberg rolling or splitting) or were located on inaccessible icebergs.

What first got you interested in your field of study?  I've always been interested in global climate change and its impact on the glaciers of the world.  However, what really ignited my desire to study glaciers and icebergs in particular was a study tour to Kangerlussuaq, Greenland in November of 2011.  I was studying abroad in Copenhagen, Denmark at the time (at the Danish Institute for Study Abroad) and decided to attend a week-long study tour to Greenland, where I learned about arctic biology, geology, meteorology, and politics.  When the plane landed at the little airport in Kangerlussuaq, that was it for me -- I was in love with this environment where ice crystals immediately freeze to the moisture on your eyelashes, where musk oxen and caribou roam the landscape, and where many glaciers are retreating at an alarming rate. In that instant I knew that this is what I wanted to study: glaciology. 

What impact did your REU with CReSIS have on your future endeavors? My REU with CReSIS jump started my interests in using remote sensing to study glaciers and ice sheets, which is a large component of my MSc thesis research.  Over two years later, I am still using the skills and knowledge I gained from working at CReSIS.

Moyer said her experience at the CReSIS REU program helped solidify her passion in the field. Today, she is aware of what research is needed in the field of glaciology. As Alexis continues to build her resume, her goal remains the same: a career with NASA.