Sunday, August 13, 2017

Love Letter to Glaciers

Dear Glaciers, 

I must profess my love to you, but awkwardly, I'm not sure where to begin or end.  Do I start when I first met you at 17?  The suddenness of being strapped to a bunch of strangers made into friends simply by gliding across your back. This trusting of my life to them and then later to you.  

Or do I define our relationship by moments of overcoming cold, fear, or scientific roadblocks? Is hauling a golfbag full of snow up a mountain really a poignant sonnet? Did each blistered step lead to my love or this vocation? Love and job are intertwined now. Hours spent analyzing your blood, reading studies, making graphs, facing rigorous review. While these seem like important tasks of our relationship, I feel myself reconsidering the best way forward.  A louder voice is needed. 

No, I'm sure that I should define this love as something bigger than between you and me. Something celestial or geologic. My backyard in Ohio stands on 20 cm of fertility that formed directly from the vitamined rocks left behind during your retreat. Entire nations have food security from soils formed after the ebb of your ice in response to the orbital path of the sun.  Before you created our fertile civilization upon which humanity rose, you pressed back and forth. You stayed in sync with the inner engine of our earth, the movement of plates and the weathering of rocks. These things are well studied, your mysteries unveiled.

We are now exhuming buried carbon and pumping it into the sky.  The heat trapped is killing so much of you unexpectedly fast. Countless graphs, consensus, movies, documentaries, poets, and problem solvers are pitted against sheer wealth and a lie that there are not other alternatives. This malignance challenges our resilience.

Some of you will not be saved, but I am optimistic that others will.  This is the greatest possibility. So much energy is spent by scientists, artists and advocates to understand and speak up for you.  The momentum grows. My children Alex (8) and Vivian (6) deserve a planet that will care for them as they care for it.  My love for you is the same fabric that covers them.

I head home from this icefield renewed in my commitment to you.  I'll be an advocate, a teacher, and someone who keeps you in my heart.  I'll fight for you and for us.

Love Always,


Monday, January 30, 2017

Back home! Science Advocacy

Connecting with a rock.
Goodbye to the Taylor Valley! I'm back in Ohio. This time, returning from the field feels shocking. The U.S. just shut its doors to immigrants from 7 countries and plans to ramp up fossil fuel extraction. Our entrenchment in carbon-burning grows and yet, last year was the first year that green energy jobs surpassed fossil fuels. Some of the worse impacts of climate change have already been felt in places like Syria.  But climate change impacts life in Ohio too.  My children can't swim in our local reservoir during the late summer when microcystin takes hold in increasingly warm waters. Clean water is central to our economy (recreation, fisheries), but we're fighting a losing battle if we let surface waters continue to warm.  
Students exploring wetland and stream conditions & chemistry
This semester, I'm completely revamping my courses to include evidence-based political advocacy. My global climate change classes will examine climate data and consensus reports and come to their own conclusions on the realities of climate change. An emphasis on problem-solving is key to those planning our climate resilience. So my students will consult with local partners who plan for the consequences of climate change in their work. This includes watershed managers, city stormwater managers, and businesses who seek solutions that are profitable and improve our health. After working with experts student teams will advocate for relevant policies based on the evidence they have examined and partner and personal interests. Along the way, I am already rethinking how I teach students about information sources.  It is not enough to have my students explore peer-reviewed literature. They need information on how to evaluate the sources they are actually reading. This teaching module on logical fallacies helps. It is pretty easy to get caught in a loop either on the far-right or far-left where our own ideas are confirmed.

Some key things to reinforce in class:  1) evaluate information critically 2) diversity and openness matter now more than ever. It is time to vocally counteract an image of evil brown people and instead think about removing barriers for people who have the greatest biases against them.

More than ever we need to work across disciplines to combat alternative facts and solve the challenges facing humanity.

Thursday, January 05, 2017

Glacier in the Dry Valleys

The surface of the Commonwealth Glacier, some places had so much snow, we wanted skis.
One of the smaller cliff faces (just double my height), along the Suess Glacier

Several glaciers have steep areas & icefalls.  Channels are more obvious lower.

Glaciers the Dry Valleys

Arms burly wind
Awakened, flapping, punching
Crushing basalt, granite, dolerite

Legs giant monuments of ice 
Monstrous ledges, anchored rocks, and hardened streams
Brilliant entrails revealed by ablation
Bandaged by snow

If you too were a glacier
You would howl and be still
You would hold time and secrets
Frozen sinew, stronger than skin and warmth


Tuesday, January 03, 2017

A day trip to the Howard Glacier

Spent yesterday sampling the Howard Glacier with Renee, a camp manager at Lake Hoare. She has a generous spirit and has made science in the valleys easy.  It was a fantastic day for a helicopter ride and a sampling trip, but we had to hike completely off of the glacier to find water running from the terminus. We both not-so-secretly wished that our ride would not come back and that we would have to hike 10 miles back to camp. There is something about this place that merits walking long distances. It is hard to place. 

Antartica's explorers are
the carpenters and the cooks
the poets and the pilots
the mountaineers and the mechanics
the scientists and the shuttle drivers
Snowblindness, crampons, pitons
filtering, acidifying, analyzing
choreography, chromatography, chamelography
far, far away, in a magical place
a conjuring, a voyage
that is now, but that won't fade

Renee & I were dropped off on the Howard Glacier near a met station.
 No water was flowing in these channels after a few cloudy days

Pretty breezy up on the Howard, but removed most of my layers lower on the glacier.

Renee is looking past the Howard Glacier back toward the Suess.

A view of Canada Glacier (our camp) from the Howard Glacier

Sunday, January 01, 2017

Solo Mission

We've had some clouds. This has slowed down my search for water on and flowing off of glaciers. Yesterday was partly cloudy and promising so I set out to sample the LaCroix Glacier.  A 15 mile round trip... I only walk like this for science. 

My plan was to approach the Suess Glacier and to keep walking past it up valley if there was any melt.  If one glacier is melting, why not the next? The daily rhythm of glacier melt depends on the circling of the sun, altitude, and the presence of warming soil and rock. I set out knowing my mission might be a failure.  But, I also wanted to visit Mummy Pond and retrace my 2001 steps around the north shore.  This was a lesson in climate change. The pond formerly known as mummy...  Many of the seals I saw more than 15 years ago were completely submerged by the rising lake. No longer photogenic.

While the mummies of my memories are gone, I did get a picture of another mummy near the Suess Glacier.  I feel bad because my kids always ask me about the animals I see. Here in the valleys, there is a lot of life if you look closely, or use a microscope.  But larger mammals like seals and penguins have traveled the wrong direction from the sea only to die near the false seas (lakes) in this dried up valley.

My LaCroix Glacier water hunt was narrowly a success. I grabbed water just as the glacier was shutting down as the sun moved behind the Asgaard Range. I'm eating homemade biscotti today & stretching.

A mummified seal on my way to & around the Suess Glacier.

Taking pictures for the kids.  Rose, the unicorn, tends to eat all of my Snickers.

Water flowing near and on the Suess Glacier means this hike is not over.

I always feel like a geologist in this environment.  Sediment transport.

The Suess Glacier has sediment piles over much of the terminus (end).

Walking around the Suess, the melt features change. 

I reached the LaCroix around 3 p.m. & sampled.  The water was shutting down as the sun went behind the Asgard Range.  I had to work fast.
Now I have to walk back.  Home by 9 p.m.