Posts by Brianna Moland

Glaciers, Geoheritage and Geotourism

Posted by on Mar 16, 2017 in All Posts, Art/Culture, Featured Posts, Policy and Economics, Science, Tourism | 0 comments

Glaciers, Geoheritage and Geotourism

Spread the News:ShareThe Valais in southern Switzerland is a mountainous canton that draws tourists each year for its spectacular scenery, including some of the largest glaciers in the central Alps. From a recent article written by Emmanual Reynard in Geoheritage and Geotourism, we learn that more than half of the canton’s workforce are employed by the tourism sector. Valais has long been a tourist hub in Switzerland, attracting sightseers and skiers to the two alpine ranges that lie on either side of the canton. This landscape played an important role in European art and literature, and Valais is also known as a key site for the development of glaciology. Tourists venture to the province not only for a glimpse of frosted peaks such as the famous Matterhorn and Weisshorn, but also to engage with the canton’s long history of geotourism and geoheritage which dates back to the 1800s.  The word geoheritage originates from the term “geological heritage,” and is defined by the diversity of geological features within a region. The Geological Society of America (GSA) applies the term to scientifically and educationally significant sites or areas with geologic features such as distinctive rocks, minerals and landforms. Geotourism is the exploration of such places. Sarah Strauss, an anthropologist at the University of Wyoming, has conducted extensive research in the Valais region. She believes that geoheritage is “very similar to landscape and a sense of place that is specific to the geologic rather than the broader environmental context.” Moreover, geoheritage is valuable because it permits geotourism. Canton Valais’s long history with tourism has reinforced its status as a geotourism hot-spot as climbers and hikers come to experience this glacial history for themselves.   As the GSA explains, “geological sites are critical to advancing knowledge about natural hazards, groundwater supply, soil processes, climate and environmental changes, evolution of life, mineral and energy supplies, and other aspects of the nature and history of Earth.” These sites should be protected and cherished for their natural beauty and importance. The tourism industry in Valais continues to celebrate its geoheritage through geotourism. The complex geology of Valais— the result of uplift and compression when the Alps first formed 20 to 40 million years ago— has made it a site of geoheritage throughout the centuries. Today, tourists and hikers can view crystalline and carbonate rocks formed millions of years ago on trails rising 800 to over 4,200 meters in elevation. Moreover, the region contains glacial valleys and horn peaks, as well as moraines, the masses of dirt and rocks deposited by glaciers. The Aletsch region of Valais is a UNESCO World Heritage site and is heralded as a site of outstanding natural and cultural importance. This region makes up the most glaciated part of the High Alps along with Jungfrau and Bietschhorn. The Aletsch is also home to the largest glacier in Europe. “While the Matterhorn is impressive, the Aletsch region is equally remarkable,” Strauss recalled to GlacierHub. “There were chapels and hotels built at the tongue of the glaciers.” Tourists that journey to Canton Valais will not be disappointed by the geologically significant province which embraces its geoheritage wholeheartedly. If you are unable to make the journey to Switzerland any time soon, enjoy pictures from the Valais tourism website here. Spread the...

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Cape Farewell and The Farewell Glacier

Posted by on Mar 2, 2017 in All Posts, Art/Culture, Featured Posts | 0 comments

Cape Farewell and The Farewell Glacier

Spread the News:ShareArtist David Buckland cares deeply for the health of the planet and believes the rest of the world should care as well. In 2001, he founded the Cape Farewell Project, an international non-profit based at the University of Arts London in Chelsea. He recently co-authored an article titled, “The Cultural Challenge of Climate Change,” along with authors Olivia Gray and Lucy Wood, which provides his reasoning for launching Cape Farewell. He hoped his nonprofit would spark a cultural reaction from artists, scientists and educators on the impacts of climate change. Cape Farewell has accomplished this goal many times over. Beginning in 2003, Cape Farewell has invited educators, scientists and artists to voyage to the Arctic, the Scottish Islands, and the Peruvian Andes, to comment on what they see and experience. As Cape Farewell’s website highlights, “one salient image, a novel or song can speak louder than volumes of scientific data and engage the public’s imagination in an immediate way.” Cape Farewell’s ultimate goal is to elicit a human response to climate change, by engaging the public to build a more sustainable future, one that is less dependent on fossil fuels. To date, 158 artists, including film-makers, photographers, songwriters, novelists and designers have journeyed with Cape Farewell. One such artist is Nick Drake, a poet, screenwriter and playwright, who recently wrote the poem “The Farewell Glacier” in response to a 2010 Cape Farewell expedition to the Arctic. From Drake’s perspective, a more sustainable future involves taking action before this ecosystem disappears forever. His first expedition (and Cape Farewell’s ninth), led him to Svalbard in Norway on a ship named the Noorderlicht, for 22 days. He was exposed to the threatened environment, examined retreating glaciers, and explored scientific research about the region. Research is conducted aboard the ship during each expedition. In this excerpt from Drake’s poem, he calls on the other artists not to forget what they witnessed in the Arctic:     Drake also states, “Sailing as close as possible to the vast glaciers that dominate the islands, they saw polar bear tracks on pieces of pack ice the size of trucks. And they tried to understand the effects of climate change on the ecosystem of this most crucial and magnificent part of the world.” His poem portrays the urgency of the “climate challenge.” Two films were also spawned from the Project – “Art From the Arctic” and “Burning Ice.” Both films visually represent some of the Cape Farewell journeys to the High Arctic. “Art From the Arctic” was seen by over 12 million viewers. All the artwork that stems from Cape Farewell expeditions is expected to inspire a public conversation around climate responsibility. Other works generated from Cape Farewell expeditions include exhibitions such as “u-n-f-o-l-d,” an exhibit featuring twenty-five creatives who sailed to the High Arctic, and music festivals such as “SHIFT,” an eight-day music and climate festival held in London’s Southbank Centre. As these voyages occur, the public is kept abreast virtually, through expedition blogs by the artists. The first expedition began with a journey to Svalbard in the High Arctic, chosen as a starting place because of the visible impacts of climate change on the scenery and wildlife, with climate change in the Arctic occurring more rapidly and severely than in other regions of the world.      Cape Farewell is continuing its mission to engage the public in climate change discussions, with each work created to inspire others to work toward a healthier environment. Current projects include “Space to Breathe,” a response piece to air pollution in urban settings. You can track Cape Farewell’s...

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Photo Friday: Sperry Glacier

Posted by on Feb 24, 2017 in All Posts, Featured Posts, Images | 0 comments

Photo Friday: Sperry Glacier

Spread the News:ShareSperry Glacier is located 25 miles south of the border between the United States and Canada, in Montana’s Glacier National Park. It is a winter-accumulation glacier, as more snow falls during the winter than is lost during the summer. The moderate-sized glacier can be reached by foot or on horseback, rising to an elevation of around 7,800 feet. The glacier was named for doctor Lyman Beecher Sperry, who in 1894 reasoned that the glacier was the cause of the cloudiness of the water in Avalanche Lake. When Sperry and his party first reached the glacier in 1897, his nephew Albert Sperry had this reaction after viewing the glacier: While standing upon that peak overlooking the terrain above the rim wall, we got the thrill of thrills, for there lay the glacier, shriveled and shrunken from its former size, almost senile, with its back against the mountain walls to the east of it, putting up its last fight for life. It was still what seemed to be a lusty giant, but it was dying, dying, dying, every score of years and as it receded, it was spewing at its mouth the accumulations buried within its bosom for centuries. Today, you can visit Sperry Glacier and walk along the same route that Sperry and his party traveled 120 years ago, although the glacier looks very different today. Join us on this visual tour of the glacier’s past and present. We hope that concerted action on greenhouse gas emissions will assure that this beautiful glacier has a future.                       Spread the...

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Brittle Stars, Sea Urchins, and Starfish

Posted by on Feb 16, 2017 in All Posts, Featured Posts, Science | 0 comments

Brittle Stars, Sea Urchins, and Starfish

Spread the News:ShareThe increase of heat-trapping greenhouse gases in Earth’s atmosphere is warming the Antarctic Peninsula at a unprecedented rate. A recent study from Angulo-Preckler et al. in Continental Shelf Research explores whether significant decreases in sea ice and melting glaciers in the waters west of the Antarctic Peninsula favor some species of marine life and harm others. Among the species which call the waters home, the authors of this study focus on echinoderms, an invertebrate phylum that includes starfish, sea urchins and brittle stars. Accounting for approximately 45 percent of biomass on the ocean floor west of the Antarctic Peninsula, echinoderms live between the intertidal zone and the sea floor. With no heart, brain or eyes, echinoderms use tentacle-like structures with attached suction pads on their appendages to slowly traverse underwater surfaces. As filter-feeders, echinoderms grab their prey with tentacles, consuming it through a mouth located on their underside. Although echinoderms already live in an environmentally challenging location, with water temperatures reaching 0°C and below, melting glaciers are adding an additional level of complexity to their ecosystem. For example, on Deception Island, a volcanically-active island in the South Shetland Islands archipelago, physical disturbance from the volcano and glacier retreat are causing alterations to the ecosystem. Deception Island’s volcano last erupted in 1970, yet volcanic ash from that eruption and previous eruptions settled on nearby glaciers. As the glaciers melt, volcanic ash travels from glacial surfaces to the marine waters below. In turn, mixing marine waters distribute volcanic ash to depths where echinoderms dwell in a process called sedimentation. This impacts the survival of some echinoderms as they are incapable of thriving under high levels of sedimentation. High sedimentation is problematic for certain species because the additional material prevents them from easily inhabiting crevices between rocks and sponges. Port Foster, a bay encompassed by Deception Island, is fed by the surrounding melting glaciers. Angulo-Preckler et al. examined eight different locations in the Deception Island bay, at both 5 meters and 15 meters, to determine a relationship between high sedimentation rates and the number of echinoderms. The study found three dominant echinoderms – the brittle star (Ophionotus victoriae), the Antarctic sea urchin (Sterechinus neumayeri) and the Southern Ocean starfish (Odontaster validus) – are coping well to the high sedimentation rates, at the expense of other echinoderms. The researchers found that the opportunistic brittle star and sea urchin are now dominating areas of Deception Island Bay by replacing other echinoderms, such as the sea cucumber. Where there was once a large variety of species, there are now just three main echinoderms. This reduction in biodiversity has implications for the health of the ecosystem. High ash sedimentation from the volcano and high sedimentation rates due to the retreat of glaciers could decrease biodiversity levels at Port Foster by forcing other species out of their habitat. Since the last eruption, many of the echinoderms that once flourished in the area have now disappeared. As the region continues to warm, research suggests that increasing sedimentation from melting glaciers could continue to impact the communities of the intertidal and benthic zone of western Antarctica. Ricardo Sahade, an Antarctic ecologist from the National University of Córdoba in Argentina, confirmed to GlacierHub that “coastal ecosystems experiencing glacier retreat can be threatened by increased sedimentation.” More sedimentation and melting glaciers change the composition of echinoderm habitat. Further research will provide fuller details on whether higher sedimentation reduces biodiversity in this marine ecosystem. Even now, it is evident that disturbances from retreating glaciers are changing the Antarctic ecosystem and the habitat it provides. Spread the...

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Roundup: New Islands, New Bacteria, and New Maps

Posted by on Feb 6, 2017 in All Posts, Featured Posts, News, Roundup | 0 comments

Roundup: New Islands, New Bacteria, and New Maps

Spread the News:ShareNew Islands, Bacteria, and Maps Retreating Coronation Glacier Forms New Deltaic Island From American Geophysical Union: “In 1989 Coronation Glacier (Nunavut, Canada) terminates where the main outlet stream has created a pair of small deltaic islands on the northern side of the fjord. In 2016 a new deltaic island has formed near the southern edge of the margin, indicating a shift in the position of the main river outlet emanating from below the glacier, this is also marked by a large plume. The island formed is larger than those observed in 1989 or 1998. The size of the island gives it potential to survive, based on satellite imagery. A visit to the island would be needed to shed light on its potential for enduring. Retreat from 1989 to 2016 has been 1100 meters on the northern side of the fjord and 500 meters on the south side of the fjord. The average retreat of 800 meters in 27 years is over 30 meters/year, much faster than the 1880-1988 period.” Read more about Coronation Glacier here.   Microbial Subglacial Communities in Greenland From Microbial Ecology: “The Watson River drains a portion of the southwest Greenland ice sheet, transporting microbial communities from subglacial environments to a delta at the head of Søndre Strømfjord. This study investigates the potential activity and community shifts of glacial microbiota deposited and buried under layers of sediments within the river delta. A long-term (12-month) incubation experiment was established using Watson River delta sediment under anaerobic conditions, with and without carbon dioxide/hydrogen enrichment. The results highlight the need for further investigations into the fate of subglacial microbiota within downstream environments.” Learn more about subglacial microbial communities here.   Improving Glacier Bed Topography Mapping From Oceanography: “Melting of the Greenland Ice Sheet has the potential to raise sea level by 7.36 meters and is already contributing to global sea level rise at a rate higher than 1 milimeter/year. Computer models are our best tools to make projections of the mass balance of Greenland over the next centuries, but these models rely on bed topography data that remain poorly constrained near glacier termini. We combine here for the first time mass conservation glacier bed mapping and newly collected bathymetry data from NASA’s Oceans Melting Greenland (OMG) to evaluate and improve descriptions of bed topography under grounded ice near glacier termini, where it matters most for improving the reliability of ice sheet models.” Read more about NASA’s Oceans Melting Greenland data here.   Spread the...

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