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Hunt for Lost Plots in Glacier Bay Yields Key Data

Posted by on Jul 27, 2017 in All Posts, Featured Posts, News, Science | 0 comments

Hunt for Lost Plots in Glacier Bay Yields Key Data

Spread the News:Share20th century ecologist William Skinner Cooper has a long legacy. He spurred the establishment of Glacier Bay National Park and was one of the first American scientists to use the technique of aerial photography. His name lives on through Alaska’s Mt. Cooper and the biggest award offered by the Ecological Society of America. That legacy continues in new and unexpected ways in Glacier Bay National Park with a treasure hunt to find nine plots established by Cooper there in 1916. Cooper developed the plots in order to study how vegetation develops after glacial retreat. As soil evolved and buried the marker stakes, the plots were lost. A century after Cooper began his experiment, Brian Buma, professor of ecology at University of Alaska Southeast, was determined to relocate the plots and launched the hunt. Such bridges between the past and present are what national parks are all about, according to Glacier Bay National Park ecologist Lewis Sharman. In 1916, Cooper recognized that Glacier Bay was changing rapidly as its glaciers retreated and exposed new land to primary plant succession. “Glacier Bay is one of the most dynamic landscapes on earth,” said Lewis. “It’s the quintessential national park in that it encompasses a landscape with great scientific value. Scientists here are like kids in a candy store.” “It was the most fun I’ve ever had on any science project,” added Buma, who recently published his results in the journal Ecology. “It had everything: adventure, old documents, old-school orienteering.” The first clues to the plots’ whereabouts came from a paper Cooper published based on his trip to the area in 1916. “The directions literally read “‘From large rock, walk 30 degrees east 40 paces, to small cairn.’ It was very Indiana Jones,” said Buma. The project’s National Geographic funding included a trip to the archives in Minnesota that house Cooper’s original field notes. Some notebooks are stained by water and others burnt by sparks from campfires, according to Buma. His research in the archives pointed to “Teacup Harbor,” a distinctive round inlet in the West Arm of Glacier Bay. Buma decided to start there, in a search he called “truly for a needle in haystack.” Magnetic north has changed by eleven degrees since Cooper’s day, so the original compass bearings were wrong, and large boulders Cooper used as landmarks are now cloaked by plants. Isostatic rebound, the rise of land formerly depressed by the weight of a glacier, also transformed Glacier Bay’s landscape and confounded Buma’s search. Rebound has dramatically changed Teacup Bay’s shoreline and the distance of some plots from the water. Undaunted, the team headed to Glacier Bay. Their search process involved scouting from a boat, matching the landscape before them with photographs from the 1970s, and “stumbling around the woods looking at 100-year-old sketches, trying to decipher what a ‘pace’ was,” said Buma. At a likely site, they’d use a metal detector to hunt for the stakes framing the meter square plots. Cooper’s experience locating the plots would have been far less arduous. A distance Cooper would have tromped in five minutes across the gravel takes thirty minutes or longer today, tortuously zigzagging through brush, according to Buma. “I’d love to know what he’d think if he could come back and see the plots,” said Buma. Bushwhacking through willows up to five meters tall and staying vigilant for bears, the team found the first three plots fairly quickly, but it took four days to find the next. One plot was lost to erosion in the 1930s, but by the end of their search, the team had found the other eight. Locating the oldest...

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Different Views of a World Heritage Site in China

Posted by on Jul 26, 2017 in All Posts, Communities, Featured Posts, News, Policy and Economics | 0 comments

Different Views of a World Heritage Site in China

Spread the News:ShareOn July 12, 2017, after careful consideration of China’s nomination, UNESCO declared the Qinghai Hoh Xil region in Western China a World Heritage Site. The IUCN, a major international conservation body, recognized the strengths of this nomination but raised two concerns— first, threats from development, and second, failure to engage with local communities and cultural values— also echoed by other groups, including the NGO World Heritage Watch. UNESCO defines a world heritage site as a cultural and/or natural site, area, or structure recognized as being of outstanding international importance and, therefore, deserving special protection. In order to become a World Heritage Site, there is a four step process that must be followed. First, a country must create a tentative list of important natural and cultural heritage spots that it wishes to nominate. Second, a state party decides when they want to present the nomination. The nomination is then sent to the World Heritage Site committee, which, if they approve it, sends it to the advisory bodies for evaluation. The three advisory bodies chosen by the World Heritage Convention evaluate the sites. Finally, the World Heritage Committee makes the final decision on the site’s inscription. The Qinghai Hoh Xil region, designated a natural world heritage site, lies in the north-eastern part of the Qinghai-Tibetan Plateau in China. The plateau is the largest and highest plateau in the world, with alpine mountains reaching more than 4,500 meters above sea level and diverse ecosystems, including grasslands, scrublands, glaciers, and tundras. Its unique topography of alpine mountains and steppe systems, and climatic conditions, allow for a multitude of species and diverse plants to thrive. More than one third of the plant species and all herbivorous mammals are indigenous to the area. The heritage site nomination was part of an effort to protect the chiru species, Pantholops hodgsonii to scientists, tsö in Tibetan, commonly known as the Tibetan antelope, according to Chinese officials. The plateau’s glaciers are an important source of freshwater in the wetland system of lakes and rivers, making up a total area of 180,000 hectares. Due to rising temperatures, about 15 percent of the plateau’s glacial area, about 8,000 square kilometers since 1980, has retreated in the past half-century, according to a Chinese government-related study. Climate change effects would likely result in the destruction of the Tibetan antelope’s habitat, as well as other plant and animal species in the area. The IUCN Red List of Threatened Species states that the chiru is near-threatened because the population size can be maintained with higher levels of protection and controls on trade and manufacturing from its fur. The local Tibetan herders protect the antelopes from hunters by patrolling the area, with little equipment or money. During the evaluation of the Qinghai Hoh Xil region as a World Heritage Site, members of the local population expressed concern about the possibility of being displaced or resettled as a result of site’s new status. The IUCN report states that “it is imperative that questions of rights, access and traditional use are addressed rigorously and carefully by the State Party, and the World Heritage nomination must not be used to justify any deprivation of traditional land use rights of the concerned communities.” The report suggests that local herding communities should be consulted and involved in governing the land. It notes, as well, that the Qinghai Hoh Xil region contains many cultural and spiritual sites valued by its people, and it should be properly recognized. The Chinese government has affirmed its plan to guarantee the integrity of the region. Han Jianhua, the Vice-Governor of Qinghai Province, in which the site...

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Glacier Researcher Receives Major National Geographic Award

Posted by on Jul 25, 2017 in All Posts, Featured Posts, Interviews, News | 0 comments

Glacier Researcher Receives Major National Geographic Award

Spread the News:ShareM Jackson has recently completed her Ph.D. at the department of geography at the University of Oregon, based on her research on cultural perceptions of glacier retreat in Iceland. She has held U.S. Fulbright Scholarships in Iceland and Turkey, and served as a Peace Corps Volunteer in Zambia. Her book While Glaciers Slept draws together family narratives of loss and death with environmental narratives of climate change, linking together mourning and courage, devastation and hope. She is one of the authors of a widely-recognized article on feminist perspectives in glaciology. Jackson has led National Geographic Student Expeditions programs in Alaska and Iceland. She received recognition earlier this year as a 2017 National Geographic Emerging Explorer. She described this award and the events surrounding it in an interview with GlacierHub. GH:  Could you please tell us one or two of the most memorable points of your time with the other NatGeo explorers? MJ: One of my favorite moments was on the third or fourth day of the National Geographic’s Explorer’s Festival, when I slipped into a small side room in the middle of the day just to take a breath amidst the many activities and events. So I walked into this room, saw a small chair, and I sat down, closed my eyes, and took a deep breath. And when I opened my eyes, sitting directly across from me was Sylvia Earle (aka Her Deepness, or The Sturgeon General). [Earle is a leading marine biologist, and was the first female chief scientist of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.] She was looking directly at me and smiling. And she said, “Hi M!” And for me, this was pretty incredible. Sylvia Earle, a National Geographic Explorer in Residence, has long been a hero of mine due both to her decades of incredible work and because she’s been such a pioneer and advocate for women in science. And for her to know me, and be so gracious with her time and supportive of my work— this was a very important moment for me. A second moment that stands out was the first day, meeting the other 2017 Explorers. These were men and women from across the globe, all leaders in diverse fields, all gathered together in this place to talk about the work they love to do and genuinely interested in each other! And sitting there, listening to conversations about Zika, the Okavango, dinosaur fossils, glaciers, indigenous genome sequencing, participatory mapping in Chad, bomb-sniffing rats, jaguars, Gorongosa National Park [in the Great Rift Valley in Mozambique], orangutan dental health, photographing hummingbirds, and underwater robots, it was amazing to understand the similarities of all these different research foci and the potential for collaboration.   GH:  What were one or two of the surprises about your position as a NatGeo explorer? MJ: The surprise about being a 2017 NGS Explorer is the emphasis on collaboration. Across the board, throughout the symposium, whether Marina Elliot was talking about finding fossils within Rising Star [Cave] in South Africa, Tierney Thys was discussing bringing nature into jails, Neil DeGrasse Tyson was talking about how he became an explorer, Anand Varma telling us how he photographed parasites, or Adjany Costa describing how she walked 1,000 miles from the Okavango Delta in Botswana to the river’s headwaters, every one of these Explorers accomplished what they did through collaboration with other researchers, explorers, local people, and immense networks of supportive people. Accordingly, the emphasis as an Explorer is to collaborate— every person I talked with told me about the work they did and actively stretched to see where our work overlapped, what collaborative potential...

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Roundup: Mysteries, Past and Present, Abound

Posted by on Jul 24, 2017 in All Posts, Featured Posts, News, Roundup | 0 comments

Roundup: Mysteries, Past and Present, Abound

Spread the News:ShareClimate Experts Removed from Zuckerberg Delegation From the Washington Post: “Facebook chief executive Mark Zuckerberg flew to Glacier National Park on Saturday to tour the melting ice fields that have become the poster child for climate change’s effects on Montana’s northern Rockies. But days before the tech tycoon’s visit, the Trump administration abruptly removed two of the park’s top climate experts from a delegation scheduled to show him around, telling a research ecologist and the park superintendent that they were no longer going to participate in the tour.” Read more about this unusual move here.   Water Rights Hold Up Washington State Budget From the Seattle Times: “$4 billion in new construction projects and money for a few hundred state jobs still hang in the balance while the capital budget has been held up by a dispute over water rights. Senate Republicans say they won’t pass a capital budget without legislation aimed at overturning a recent state Supreme Court known as the Hirst decision. That ruling effectively limited the use of new domestic wells in certain rural areas when they may harm senior water rights.” Read about the complexities of this issue here.   Retreating Glaciers Solve a Family Mystery From The Telegraph: “The frozen bodies of a Swiss couple who went missing 75 years ago in the Alps have been found on a shrinking glacier, Swiss media said on Tuesday. Marcelin and Francine Dumoulin, the parents of seven children, had gone to milk their cows in a meadow above Chandolin in the Valais canton on August 15, 1942.” Read about what this means to one of the couple’s surviving children here.     Spread the...

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Ice without Scale: Photographs by Angeles Peña

Posted by on Jul 21, 2017 in All Posts, Art/Culture, Featured Posts, Images | 0 comments

Ice without Scale: Photographs by Angeles Peña

Spread the News:ShareAngeles Peña grew up in the mountains of Argentine Patagonia, immersed in a landscape that she considers wild, hostile, and infinite– and changing. “The winters flee with speed and are gradually disappearing. The glaciers recede. Summers are hotter. The seasons seem to be less and less defined,” she reflected. Peña has spent the last three years traveling through what she calls the “beautiful, stunning, and wildly desolate territory” of Andean Patagonia, photographing glaciers. In her pictures, she seeks to present her subjects without a sense of scale, and capture the essential qualities of ice, cold, and water. Browse through the below slideshow of work from her series, “Aguas de montaña.” Angeles2 Aguas de montaña1 Angeles3 Aguas de montaña Angeles5 Angeles1 Angeles9 Spread the...

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Life on the Rocks: Climate Change and Antarctic Biodiversity

Posted by on Jul 20, 2017 in All Posts, Featured Posts, Science | 0 comments

Life on the Rocks: Climate Change and Antarctic Biodiversity

Spread the News:ShareBy now, it’s a familiar story: climate change is melting glaciers in Antarctica, revealing an increasing proportion of ice-free terrain. The consequences of this melt are manifold, and one may be surprising: as more ground is bared, Antarctic biodiversity is expected to increase. Currently, most of the terrestrial biodiversity— microbes, invertebrates, and plants like grasses and mosses— occurs in the less than one percent of continental Antarctica that is free of ice. A recent Nature article predicted that by the end of the 21st century, ice-free areas could grow by over 17,000 square kilometers, a 25 percent increase. This change will produce both winners and losers in Antarctica’s ecosystems, according to Jasmine Lee, lead author on the above paper, and the game will be problematic. “Some of the winners are likely to be invasive species, and increasing invasive species could negatively impact the native species,” Lee told GlacierHub. “More isn’t necessarily better if new species are alien species.” The Antarctic Peninsula, an 800-mile projection of Antarctica that extends towards South America,  is one of the fastest-warming places on Earth, and 80 percent of its area is covered by ice. The many outlet glaciers of the Antarctic Peninsula Ice Sheet primarily shrink through surface melting, which reduces volume, while tidal action spurs calving. Lee and her coauthors constructed two models based on two Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) climate forcing scenarios. Under the strongest IPCC scenario, ice-free areas in the peninsula are expected to increase threefold, and Lee expects biodiversity changes in this region to be obvious by the year 2100. She predicts that some native species will expand their ranges south in response to the creation of new habitat and milder conditions, and invasive species will thrive for the same reasons. This pattern is already apparent in the distribution of a number of penguin species. As climate warms, sea ice-obligate species like Adélie and Emperor penguin are shifting and contracting their ranges southward, seeking sea ice. Likewise, ice-intolerant gentoo and chinstrap penguins, typical of the Subantarctic latitudes, are moving south as the ocean becomes increasingly free of ice. As temperatures continue to rise, this biogeographic chess will play out increasingly across Antarctica. “The greater the degree of climate change, the greater the biodiversity impacts,” predicted Lee. She added that counting an Adélie colony in a “real-life ice-free area” was a highlight of her fieldwork. Interestingly, Lee and her coauthors found that higher biodiversity in the short-term may yield greater homogeneity in the long-term, as invasive species become established and potentially out-compete native species. It’s hard to know how to feel about these ecosystem-wide transitions, said Lee. “The fact that we are driving these changes through anthropogenic climate change should remind us that our actions impact the entire earth, even in what we consider the remotest and most pristine regions. I think we should feel accountable and know that because humans have the power to change the earth, we should do our best to look after it,” she said. On June 1, President Donald Trump made a speech announcing the United States’ exit from the Paris climate agreement, obfuscating international cooperation on climate change mitigation. Lee feels this decision sends the wrong message to the rest of the world, but she hopes that the United States will find a way to continue meeting the environmental standards set forth. “America should be a leader in renewable energy technology and policy. However, I am also hopeful that the American businesses and states can reach the Paris accord milestones for America in spite of Trump. And this will show that...

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