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Swiss Couple’s Bodies Found After 75 Years in a Glacier

Posted by on Aug 1, 2017 in All Posts, Featured Posts, News | 0 comments

Swiss Couple’s Bodies Found After 75 Years in a Glacier

Spread the News:ShareOn July 14, 2017, the remains of a Swiss couple were discovered in the Swiss Alps after 75 years buried underneath a glacier. During a routine maintenance inspection, a ski-lift technician came across the couple’s “perfectly preserved” bodies on the Tsanfleuron glacier near the Swiss city of Berne, where Marcelin and Francine Dumoulin lived. The bodies were dressed in well-preserved World War II era clothing and had with them backpacks, watches, mess kits and a glass bottle, according to the Valais police. The Dumoulins went missing on August 15, 1942, at ages 40 and 37 years old, on their way to a mountain pasture to feed their cattle. Rescue teams and local villagers searched for the couple after they vanished but came up with no clues as to the couple’s whereabouts. The Dumoulin’s disappearance left seven children– five boys and two girls– orphans. The children were split up and sent to live with different families in the neighborhood, but they would reunite each year on the anniversary of their parent’s disappearance and climb the glaciers to pray, according to the New York Times. Following the discovery of the two bodies in July, the couple’s remaining living children, grandchildren and great-grandchildren attended a funeral service held in Saviese, Switzerland. Marceline Udry-Dumoulin, 79, the youngest of the Dumoulin’s seven children, told reporters that she wore white to her parents funeral on July 22 because “white represents the color of hope, which she never lost.” Another daughter, Marceline, told local paper Le Nouvelliste that “joy, acknowledgment, serenity, peace” are what she feels at her parent’s funeral. It is now assumed that the couple fell into a crevasse in the Tsanfleuron glacier, which lies about 2,600 meters above sea level, and their bodies had been trapped there ever since. The Dumoulins were among 280 people listed as missing in the Alps and nearby regions since 1925. It was not until the Tsanfleuron glacial ice began to melt that the bodies became visible. When asked about the danger of glaciers, Martin Beniston, a climate scientist from the University of Geneva, told GlacierHub, “Glaciers are rather hazardous surfaces and unwary. Skiers or trekkers often get injured or killed when falling in crevasses or if a snow-bridge that covers a crevasse collapses under the weight of the person.” Nadine Salzmann, a Swiss geographer at the University of Fribourg, Switzerland, added, “In earlier days, people had to cross glaciers when moving from one mountain valley to the next for trading goods, etc. Mountaineers need to be even more careful when moving on glaciers, as glaciers have been changing their ‘face’ very quickly for the past decades.” How were the Dumoulin’s bodies preserved after so many years? Human tissue has a high-water content, so when put under frozen conditions, the ice crystals in the tissue can sublimate, according to an interview in Live Science with Dan Fisher, a professor at the University of Michigan. Sublimation is a change in a state of matter where a substance transforms from solid ice to water vapor without passing through a liquid phase; therefore, the tissue dries out. The cold and dry conditions of the Tsanfleuron glacier stopped the bacteria and fungi from breaking down the tissue, keeping both bodies intact. The Dumoulin story is similar to other discoveries made as glaciers around the world shrink due to climate change. For example, in 2003, coins, leather, arrows, and piece of a wooden bowl, all dating back to 4500 B.C., were discovered at the Schnidejoch glacier, about 20 miles away from Tsanfleuron. Since 1900, the Alps have lost about half of their volume, and global warming has caused the Tsanfleuron glacier to lose up to half a meter a year. Many long-buried bodies and...

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Roundup: Crack, Flood, Fight

Posted by on Jul 31, 2017 in All Posts, Featured Posts, News, Policy and Economics, Roundup, Science | 0 comments

Roundup: Crack, Flood, Fight

Spread the News:SharePetermann Crack Develops From Grist: “Petermann is one of the largest and most important glaciers in the world, with a direct connection to the core of the Greenland ice sheet. That means that even though this week’s new iceberg at Petermann is just 1/500th the size of the massive one that broke off the Larsen C ice shelf in Antarctica earlier this month, it could eventually have a much bigger effect on global sea levels. Scientists believe that if Petermann collapses completely, it could raise the seas by about a foot.” Read more about the potential collapse of the Petermann here.   Glacial Outburst Flood Rages in Iceland From The Watchers: “A glacial outburst flood started in Iceland’s Múlakvísl river around midnight UTC on July 29, 2017. Electrical conductivity is now measured around 580µS/cm and has increased rapidly the last hour, Icelandic Met Office (IMO) reported 10:14 UTC on July 29. Increasing water levels of this river are an important indicator of Katla’s upcoming volcanic eruptions.” Read about safety concerns associated with the flood here.   Conflict in the Himalayas From The New York Times: “The road stands on territory at the point where China, India and Bhutan meet…The standoff began last month when Bhutan, a close ally of India, discovered Chinese workers trying to extend the road. Now soldiers from the two powers are squaring off, separated by only a few hundred feet. The conflict shows no sign of abating, and it reflects the swelling ambition— and nationalism— of both countries. Each is governed by a muscular leader eager to bolster his domestic standing while asserting his country’s place on the world stage as the United States recedes from a leading role.” Learn more about the geopolitics of this standoff here.   Spread the...

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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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