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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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Farmers and Glaciers in Northwest China

Posted by on Jul 19, 2017 in All Posts, Communities, Featured Posts | 0 comments

Farmers and Glaciers in Northwest China

Spread the News:ShareExtending across the provinces of Inner Mongolia, Qinghai, and Gansu, the Heihe River Basin is the second largest inland river basin in China. With a core drainage area of 130,000 km2, it is home to 121 million people, and roughly 74 million of them practice farming or animal husbandry. In recent years, water demand has rapidly increased, while water availability has decreased due to glacier retreat and groundwater depletion. As a preliminary step to combat this looming crisis, a team of Chinese researchers set out to assess whether local farmers and herders were aware of glacial change and, if so, what their attitudes were toward state and local response strategies. The results, published last month in Theoretical and Applied Climatology, offer an intriguing look at the way local knowledge and state media intersect in rural China. Guofeng Zhu, a professor of geography and environmental science at Northwest Normal University and the paper’s lead author, spoke with GlacierHub in Mandarin about the stakes of this research for farmers in the region. “Alongside population growth and climate change in recent years, the pressures on the Heihe River Basin’s ecological system have become increasingly severe. Over 70 percent of the water used for agricultural irrigation comes from the river. The question of whether farmers can efficiently adapt is of grave importance to sustainable development in the region,” Zhu said. To carry out the study, the researchers conducted informal interviews in five villages. The villages were selected according to their location along the river, with upstream, midstream and downstream villages all represented. Individual villagers were selected to be interviewed so as to provide a diverse sample size across socio-economic, educational, and occupational values. The team asked open-ended questions and also distributed a multiple-choice survey. The researchers surveyed residents about their impressions of glacier change and used data from the China Meteorological Data Sharing Service Network to assess if residents’ perceptions were accurate. The glacial data itself paints an unsettling picture: from 1970 to 2012, the total glacier area in China’s northwest shrank by 10 to 14 percent. This, when coupled with population growth and reductions in cultivable land per capita, does not bode well for agriculture intensive areas in arid regions, such as the Hexi Corridor, which feeds nearly the entire population of Gansu Province. The farmers living in this fragile ecosystem are faced with annual droughts that in some years can exact a heavy toll on crop yields and animal abundance. Stemming primarily from changes to the permafrost active layer of the Qilian Mountains, the meltwater that accounts for 15 percent of total runoff of this life-sustaining river is in jeopardy. In an interview with GlacierHub, Dahe Qin, a glaciologist at the Chinese Academy of Sciences and an author of the paper, emphasized that the story of the Heihe River Basin resounds throughout the region. “The situation of Heihe is the same as that of the other river basins of the Hexi Corridor. Global warming, as well as degradation to glaciers and the cryosphere, is having a profound impact on the oasis regions, impacting the livelihoods of millions,” he said. The farmers and herders interviewed seem to be acutely aware of the situation. Of respondents, 82.1 percent indicated that glacier retreat was a fact. Unsurprisingly, those living upstream near the glaciers themselves were most cognizant of this fact, having observed firsthand their retreat. Their perceptions of glacier retreat were also the most highly correlated with scientific observations. Education level was another strong predictor of whether farmers were aware of glacier retreat. Gender, ethnicity and age had no impact on awareness of glacier retreat....

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2017 Equator Prize Awarded to Pakistan NGO

Posted by on Jul 18, 2017 in All Posts, Communities, Featured Posts, News | 0 comments

2017 Equator Prize Awarded to Pakistan NGO

Spread the News:ShareThis year, the 2017 Equator Prize recognizing local conservation and sustainability initiatives was awarded to the Baltistan Wildlife Conservation and Development Organization (BWCDO), marking the first time an organization from Pakistan has earned this biennial award. The Equator Prize, launched by the United Nation’s Equator Initiative in 2002, showcases community efforts to relieve poverty through conservation and the sustainable use of biodiversity. BWCDO, a Pakistan NGO located in the Baltistan region of northern Pakistan, aims to protect snow leopards (and other wildlife) in ways that support local development by providing economic incentives to farmers, including insurance schemes and compensation, to combat human-snow leopard conflicts. Shafqat Hussain founded Project Snow Leopard in 1999 to conserve the snow leopard and wildlife population in the region by including local communities. Since 2006, Project Snow Leopard has been incorporated into BWCDO, with Hussain continuing to serve as an advisor to the organization, and currently operates in 17 villages in northern Pakistan. Additionally, BWCDO recently launched an education program in Pakistan to raise awareness and encourage local youth, including girls, to participate in conservation and development initiatives. One example of the NGO’s ongoing efforts is International Snow Leopard Day in Gilgit-Baltistan, which began in November 2015. BWCDO finances its operations by charging farmers annually a premium per head of livestock. However, most of the financing comes from selling snow leopard trekking expeditions through commercial tour operators. BWCDO and a village management committee promote these ecotourism activities in order to supplement farmers’ income, creating economic incentives for farmers not to harm the snow leopards. According to the International Union for the Conservation of Nature (IUCN), snow leopards are endangered. It is difficult to address and fund the protection of snow leopards when the herders in the area are poor and lack adequate resources to counter negative consequences of snow leopard activity. BWCDO’s goal is to address both of these obstacles. In northern Pakistan, local farmers make an average annual income per capita of $300. Therefore, an attack by a snow leopard on a farmer’s livestock threatens the entire livelihood of that farmer who already lives in extreme poverty. Occasionally, farmers have killed snow leopards after their herds were attacked, increasing the threat of the snow leopard’s extinction. The organization has further countered the economic losses caused by snow leopard attacks by assisting communities with predator-proof fencing and training on improved herding techniques. In addition to these initiatives, the abundance of glaciers in the region have helped to maintain rivers and wetlands essential to the wild antelope and sheep that snow leopards eat. However, global warming, deforestation, over hunting and logging in the area further threaten the snow leopards and jeopardize the livelihoods of the local people in northern Pakistan. If the degradation of environmental conditions continues unchecked in the region, an increase in flash floods, species extinction, pest attacks, and glacial melting is expected, placing the surrounding communities at greater risk for displacement, poverty, destruction of water bank infrastructures, and other problems. Increased glacial melting will also leave a third of the snow leopards’ habitats unsuitable and disrupt the migratory routes of other species. For example, if temperatures increase, then the tree line will move higher up the mountains, altering the plant species that can grow and making the habitat less appealing to the snow leopards’ prey. In an interview with Babar Khan, a Senior Conservation Manager at WWF- Pakistan, told GlacierHub that “in some places, particularly on shared habitats, [changing climatic conditions] has increased the negative interactions between human and the carnivores, which has ultimately led to retaliatory killing of top predators like snow leopards,...

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