Reflections from Two Girls on a Rocky Adventure

Two girls and a car, fresh out of grad school, with new perspectives on climate science, that was how our adventure to the Rocky Mountain region began.

Grand Teton roadtrip on Glacierhub
Starting the Grand Teton Park Loop with the Teton Ranges in sight (Source: Sabrina Ho).

A year ago, we were hauled from two different Asian countries united by a common goal. We wanted to become better climate science communicators. That was how I first met Yang Zhang, my close friend and course-mate from Columbia University’s Climate and Society master’s program, and a colleague at GlacierHub. Fast forward to now, Yang and I are about to embark on new jobs in climate science education and climate policy, respectively. But beforehand, we decided to take a 12-day road trip to Glacier, Yellowstone and Grand Teton National Parks to experience camping under the stars and how it feels to live in a RV.

Visiting the Rocky Mountains was a dream of mine. The trip to Grand Teton National Park, a mountain range of the Rocky Mountains, rekindled memories from high school. The Rockies were a constant mention in my geography curriculum in Singapore, from their epic formation when the oceanic crust was subducted under the North American continental crust to the weathering forces affecting the mountain range until today. As we drove past the mountains, I was momentarily dazzled by their sheer size; reading about mountain ranges 4,400m (12,000ft) was nothing compared to seeing them in real life.

There are many glaciers in the Rockies, but most are undergoing rapid retreat. Mount Moran’s five glaciers in the Grand Tetons, for example, have retreated by more than 20 percent in the last 40 years. Some have even disappeared. This narrative was plastered across information boards in the park in western Wyoming. I felt the message needed little introduction: the changes were clear in the small patches of ice on the mountains that stood in stark contrast with the old photograph of a much larger ice patch from 40 years ago. These small patches of ice were once connected when they formed during the Little Ice Age.

Glaciers on Mount Moran, Grand Teton National Park on GlacierHub
Glaciers on Mount Moran, Grand Teton National Park (Source: Sabrina Ho).

In that moment, I felt how powerful it was to be present on site, to see the most obvious evidence of climate change that I had studied all year before my own eyes. I watched as a father told his teenage daughter to capture a good photograph of the landscape. “You’ll never know for sure how or when this might change,” he told them.

The core of our climate and society curriculum at Columbia University was our discussion of the interactions between humans and nature. On one hand, we examined the manipulation and misinterpretation of climate science evidence that fuels arguments from climate skeptics. On the other hand, we were exposed to the different applications of climate science information that helps us better understand and perhaps even solve real-world problems. Over the past year, I have admired the amazing work of my professors, from using remote sensing to predict the regions most prone to Zika mosquitoes in Tanzania to understanding the plight of climate refugees in Bangladesh. But standing in front of the Grand Tetons, I realized these interactions are not limited to our world’s most remote places. The national park system in the United States is a nexus for nature and social interactions, and it reflects our quickly changing landscapes under rising global temperatures.

National Parks were established to protect areas of natural, scenic or cultural significance. They are spaces where people can get close to nature for relaxation and recreation, but they are also effective classrooms. Many researchers conduct ecological, geological and hydrological studies in parks like the Grand Tetons. As Yang and I took short walks from several viewpoints, I witnessed parents pointing out different types of wildlife seen on trails to their children, while kids eagerly filled in their activity books in an attempt to get a Junior Ranger badge.

Wildlife in Grand Teton on GlacierHub
Wildlife spotted featuring the squirrel, antelope, bison and moose (Source: Sabrina Ho).

“It’s always good to bring people close to nature. But how to respect nature and the indigenous people there should be the core as well,” Yang commented during one of our walks. National parks were first established with the purpose of conservation, while at the same time displacing many indigenous communities that lived on the lands. The indigenous populations were often forbidden from carrying out their usual activities of hunting and agriculture. Land grabs also ensued. The Shoshone people, who lived in the Grand Teton region, faced such treatment. Recently, the indigenous communities of nearby Yellowstone National Park have applied for a name change of Hayden Valley and Mount Doane, which were named after perpetuators of violence against Native Americans.

Teton Glacier on Cascade Trail on GlacierHub
Yang and I on the Cascade Trail with the Teton mountain range in the background (Source: Sabrina Ho).

Before we hiked the Cascade Trail to see Teton Glacier, we were warned of grizzly bear sightings in the area. Grizzly bear activity has heightened as bears eat more furiously to prepare for their upcoming hibernation in the winter. During our adventure to Glacier National Park, we had been turned away from the Iceberg Lake Trail because it was closed for bear feasting season. Though I was disappointed, Yang said, “The trail would be the thing I feel the sorriest for missing on this trip. But I also feel glad that we wouldn’t be standing in the way of the mother grizzly bears who are trying to make sure their cubs survive this winter.” Just yesterday, the Endangered Species Act to protect grizzly bears living around Yellowstone National Park was restored.

My visit to the Rockies served as a timely reminder: it is easy to be in awe of nature’s beauty; living in harmony is harder to achieve. I remain hopeful that we will continue working in the right direction, as we learn to better read nature’s signs through technological advances and structure developments in an informed and sustainable manner.

Meet the Writers of GlacierHub, 2017/2018 Edition

As glaciers retreat, they alter water resources, create natural hazards, reduce tourism and transform cherished landscapes. Here at GlacierHub, we have a team of writers hailing from across four continents to bring you original daily reporting on glaciers and the global impacts of climate change.

With funding support from Columbia University’s Earth Institute and Center for Research on Environmental Decisions, our writers from Columbia University’s Master of Arts in Climate and Society program cover stories about communities living near glaciers and the challenges brought about by glacier retreat. This year’s cohort has developed exciting new projects from a bi-monthly GlacierHub News Report to a Video of the Week post and will continue to bring you the latest glacier news throughout the summer.

We hope you enjoy the website and this introduction to our GlacierHub team!

Some of GlacierHub’s summer writers. From left to right: writer Brian Llamanzares, editor Ben Orlove, and writer Andrew Angle (Source: Ashley Chappo).

 

Meet our summer writers from the Master of Arts in Climate and Society program at Columbia University:

 

Andrew Angle (Source: Andrew Angle).

Andrew Angle has a B.S. in Physical Geography from Penn State University and is a 2018 graduate of Columbia University’s Climate and Society program. He first became fascinated with glaciers on a research trip with Penn State to study the impacts of climate change on the glaciers of the Peruvian Andes and southwest Alaska. As a writer for GlacierHub since fall 2017, Andrew has covered a number of diverse topics from U.S. National Park entrance fees to glacier-covered volcanos and glacial geoengineering. He hopes to apply the writing skills he developed during his time with GlacierHub to connect people with science and policy decisions.

 

Natalie Belew (Source: Natale Belew).

Natalie Belew is a 2018 graduate of the M.A. in Climate and Society program at Columbia University and completed her Bachelor of Arts degree in History and East Asian Studies at Trinity University. She joined GlacierHub in fall 2017 hoping to cultivate her writing skills in climate communication and to explore the cultural and historical contexts surrounding glaciers across the world. The topics she has tackled since then include the Lendbreen tunic, the Karakoram Anomaly, and the discovery of a medieval glacier lake in Svalbard, among many others. Beyond Columbia, Natalie hopes to combine her interests in climate science and East Asian history and pursue a doctorate in the environmental history of China. Her experience at GlacierHub has been phenomenal in helping her to understand complex scientific concepts surrounding glaciers. She looks forward to carrying forward her time at GlacierHub in her future endeavors.

 

Sabrina Ho Yen Yin (Source: Sabrina Ho Yen Yin).

Sabrina Ho Yen Yin has a B.Sc. in Geography from University College London and graduated in 2018 with her M.A. in Climate and Society from Columbia University. She started writing for GlacierHub in fall 2017 to hone her skills in climate communication by translating sometimes difficult-to-understand scientific pieces into fun and readable stories. She hopes to apply these skills to her work at the Singapore Ministry of Education when she imparts geographical knowledge to her future students. In the meantime, these past months have been a journey of discovery on just how interesting and diverse glacier news can be! From writing about human-related issues such as tourism in the Bhilangana Valley and extreme sports in Antarctica to ecological topics such as tracing plant species competition and crustacean diversity near glaciers to uncovering human history through glacier archaeology, she has challenged herself to write on a wide range of topics. Despite returning to the tropics after her studies, glaciers will always have a special space in her heart.

 

Shreeya Joshi (Source: Shreeya Joshi)

Shreeya Joshi graduated in 2018 with a master’s degree in Climate and Society from Columbia University. She holds a bachelor’s degree in Environmental Studies from Mount Holyoke College. She is specifically interested in climate change adaptation techniques and policies as well as strategic environmental communications. When she is not thinking about these topics, she’s most likely thinking about food. At GlacierHub, she helped launch the website’s Video of the Week, worked on social media and wrote about the restoration of grizzly bear populations in the North Cascades and capturing climate change through art, among other topics.

 

Brian Llamanzares (Source: Brian Llamanzares).

Brian Llamanzares is a former CNN Philippines news correspondent. He is the CEO and founder of Time Master Watches and a graduate of Columbia University, completing his master’s degree in Climate and Society. Brian also worked briefly at the Philippine Senate as a supervising legislative staff officer and more recently as a political consultant. In his spare time, Brian volunteers as a Youth Ambassador for Habitat for Humanity Philippines and the Philippine General Hospital. He has a passion for public service and an interest in disaster risk reduction management. While at GlacierHub, he founded the bi-monthly GlacierHub news report and wrote about a major climate lawsuit and a glacier hike for a cause, among other topics.

 

Jade Payne (Source: Jade Payne).

Jade Payne started writing for GlacierHub in spring 2018 while pursuing her M.A. in Climate and Society at Columbia University. She spent her earlier years living in Florida, so she has enjoyed writing about glacial environments that are very different from what she is accustomed to. Her work includes covering the importance of glaciers to harbor seals to the captivating glacial artwork of Diane Burko, among other topics. After graduation, she hopes to continue working in climate change communication, especially when it comes to humanitarian causes. When she’s not busy with her school work, she enjoys going on hikes and playing with her dog Milo (the shiba inu).

 

Angela Soriano Quevedo (Source: Angela Soriano Quevedo).
Angela Soriano Quevedo holds a master’s degree in Climate and Society from Columbia University. Her interest in glaciers began as an intern for the regional NGO CONDESAN where she learned about sustainable mountain development and natural resources. As a writer for GlacierHub since fall 2017, she has gained a great understanding of the challenges faced by mountain communities surrounded by glaciers. While at GlacierHub, she has written about climate vulnerability in her home country of Peru to health threats from a glacier volcano in Iceland, among other topics.
Yang Zhang (Source: Yang Zhang).
Yang Zhang is a graduate of the M.A. in Climate and Society program at Columbia University and will be joining GlacierHub as a writer this summer. She holds her B.A. in International Law. Between undergraduate and graduate school, she worked for the government of China in forestry diplomacy and international environment negotiation. After that, she worked as a policy dialogue coordinator for an Asia Pacific-targeted NGO on sustainable development project management in developing countries and regional forestry policy mechanism coordination. She is also a big fan of SNL.

 

Meet our other staff writers from the fall and spring semesters:

 

Amanda Evengaard (Source: Amanda Evengaard).

Amanda Evengaard holds a bachelor’s degree in Product Design from Parsons and is a graduate of the M.A. in Climate and Society program at Columbia University. Amanda is interested in climate sensitivity, how changing climate affects society and the environment, and how to make decisions for a sustainable future. Previously, Amanda worked in design, production and sustainability with the designer Donna Karan at the D.O.T training center in Port-au-Prince, Haiti, and at Urban Zen, New York. She kept you covered on the last glacier of Venezuela, glacier reconstruction, and a Swiss community fighting to save its glacier, among other topics.

 

Tae Hamm (Source: Tae Hamm).

Tae Hamm graduated in 2018 from the Climate and Society master’s program at Columbia University and holds a B.A. in Geology from Lawrence University. Tae is interested in sustainable packaging as well as urban planning for disaster risk reduction. He’s an avid reader of books in all forms and shapes, but he buys his books only on Kindle. Tae wrote about glaciers’ influence on the blister infection of the White Bark Pine treea female climber and pioneer, and the geochemical evolution of meltwater from glacial snow, among other topics.

 

Miriam Nielsen (Source: Miriam Nielsen).

Miriam Nielsen is a video producer (and occasional writer) who likes making things about climate change and the environment. She is a graduate of the Master of Climate and Society program at Columbia University, but she spends most of her time on Twitter or playing Ultimate Frisbee. At GlacierHub, she reported on diverse topics from glacier dropstones to Asia’s vanishing glaciers, among many others.

 

And meet our editors:

 

Ben Orlove (Source: Yurong Yu).

Ben Orlove is the managing editor of GlacierHub and an anthropologist at Columbia University. He has conducted research in the Peruvian Andes for many years, and more recently has carried out field work in Bhutan and Kyrgyzstan, as well as in the Italian Alps. He also has carried out research in mountain areas in the western United States.

 

Ashley Chappo (Source: Ashley Chappo).

Ashley Chappo is the senior editor of GlacierHub. She is a graduate of Columbia University School of International and Public Affairs and Columbia Journalism School. Prior to GlacierHub, Ashley worked in the newsrooms of the New York Observer, World Policy Journal, and Manhattan Magazine, more recently covering the Arctic for the World Policy Institute’s Arctic in Context initiative. Her favorite part of working for GlacierHub is getting to know the talented writers and reading their stories on the latest glacier research and climate policy. You can follow Ashley on Twitter @ashleychappo or view her digital portfolio at ashleychappo.com.