Blogging on ice

The Mendenhall Glacier

The Mendenhall Glacier. (Photo by Heather Bryant/KTOO)

The Juneau Icefield Research Program is entering the blogosphere.

For the first time this summer, participants in the long-running glacier exploration project will post their day-to-day findings to a blog.

“I think it really gets the experience out there, in real time,” says the program’s Director Jeff Kavanaugh, who says he got the idea from a Canadian Arctic research program called “Students on Ice,” which has had a blog since 2007.

The Juneau Icefield Research Program has been collecting data since 1946. Students and professional scientists spend two months every summer studying changes to the glaciers within the 1,500 square mile area between Juneau and Atlin, British Columbia – the fifth largest ice field in the Western Hemisphere.

With no broadband Internet service in the field, Kavanaugh says they’ll post text updates to the blog via a satellite connection. Videos and pictures will be put on thumb drives and sent back to Juneau in supply helicopters about once a week.

“It’s important in some ways that they’re not able to e-mail or call themselves on a daily basis, because that separation from their normal lives would be far less complete,” says Kavanaugh. “But the near real time communication regardless of that separation is going to be quite powerful.”

Kavanaugh hopes the blog will attract future students to the program, and help publicize its ongoing research. He says scientists too often fail at communicating the importance of their work.

“The current hot topic of climate change is a great example of that,” says Kavanaugh. “If you ask climate scientists whether they believe the globe is warming due to human action, somewhere between 95 and 98 percent of climate scientists will say, ‘Yes, I believe that human caused forces are causing this change.’ That’s not the perception that’s in the media. I credit that to poor communication by scientists.”

The blog will be hosted on the website glacierchange.org, managed by Matt Beedle, a 1996 graduate of Juneau Douglas High School. Beedle is currently a PhD candidate at the University of Northern British Columbia, studying glaciology.

About 15 students are taking part in this year’s Juneau Icefield Research Program, which starts on Saturday.

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