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In the field as an ACRC intern

From glacier to outflow: In the field as an ACRC intern

My name is Elizabeth Bruch and I am going into my third year at UAS. I am pursuing a double major B.S. in Environmental Science and Mathematics. I got involved with ACRC through a classmate and my academic advisor, who both helped me to get this internship. I was first interested in working for ACRC because of their biogeochemistry-focused work. I took biogeochemistry last semester and I really enjoyed learning about how most of the processes on Earth work together and how everything cycles. 

This internship has been a great experience for me so far. I have gotten hands-on experience working with a number of different people on their research projects. I have gotten to go fish sampling in Heen Latinee with a UAF PhD student, which included hiking through muskegs, swamps, forest, and blueberry patches to reach remote sites where we set minnow traps in order to catch small Coho, Dolly Vardens, and the occasional Cut Throat Trout. Through this, I have learned a lot about fish handling, where small fish like to live, and how different abiotic and biotic factors impact them. With a different graduate student, I was able to help build a hydraulic flume, which is a structure that all the water flowing down a stream will go through and allows for the levels of the stream to be monitored. I also aided in soil water sampling for this project, which taught me about collecting different kinds of water samples and gave me a better understanding of the concept of groundwater.

a person on a glacier

With ACRC, I have been able to help with their stream sampling and flow measurements. This included weekly sampling of streams along the Juneau road system and learning how to process these samples in the lab. One of the sites this summer that we have been sampling is the outflow from the Mendenhall glacier, which is only accessible by kayak. I was lucky enough to go out and sample the outflow this summer. I have enjoyed seeing how the streams’ chemistry and properties have changed throughout the summer. What we are sampling for in the field is a direct reflection of what I learned in my biogeochemistry class. I have found it to be very impactful to see firsthand these applications of things I learned in class. 

One of my favorite field experiences from this summer was getting to sample the cryoconite holes on the Mendenhall Glacier with a PhD student from Ohio. Cryoconite holes are small pools of water on the glacier that are formed when sediment heats up and melts down into the ice. We took a helicopter up onto the glacier, where we got out and were able to walk around to many different kinds of holes and even eat our lunch on the medial moraine. Taking samples of the holes and setting up all of our field gear at each sampling site took lots of work and coordination but it taught me a lot about being organized in the field and collecting meaningful samples. 

Working at ACRC this summer has been great and I have learned more than I ever have in a summer. Being able to see so many different aspects of science and work on so many projects has inspired me to continue forward with environmental sciences.