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Research on ice

Studying glacial dynamics as an ACRC Intern

My name is Skye and I am an undergraduate student in the environmental science program at UAS. This summer I had the opportunity to be a research assistant studying Suicide Basin, a glacier-dammed lake adjoining Mendenhall Glacier that has generated outburst floods regularly over the last decade. During this internship, I was able to join in on the field days where we would fly by helicopter to Suicide Basin, utilize image processing and digital mapping skills I learned from classes this past year at UAS, and get my commercial drone license.

A typical day in the field began by meeting at North Star Helicopters where we would load our supplies into the helicopter and fly up to Suicide Basin. Once we landed and unloaded our supplies, we would set up a drone programmed to a fly in a grid pattern covering the Suicide Basin area while capturing overlapping aerial images. I would process these images using Structure from Motion software to create digital elevation models and orthoimages, which map the surface of the basin. In total, I visited Suicide Basin five times over the course of the summer. Every day up there was very unique and I was able to meet many people from a range of federal agencies, the City of Juneau, and the University of Alaska, who are all involved with the Suicide Basin project. Being able to come along on the field site visits throughout the summer and see in person just how much this landscape is changing was stunning.

In addition to my work with the Suicide Basin project, I was able to do a small GIS task for ongoing research at the LeConte Glacier, as well as participate in stream sampling fieldwork for the EPSCoR Coastal Margins project.

The experiences I gained from this internship have further solidified my interest in climate change research and have given me additional motivation to continue my studies in this field. I am very appreciative of the unique opportunities UAS offers and I am thankful to have such great professors and faculty members at UAS.

ACRC Glaciologist Christian Kienholz and intern Skye Hart land a drone after a survey of Suicide Basin. Video: Jonny Antoni