Glacial conference including glacial experiences

The International Glaciological Society (IGS) organizes symposia (or conferences) on different aspects of cryospheric sciences all around the world. In June 2022, the University of Alaska Southeast in Juneau hosted the “International Symposium on Maritime Glaciers”. As I am working on numerically modeling marine-terminating/tidewater glaciers, this was a nice fit for my research. That is because in the maritime region of Alaska there are quite a few tidewater glaciers present, which are actively studied. Moreover, close to Juneau in the area of the Glacier Bay National Park, drastic changes of tidewater glaciers have been recorded; first in the oral history of indigenous people and later by scientists. Most of the National Park’s area was covered by thick ice during the Little Ice Age until only around 250 years ago. Nowadays (like the name indicates) this area is a bay which is home to an abundance of marine animals. Although some tidewater glaciers in Alaska were still advancing until recently due to their intrinsic dynamics (the so-called tidewater glacier cycle), nearly all of those have now succumbed to the influence of anthropogenic climate change and are thinning and retreating. Part of the conference was an excursion to the National Park and I am very glad I was able to attend this, because it makes you aware of the rapid environmental changes that occurred even recently (on geological time scales). One got the impression that really the only constant in life is change. A nice bonus was to see whales and sea otters on our boat ride to the area. Another impressive sight I had never before in my life were the icebergs floating around.

(Credits: J. Malles)

My trip began with the flight to Juneau on the 16th of June from Edmonton, where I had been for a research visit in Prof. Paul Myers group, working on modeling glacier-ocean interactions. This provided me with the opportunity to travel to the conference more easily, as I did not need to fly the whole long distance from Bremen to Alaska.

Since the study of maritime and/or tidewater glaciers is a relatively specialized topic and people seem to still be a bit weary of traveling due to COVID, there were only around 80 people present at the symposium. Nevertheless, it was a great opportunity to get a glimpse on what other people in the field are working on and to talk to them about it. A less crowded conference also has a more relaxed atmosphere and makes it easier to connect to the other attendees. I gave a talk on my work directly on Monday. Although most people that attended the conference are working on observations and/or more small-scale studies, I think my talk on large-scale glacier mass change modeling, with a focus on tidewater glaciers, was a valuable contribution to the agenda. I was also able to find some other people that work on related topics and I could hence exchange with.

This was the first conference I was able to attend in person as an ArcTrain student, which I am very grateful for, since it provided me with the experience of talking in front of a highly specialized audience. It also provided me with the opportunity to join a field excursion and thus with an impression of my study objects in real life instead of only on my screen. Finally, it was great to meet people in person again and thereby get in touch with colleagues, which is a valuable part of a scientist’s work.

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