In June, Karla Boxall, PhD candidate in Polar Studies at the Scott Polar Institute and Special Supervisor in Geography at Newnham, took part in the Juneau Icefield Research Programme. For over 75 years, the programme, which takes place on the Juneau Icefield in Alaska, has maintained the longest-running study of any glacier in the Western Hemisphere.
This includes a continuous mass balance record (i.e. how much ice the icefield is losing each year). To maintain this record, participants of the programme dig mass balance pits on the Lemon Creek Glacier, which involves digging through the snow layer that lies on the glacier’s surface, until the ice beneath is reached. Snow depth and density measurements are taken and compared to existing measurements to assess the change in the amount of snowfall that survives the melt season over time.
Karla completed a BA in Geography and an MPhil in Polar Studies at Newnham before beginning her PhD. Her current research interests focuses on the effects of climate change on the Antarctic Ice Sheet. She uses satellite remote sensing to observe the varying rates of flow of floating ice shelves and their surrounding glaciers, over a range of timescales.
“I attended the Research Programme as faculty, which involved delivering lectures and workshops based primarily on my PhD research,” Karla explains. “In particular, I discussed the role of remote sensing in glacier and ice sheet monitoring, especially the use of satellites to measure the speed at which ice sheets flow.
“I feel extremely fortunate to have had the opportunity to contribute to this programme, both regarding my direct contribution to acquiring the mass balance measurements (despite having to dig down four-plus metres in the pouring rain!) and the opportunity to share my research with the historic, global community that comprises the Research Programme. Furthermore, waking up to the panoramic view of glaciers and mountains made the lack of a warm shower bearable!”
Thanks to Karla for the use of the photos above of her in action.