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How to get started within polar research?


Category: General

There are many ways to begin polar research, or even just to experience polar regions as a medical personnel, engineer, or logistics personnel. The Juneau Icefield Research Program (JIRP) is one of many options. This summer was spent traversing across the icefield in southeast Alaska learning how to survive in a glaciated region. After learning the necessary skills to live and move around on the ice, the real fun of science began.

Landscape view of southeast Alaska.

The program can be divided up into several sections. The beginning of the summer involves safety/rescue, mountaineering, and skiing skills. The students learn the challenges that come with glacier travel and how to respond to any potentially unsafe condition. Crevasse rescue and wilderness first aid are both continually practiced throughout the entire program. These skills can then be applied to other regions in the world such as polar and high alpine regions.

Students learn mountaineering.

Once all the necessary skills are obtained, the students enter the heart of the icefield. Ice and snow surround the group 360 degrees for miles and miles. There are 5 different research groups that go out and collect data every day. These groups begin working on their different glaciological projects for the remainder of the summer. Throughout the summer different faculty members circulate in and out every couple of weeks. Outside of JIRP, these individuals spend their time researching in Antarctica, Greenland, alpine regions around the world, and many other places. JIRP provides endless contacts for geoscientists, medics, and logistic personnel.

Doing research in the snow.

Along with many different contacts, group projects provide a great insight into polar research. The projects range from cosmogenics (similar to MAGIC-DML research), stable isotope chemistry, geophysics using radar, ecology with plant succession, biogeochemistry, and mass balance. These projects can then be presented at different conferences and workshops where the participants’ list of contacts continues to grow!

In the field as part of the Juneau Icefield Research Program.

The Juneau Icefield Research Program is an amazing gateway into the research of Antarctica, Greenland, and alpine regions.