Our new article analyzing the history of glaciology and glacier research in Peru’s Cordillera Blanca suggests that citizen science conducted by mountain climbers, guides, and porters could augment the professional research about glaciers conducted by scientists. The article profiles, for example, the work of University of Innsbruck geographer and glaciologist Hans Kinzl from the 1930s to the 1960s to demonstrate that his time spent climbing Andean mountains and interacting with alpine residents and local communities facilitated his research agenda. Spending time in the mountains, on glaciers, and with local residents remains helpful for effective glacier research. In this way, mountaineers’ observations and data collection, such as information about rapidly changing glacial lakes, glacier stability, and mountain conditions, may offer useful information useful information for scientists and climate adaptation projects. Several new programs—from Adventure Scientists and the American Climber Science Program to Girls on Ice, the Office de Haute Montagne, and Alp-Risk—offer just some of the examples of these kinds of innovations in citizen science related to high mountains, climate change, and glaciers around the world. Our article concludes by suggesting that the ideal end result of citizen science by the larger mountaineering community that includes guides and porters would be increased knowledge generation and sharing, expanded public awareness, reduced risk of glacier-related disasters, and improved environmental management to help a broad range of stakeholders.
Members of the Glacier Lab, along with several other colleagues, have published a new global analysis of the societal dimensions of glacier runoff. Published as part of a 2017 special issue of the Annals of the American Association of Geographers (vol. 107, no. 2), the article provides one of the first global and comparative assessments of water dynamics in glacier-fed watersheds. There is a large gap in research to date because so few social science and humanities (or human-focused studies) have been conducted. Our team found that, within the limited research that does exist, studies focus primarily in four areas: social impacts, hydropower, agriculture and food security, and cultural effects.
Importantly, we found that several “next steps” could enhance existing literature. In particular, future research could more clearly and explicitly attribute changing water use practices to glacier runoff variation. In essence, it is not enough to say simply that glaciers are shrinking and thus water conflicts will arise because water allocation and usage depends on a host of variables — from power and politics to economics, water rights laws, crop preferences and markets, cultural values, available infrastructure and technologies, social inequalities, and environmental forces. Glacier change is thus but only one factor affecting water distribution, and not everyone will be affected equally from glacier runoff variability. The literature to date, however, focuses almost exclusively on the role of climate change and glacier loss when making bold, sometimes exaggerated, claims about the effects of glacier retreat on downstream societies. In the end, one goal of the paper is to help “redefine and reorient the glacier-water problem around human societies rather than simply around ice and climate.”
The author team consists of Glacier Lab members Mark Carey, Olivia Molden, and M Jackson, as well as anthropologist Mattias Rasmussen (University of Copenhagen), hydrologist/glaciologist Anne Nolin (Oregon State University), and climatologist/geoscientist Bryan Mark (Ohio State University).
By Andrea Willingham
One of my favorite things about being a part of the Glacier Lab is getting to contribute to the wildly diverse research conducted among its members. This summer, I put my own research into practice and ventured to southeast Alaska to execute my field work for my Master’s project on Local and Traditional Ecological Knowledge (LEK/TEK) and science related to climate change. It was my first time conducting social science field work, and inevitably turned out to be an incredible learning experience in every way. Continue reading
Several Clark Honors College undergraduate students have been hired as research assistants in the Glacier Lab for summer 2016. They are working on various glacier-related projects, including:
- Indigenous peoples and climate change in the Andes; glacier protection and conservation in South America (Josie Kinney)
- Glacier hazards; ice cores and humanities; virtual water in glacier-fed watersheds (Rebecca Marshall)
- Climate and health (Candace Joyner)
- Web design and research dissemination for the Glaciers and Society website (Chris Ableidinger)
- Glaciers, national parks, and conservation (Doug Sam)
Glacier Lab member Hayley Brazier is also conducting research on icebergs and marine environmental history
Mark Carey has published a chapter in the new book, National Parks beyond the Nation: Global Perspectives on “America’s Best Idea”, edited by Adrian Howkins, Jared Orsi, and Mark Fiege (Oklahoma, 2016). Carey’s chapter compares climate change rhetoric, discourse, and perspectives in Glacier National Park (USA) and Huascaran National Park (Peru). He argues that the climate discourse exposes and builds on longstanding perceptions of national parks, which are different in both regions. The chapter brings a critical perspective to other studies that focus primarily on documenting climate change impacts in parks. Instead Carey asks why people want to be saving those parks in the first place, how the efforts diverge or perpetuate trends from the past, and what exactly they are trying to save (or not).
Overall, the edited collection featuring the work of prominent scholars working around the world is an excellent contribution to scholarship on national parks globally.