Beartrack Mountain

June 6th, 2010

guest blogger: Stephanie

On Friday Justin, Capt. of the Capelin, dropped Greg and I off at Beartrack Cove. We hiked up (straight up!) to the Repeater Station (used for the park radio station), where we set up camp and then made our way a little further up to our study site. We cored a few trees that night, then melted some snow to make some delicious navy bean soup (courtesy of Fred Meyers in Juneau) and hot chocolate, and turned in. An early morning start to finish up the bulk of our sampling there, then it was back down (which didn’t take nearly as long as the up had, but resulted in much more soreness…) to meet the Capelin again. On the way back to Bartlett Cove, where the visitor station and park headquarters is, we saw sea lions, sea otters (one riding our waves on its back), whales, puffins, and porpoises (I didn’t get any good pictures of these, but I will try next time!).

The Capelin

A view from the way up. The line is where cloudy glacial runoff is meeting the incoming tide.

Beartrack repeater station

Fresh bear tracks on the way up to the site.

Sun coming through some clouds over the water.

Sun coming through the clouds over the water.

Where Greg would like to go... There is a tiny white speck up there--it's a goat!

The Beardslee Islands. You can see the repeater station below Greg.

Hanging a bear bag.

Soup!

and cold feet...

Mushrooms!

A little later and we would have some yummy strawberries.

A barnacle encrusted snail.

Beartrack from the boat. I think we were just the the left of that first small snow chute on the right.

We met up with Dan when we got back, and Deb Prinkey, ’01, a high school teacher in Mt. Vernon. Greg and Dan are finishing up a report for NSF right now, then it’s a short hike today and back out tomorrow.

Up to Alaska

June 4th, 2010

guest blogger: Stephanie

We arrived in Juno last night a little past 10 PM local time (that’s 2 AM for us…) after a long day of traveling, to be greeted by stuffed bears in the airport (awesome!). After spending a night in the lovely Breakwater Inn, we had an amazing breakfast at Donna’s, swung by the Mendenhall glacier in the Tongass National Forest, and then waited in the airport for Dan Lawson, of CRREL (Cold Regions Research and Engineering Laboratory).

The Breakwater Inn

Mount Juneau

The Mendenhall glacier

The "stream" at the hatchery. When spawning time comes, the salmon hatched here return.

Shopping followed, as did lunch and a quick trip to the salmon hatchery. Then it was back to the airport to catch our flight to Gustavus, which provided us with some awesome views of the inlets and mountains in the area.

Our plane!!

A cirque, a basin formed by a glacier, seen from our plane.

Once in Gustavus, we went on into Glacier Bay National Park to the headquarters to plan for the next few days and learn some bear safety tips. Tomorrow, it’s to the field!

Wooster Geologist = NPR Star

September 10th, 2009

Tree rings, Lake Erie, and climate change are the topics of a recent NPR interview with Wooster’s own Greg Wiles. Greg and his research group have been making headlines for their study that suggests natural climate variability plays a role in controlling changes in Lake Erie’s level. Stay tuned for more developments from Wooster’s Tree Ring Lab!

From the Guardian, May 14, 2009 issue.

From the Guardian, May 14, 2009 issue.

News from the North

July 25th, 2009

Colin and Kelly standing in front of Mendenhall Glacier. Last year, the ice was where they are standing.

Colin and Kelly standing in front of Mendenhall Glacier. Last year, the ice was where they are standing.

After arriving in Juneau, we went on a quick tour of the town before grabbing a bite to eat and setting up camp across the lake from Mendenhall Glacier. A constant misting rain provided a fitting welcome to Alaska.
The next day we hiked up to the glacier itself while waiting for Dan Lawson and his crew to finish the necessary errands before our chartered flight to Gustavus.

A view of foggy mountains from the Cessna on the flight to Gustavus.

A view of foggy mountains from the Cessna on the flight to Gustavus.

Once in Gustavus we met the final member of our party, Sarah Laxton, who had arrived at the house before us.
The next morning the entire crew loaded into the Capelin, a small research ship, and Justin (our captain) drove us over to our first site, Beartrack, where Dr. Wiles, Kelly and Colin were dropped off for the next two nights.

The Capelin, our trusted research vessel.

The Capelin, our trusted research vessel.

The Fairweather Range, as viewed from the Capelin.

The Fairweather Range, as viewed from the Capelin.

We set up camp in a small wooded area across from Beartrack Mountain and set off on a medium length hike marred only by an arduous return trek through a bunch of windfall.

Our small camp in the woods. The area was almost an island during high tides, connected only by a tombolo to the mainland and, during low tide, another island via tombolo.

Our small camp in the woods. The area was almost an island during high tides, connected only by a tombolo to the mainland and, during low tide, another island via tombolo.

In the mud just outside of our campsite, Beartrack lives up to its name.

In the mud just outside of our campsite, Beartrack lives up to its name.

The next morning we embarked on an arduous vertical hike up Beartrack Mountain, made even more difficult by a section that had been ravaged by an avalanche, making the climb that much more difficult. Large Sitka spruce dominated the lower slopes. As we rose in elevation, some mountain hemlocks were mixed in until finally towards the top only mountain hemlock remained.

Kelly and Sarah core a mountain hemlock near our lunch site during one of the fleeting moments of sunlight.

Kelly and Sarah core a mountain hemlock near our lunch site during one of the fleeting moments of sunlight.

Colin uses the increment borer to core another mountain hemlock.

Colin uses the increment borer to core another mountain hemlock.

One added benefit of our ever increasing elevation was one of many quite beautiful views of the fjord.

One added benefit of our ever increasing elevation was one of many quite beautiful views of the fjord.

Once at our top site (next to a radio repeater station) we all split up and went off to different ridges to core some more hemlocks closer to treeline.

Dr. Wiles head off with his trusty increment borer towards one of the ridges to core some yellow cedar.

Dr. Wiles head off with his trusty increment borer towards one of the ridges to core some yellow cedar.

The next day we were picked up by the Capelin by Justin, Dan, Sarah and the rest and went by boat to upper Muir Inlet to collect samples of wood killed by glacial advances for Kelly’s I.S. These samples ranged from 8000-2000 years before present. To find these samples we hiked up to Dan’s study sites which were located in fluvial valleys where debris flows and erosion due to rain had uncovered old pieces of wood. Along the way, we saw lots of evidence of glacial presence, ranging from moraines to huge glacial erratics. It was hard to fathom that the entire hike had been covered by glaciers a mere 30 years ago.

Sarah standing in front of a huge glacial erratic (one that didn’t have that far to travel). Notice the sediment in front of it that had been pushed along during the glacier’s advance.

Sarah standing in front of a huge glacial erratic (one that didn’t have that far to travel). Notice the sediment in front of it that had been pushed along during the glacier’s advance.

The crew advances on at a time down the steep slope into the valley.

The crew advances on at a time down the steep slope into the valley.

Dr. Wiles cores a trunk along the base of the streambed.

Dr. Wiles cores a trunk along the base of the streambed.

Colin digs out a piece of wood from the wall of the valley.

Colin digs out a piece of wood from the wall of the valley.

The next day was similar. We hiked up to another stream valley to collect more samples.

Dan cuts a cross-section with his chainsaw.

Dan cuts a cross-section with his chainsaw.

On our way back down to the shore from the stream valley, the fog began to roll back and a wonderful View of Muir Inlet was revealed.

On our way back down to the shore from the stream valley, the fog began to roll back and a wonderful View of Muir Inlet was revealed.

After we relocated to another valley nearer the base of the inlet, we located some wood that we think is 8000 years old.

After we relocated to another valley nearer the base of the inlet, we located some wood that we think is 8000 years old.

After four long days in the field, we finally returned to the house for much needed showers and access to a clothes dryer. Today was spent recuperating and going over what had already been done and what still remains to do. Sadly, we also had a casualty in our ranks. Sarah flew back home to British Columbia this evening with what is probably a fractured arm.

Professor Greg Wiles in the news and a new book

July 24th, 2009

Earlier this summer the Guardian newspaper in the United Kingdom ran a photo essay about scientists working hard to sort out climate change questions. One of the people featured is Wooster professor of geology Greg Wiles in a classic photo first run in National Geographic.

From the Guardian, May 14, 2009 issue.

Wooster's own Greg Wiles looking buff as he cores a log in Alaska for dendrochronological and paleoclimate research (from the May 14, 2009, issue of the Guardian).

This photograph (and a description of Greg’s work) is now included in a new book titled Climate Change: Picturing the Science by Gavin Schmidt and Joshua Wolfe.

Solving the Jigsaw Puzzle

June 29th, 2009

Wooster geologists Terry Workman and Greg Wiles are joined by Alena Giesche (Middlebury College), Jessa Moser and Tom Lowell (U. Cincinnati) on Alaska’ Kenai Peninsula undertaking paleoclimate research. We are coring lakes in collaboration with The Kenai National Wildlife Refuge to get a better understanding of climate change and precipitation changes since the Ice Age.

Jessa, Alena, Terry and Tom researching glacial retreat at Exit Glacier in Kenai Fjords National Park

Jessa, Alena, Terry and Tom researching glacial retreat at Exit Glacier in Kenai Fjords National Park


Tom, Alena and Terry paddling the "The SS-Morass" to the coring site on Jigsaw Lake
Jessa (team geophysicist) spins up gear to image the stratigraphy below the lake and a sonar image of the lake floor
Alena archives another meter of sediment as Terry looks on.

Alena archives another meter of sediment as Terry looks on.

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