Dr. VanLooy and students back from a nine day field mission to Continental Glacier in the Wind River Range of Wyoming
During August 2014 a five member research team from the Department of Geography (Dr. Greg Vandeberg, Christian Sovak, and Sami Swartz) and the Department of Earth System Science and Policy (Dr. Jeff VanLooy and Robbie MacDonald) at UND participated in a nine day field mission to Continental Glacier in the Wind River Range of Wyoming. The research focused on glacier melt water quality and stream flow input into the Wind River which is a major source of water for surrounding communities. The expected results will explain the glacier melt water quality conditions for the downstream communities as well as possibly the impact of increasing industrial oil and gas exploration in the surrounding area on the regional air quality which is captured in the snowfall. Stream flow measurements will help explain the percentage of glacial melt water contributing to downstream rivers.
The research conditions at the glacier are extreme with cold, windy conditions and a lack of oxygen at over 12,000 feet in elevation. Large boulders, rugged terrain, and freezing waters also make conducting this study extremely difficult. Accessing the glacier is also a major challenge which requires a 10 mile horseback ride into the Bridger-Teton Wilderness Area, and then another 2 to 3 days hike from 10,500 to 12,100 feet over five miles with 60 – 80 pound backpacks full of camping, survival, and research gear. While the research trip is a significant challenge, we kept telling ourselves that “we are doing it for SCIENCE!”
Dr. Greg Vandeberg and Robbie MacDonald sampling water quality at the outlet stream of Continental Glacier.
Continental Glacier research team 2014: left to right, Sami Swartz, Robbie MacDonald, Dr. Greg Vandeberg (center front), Christian Sovak, and Dr. Jeff VanLooy.