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Ph.D. glaciology students get lessons at a great Alaska venue

The mountains of Wrangell-St. Elias National Park and Preserve made this no ordinary summer school.

Nearly 30 early Ph.D. students gathered for more than a week of glaciology studies earlier this month in a setting where Mount Blackburn presided as king of the Wrangells.

This was the sixth summer of the International Summer School in Glaciology. The course is offered every two years at the Wrangell Mountains Center in McCarthy, though it didn’t occur in 2020 because of the pandemic.

“Steep ice-covered mountains provided the perfect setting to equip early stage Ph.D. students with tools to address the expanding challenges in quantifying and modeling rapid changes in glaciers and ice sheets occurring in response to a warming climate,” reads a report provided by principal organizer Regine Hock of the Geophysical Institute.

It adds that the summer school also helps “foster collaboration among students as well as established scientists in the field of glaciology.”

Six instructors from the Geophysical Institute’s Glaciology Group led the sessions: Andy Aschwanden, Ed Bueler, Mark Fahnestock, Regine Hock, Eric Petersen and Martin Truffer. Two instructors from the Lower 48 also participated.

More than half of the students came from other countries: Belgium, Canada, Germany, Netherlands, Norway, Poland, Sweden, Switzerland and the United Kingdom.

The summer school included glaciology lectures, exercises and computer projects, with an outdoor poster session at which students presented their work. Laundry lines and the outdoor walls of the Wrangell Mountains Center proved a good way to display posters.

Evening activities included a public lecture by Martin Truffer, attracting not only students but also local residents.

It wasn’t all indoors, however.

Students also made visits to nearby glaciers, providing hands-on experience of a glacial environment.

The International Summer School in Glaciology was sponsored by the following:

• UAF Geophysical Institute


• The Norwegian-North American Glaciology Exchange Program RemoteEx

• International Glaciological Society

• International Association of Cryospheric Sciences

• International Arctic Science Committee

• Frontiers in Earth Science journal

• International Union of Geodesy and Geophysics

Information about the International Summer School in Glaciology is available at


Rod Boyce, University of Alaska Fairbanks Geophysical Institute, 907-474-7185,