Science in Policy
Playing about on and with glaciers, 99% of which have been in steady and increasingly rapid retreat over the past few decades, I became very interested in local and international political and policy debates surrounding climate change. So much so, that during my doctoral years I took a break from academia and went to work in the U.S. Congress as a legislative consultant on climate change policy for Congressman Jay Inslee, 1st-district Washington State — now the Governor of Washington State — and got a healthy dose of the sausage-making that goes on behind the scenes in the name of policy. For others interested in understanding the inner workings of national and international politics, and how science is and is not used in policymaking, I highly recommend the AAAS Congressional Science Fellowship program.
Glaciers in the Media
Part of doing science is the responsibility to share and communicate the latest findings with the world outside the ivory tower. To that end, I regularly contribute to radio and print media coverage of all things related to climate change, landscape change and glaciers, for instance pondering whether we could flood deserts to reduce sea level rise on Quirks and Quarks on CBC Radio, or how rising ocean temperatures are melting the Greenland Ice Sheet from below in Wired magazine. I have been a scientific advisor and presenter on several television documentaries about glaciers and climate change, including Operation Iceberg, a BBC documentary on the factors that drive glacier change and iceberg production in Greenland, a stint explaining ice tsunamis for the BBC series Nature’s Weirdest Events, and Expedition Alaska, a documentary about the impact of climate change on the state of Alaska, made for the Discovery Channel.
For one example of a conversation on the cascading effects of climate change and glacier loss, check out the podcast SpacePod If a glacier fall in a fjord…
I am lucky to be a TED Senior Fellow, which provided a platform for me to talk about the importance of glaciers and glacier change from Antarctica to the Himalayas. I posted some thoughts on why the demise of the Larsen C ice sheet in July 2017 will affect us all on the TED Ideas blog, and spoke about Himalayan glacier meltwater resources in an interview on the TED Fellows Friday Blog, and in an editorial for The Mint (the Indian edition of the Wall Street Journal). Along with some other great women scientists who are also TED Fellows, we are working on increasing dialogue about perceptions of women in STEM fields. Our first initiative to change the way we view women as scientists and explorers was published on Medium.org.
Check out the hundreds of phenomenal talks and performances given by innovators and changemakers at ted.com, and lessons worth sharing at TedEd, including my geomorphology lesson on Why is Mt. Everest so tall?
Part of my broader mission is to convince others that playing with and near glaciers is fun! To do so, I co-founded Girls on Ice, now called Inspiring Girls, an experiential field course in Alaska and Washington for girls aged 14-18 that combines science, art and backcountry wilderness skills. Highly recommended for a curious, outdoorsy young woman you might know!
I am also an advisor for the Juneau Icefield Research Program, a summer-long extensive field research and exploration program for high school – graduate students interesting in glaciology, on the Juneau Icefield, Alaska.
I once coordinated high-school age work crews building and restoring trails in some of the most beautiful and remote state and national parks in the western U.S., through the Student Conservation Association. See links to find out more about these excellent youth/educational programs.