Girls on Ice

Gulkana Glacier, Alaska

Girls on Ice is a unique, free, wilderness science program for high school girls that has been successfully run for 12 years in Washington State. The program provides young women with an intensive science-immersion experience through a backcountry expedition with professional glaciologists and mountaineers. In 2012, with the support of the Alaska Climate Adaptation Science Center (AK CASC), Girls on Ice was able to expand in a new direction: offering a Girls on Ice experience in Alaska primarily for Alaskan girls. In July 2012, a team of 9 participants and 4 instructors spent 8 days exploring a remote Alaskan glacier and the surrounding alpine landscape, followed by 2 days in a classroom setting at the University of Alaska Fairbanks. These 9 girls were chosen from an applicant pool of 150, and represented a diverse cross-section of cultures, outdoor experience, science background, and geography. This year’s participants came from all corners of Alaska (Western Alaska, North Pacific, Southeast), and from the Pacific Northwest. As a tuition-free course, we selected girls who may not otherwise have had such an opportunity, whether due to socioeconomic status, identification with a cultural or ethnic group underrepresented in the sciences, or other similar challenges.

The first annual GOI AK program was launched on Gulkana Glacier from July 15 – 25. During that time, the girls hiked, camped and lived on the glacier, participating in daily science lessons, mountaineering excursions, art activities, and science projects. In small groups, the girls designed and implemented their own science experiments to answer a research question of their choice. This year, the girls chose to study glacier streams (measuring the quantity of meltwater transported in channels on the glacier’s surface), supraglacial debris (examining the effects of rocks and debris cover on glacier melt), and alpine ecology (looking at the succession of plant life with distance from the glacier). After the week in the backcountry, the last two days of the program were spent at the University of Alaska Fairbanks Geophysical Institute, where the girls reflected on personal lessons and exchanged feedback with instructors one-on-one. They also synthesized their scientific findings by preparing slideshow presentations, and delivering their results to a public audience including many members of the geoscience community. 

For more information about the program, visit the official Girls on Ice website.