On Thursday we spent the day at Trinchera Ranch, which is the fourth ranch I have visited this year with CC, but it is quite different from all the other ranches. Trinchera Ranch is the largest ranch in Colorado and consists of 173,000 acres privately owned. The Sangre de Cristo Mountains, which includes Mount Blanca–the third highest peak in the state, are located on the ranch. The mission statement for the ranch is to, “Practice sound stewardship to sustain and enhance the diverse natural resources of the Trinchera Ranch for recreational use and enjoyment, the overall health of the ecosystem, and economic benefit, while preserving the natural beauty of the ranch for future generations.” This mission statement encompasses a mutualistic relationship between humans and the land. Humans can benefit from the land economically and recreationally, and at the same time can benefit the land by managing it correctly.
As the ranch is so large, it holds a range of diverse programs. Aside from the conservation work on the ranch–primarily with the forests and streams, the ranch also holds opportunities for recreational activities such as hunting, fishing, mountain biking, and climbing. Some of the land is also used for scientific research, agriculture and occasional educational programs.
The workers (and dogs!) from the ranch welcomed us with much hospitality and generously shared their knowledge and expertise. They prepared an informative power point presentation about the ranch and the different conservation projects they are currently working on. After the presentation, we loaded into four pick-up trucks and they drove us to some of the conservation project sites. During the ranch tour we were lucky enough to see some elk and a coyote! It was an amazing opportunity to hear such a unique perspective on land conservation and to be able to ask the ranchers many questions about their views, the land and their lives.
Visiting such a strong conservationist ranch was a new experience that prompted a lot of thought. Among environmentalists, many people have different points of view about the meaning of conservation and preservation. Conservationists often believe that humans must control the environment in order for the ecosystems to thrive, while preservationists believe that humans should stop disrupting and interfering with what is “natural.”
Conservationists rationalized their view by acknowledging that nothing exists on it’s own. A person does not exist on his or her own; neither does a squirrel nor a pond nor a forest. The way humans exist and use natural resources has already changed the components and balance of existing ecosystems. Humans have inserted themselves into many ecological communities, breaking tight networks and influencing other species. As a species, we humans have already changed the environment by changing the composition of the atmosphere. In some places we have introduced foreign species and diseases. In other places we have extracted natural resources or contaminated them. The role we play in almost every ecosystem is difficult to undo. We have changed both biotic and abiotic factors all around earth. Because of our impact and disruption of what is natural, some conservationists believe that nature will destroy itself if humans do not manage the ecosystem. Since the ecosystem is already off balance, humans must manage the land to offset the human impacts. In addition, since humans must coexist with nature and benefit from the some of the resources it provides, natural occurrences such as large forest fires can no longer occur without major consequences. Since we are limiting the natural growth of nature, we must manage it in a way that is sustainable for human communities and the ecological communities to coexist.
However, preservationists ask the question, Is it ethical for humans to manage an entire ecosystem? Even with good intentions, a management decision may work to solve one issue while creating another one. Even managing the forest for the forest, and not for selfish reasons, can be detrimental to the ecosystem. Extreme views on conservation may be attempting to control the uncontrollable.
After the visit we continued on our journey to the Baca Campus. When we finally arrived, we claimed our rooms, made our beds and headed to the Desert Sage Restaurant, where a delicious meal of beef stir-fry, salad, rice and (local) potatoes, was waiting for us. The next day we would be visiting a potato farm and factory in the area and learning about water rights.
As I am writing this post, I am on the bus heading towards the San Luis Valley. Sleeping college students surround me, and I am reminded of all the pictures that were taken of me asleep in the van the last time I was on a CC field trip. The further away we travel from Colorado Springs the more snow that covers the landscape. I look out the window as we pass by snowy hills, mountains, and plains. The views are striking and it is clear that we are quickly approaching a rural Colorado. I begin to reflect on the first few days and the mini field trip that we had on the second day of the class.
A few things I have learned about the environment throughout my life: temperatures are rising, ocean acidification is increasing, icebergs are melting, biodiversity is decreasing, water sources are becoming more and more contaminated and learning about the environment is awfully good at making people feel depressed and disheartened about the future. I have talked to a handful of environmental studies majors who reported that at some point throughout their college career they felt overwhelmingly hopeless about making a difference on environmental issues.
One of the first readings of the course provoked a lot of thought for me as an educator. William Cronon, an author and professor, shares his reflections concerning his teaching. He gained insight that by the end of the course he taught, although he had done an excellent job at teaching all of the concepts and content, most of his students felt despairing about the prospects of the Natural World, and for inflicting that emotion he had failed. Cronon’s reflection reminded me of a study that I read during my time at TREE semester. The study explored why young people’s knowledge and values about the environment are often not reflected in their actions. The results showed that a significant factor in predicting a value-action gap is the amount of hope that the person feels regarding the future of the environment. Forward thinking will lead to forward improvements. The more hopeful our young people are, the more hopeful our planet is.
There are different ways to teach environmental education that vary in the information, skills and emotions that are “transferred” to the student. Environmental history (a large part of this interdisciplinary course), for example, is a dense discipline with lots of storage, however it only becomes useful if it is taught in a way that empowers students to become part of the history and to create change to benefit the future. In order to create a relationship between young people’s ideas about action and the environment, teachers, such as my professors and myself, must present environmental issues to their students in a promising fashion that illuminates the role that humans, culture and time have had in the progression of environmental history. Instead of viewing nature and humans in a dualistic view that emphasizes the incompatibility between the two, it is important to acknowledge the complexity, and dynamic/ever-changing relationship between the two. If students do not feel like empowered participants of history, change will never occur.
On Tuesday, my professor, Tyler Cornelius, inspired me, as he was able to teach us about environmental history using an approach that allowed the class to socially construct our own knowledge about the intricacy of the Colorado Springs landscape story. We drove up Gold Rd. towards Cheyenne Mountain and stopped at a viewpoint at high elevation. The viewpoint provided us with a sight that I would have only been able to describe as beautiful before taking this class. However, I arrived to the location prepared to analyze the picture from the eyes of an environmental historian. The view that I examined closely resembled the one of this picture. We all bundled up before dismounting the bus and then took 20 minutes to make observations on the landscape.
Each one of our personal histories shaped the way that we viewed the land. By noticing simple observations such as color and shapes (nothing that a child could not do), we were able to see ideologies that subsist in the land. We were essentially putting all of out efforts to think like children; using simple evidence to inquire and learn about the world we live in.
As a class, through discussing everyone’s observations and hypotheses, we were able to identify problematic situations in a holistic manner, acknowledging all the historical factors without casting blames. With my freezing cold hand, and the wind blowing in my face, I stared below at Colorado Springs and finally felt that I understood the city and natural environment that I sometimes call home (and sometimes am very hesitant to call home too!). I practiced the skill of viewing landscapes from the eyes on an environmental historian by making observations and deductions that illuminate the interconnectedness between different factors and ideologies acting on the land. I am practicing these skills right now, attempting to make sense of all the mountains and towns I see outside my window. Honing my inquisitive curious mindset, just like a child, as I search for the meaning hidden behind all the different colors that create these scenic images that are passing in front of my eyes.
Hello! My name is Chelo and I am majoring in Education Studies at Colorado College. I was provided with the opportunity to create a blog about the course titled Topics in Environmental Social Sciences: State of the Rockies: Conserving Local Landscapes taught by Tyler Cornelius. I will start off by explaining how I ended up taking this course.
Three weeks ago, I graduated from the Teaching and Research in Environmental Education (TREE) Semester program. TREE Semester is a 16-week residential program at the Catamount Center in Woodland Park, CO. Aside from teaching 5th graders and high school students Environmental Education (EE) in the outdoors, and living in a small learning community with eight other students, I also spent my time working on a professional portfolio to submit to the Colorado Association for Environmental Education (CAEE) in hopes of becoming a masters certified environmental educator. I have always had a passion for working with children and for learning science; however, before this semester I had not pursued anything related to science at CC. This fall I found myself deeply inspired by my studies and motivated to take on a career in Environmental Education. I recognized that in order to be a successful environmental educator and prepare my students to become environmentally responsible citizens in their private and public lives, I also needed to become more knowledgeable about environmental science and issues.
As I was searching for courses that would help introduce me to the Environmental Issues minor, this block caught my attention and triggered my enthusiasm. The course models experiential learning at it’s best and takes full advantage of the block plan and the geographical setting that CC has to offer.
Now, I am already three days into the class and couldn’t be more excited about the week ahead. Our classroom community (which already feels close and dialogic AND consists of two of my close friends from TREE) has spent the first few days learning about environmental history. Yesterday we went on a short field trip to Stratton Open Space, to practice our observation and deduction skills (I will explain this further in my next post!). Tomorrow I will have to take a break from moving into my off campus house, leaving my room stacked with boxes and suitcases, because at 7:30 AM we are hopping on a bus to the CC’s Baca campus located in The San Luis Valley.
I have been to Baca twice before and have had unforgettable experiences. The first time I went was with my First Year Experience (FYE) class. At the Baca campus my class was able to study philosophy in depth, bond with one another, and go on adventures. We visited the sand dunes and the hot springs. I returned to Baca my sophomore year for an education course titled Cultural and Linguistic Diversity in The San Luis Valley. For that course our class visited and volunteered at several rural schools in the area. Through interacting with the valley community, bonding with my CC peers, and forming a connection with the natural environment, Baca has become a special place for me.
For this half block we will be at Baca from Thursday morning until Saturday night. There is no service on the Baca Campus so who knows when I will be able to post about my next experience in the valley. Keep up with my blog for some stories, thoughts, and pictures. Feel free to comment or ask any questions that you might have about the course or about me. Thank you for reading my first blog post ever!
I would like to acknowledge the many who have contributed to this amazing time on the ice.
My experience on the ice was made possible by Christine Siddoway. A wonderful advisor and mentor, and brilliant professor, Christine has guided me throughout my studies at Colorado College and furthered interests in structural geology, geophysics, and polar science. Her commitment to research is inspiring, and her extraordinary effort and generosity to allow this experience is unparalleled. Thank you so much, Christine!
Thanks to everyone in the field with me this season, including Maya Becker, Chris Bertinato, Alex Boghosian, Beth Burton, Fabio Caratori Tontini, Isabelle Coredero, Tej Dhakal, Nick Freason, Grant O’Brien, Dave Porter, Scott Springer, Sarah Starke, and Kirsty Tinto. Each member was extremely helpful and great to work with in the field, often taking a step away from their current task to share a bit of cool science. Thank you, Kirsty, for sitting down with me to teach the ways of GeoSoft in preparation for modelling for my thesis, and for being the best field PI ever. Thanks to Fabio, Grant, Dave, and Beth, for your patience in training me on how to work with the gravimeters. A special thanks to Beth, who worked with me closely on the night shift to help overcome QC struggles and provide additional gravimeter training.
I would like to thank the Air National Guard for their hard work, lugging and loading our gear onto the plane, and for flying slow and straight for 8 hours at a time.
Thank you to all ACS contractors for operating the station, handling logistics, and for essentially keeping McMurdo running smoothly.
Thank you, Megan Anderson, for providing technical support and the equipment so that I may carry out magnetic susceptibility and density measurements, which will be used in my thesis.
Thanks to Cody Duckworth, for assisting me in the density measurement process.
And thank you, Noah Villamarin-Cutter, for your help in ArcGIS and your ability to skillfully resolve GeoSoft issues.
Without the support and funds from the Colorado College Natural Science Division, Colorado College SEGway Fund (through Tess Powers and Sandi Wong), Colorado College Geology Deptartment, and the NSF Antarctic Integrated Systems Science Award 1443497 to Christine Siddoway at Colorado College (www.nsf.gov/awardsearch/showAward?AWD_ID=1443497 ), this trip would not have ultimately been possible.
Finally, I owe huge thanks to my parents, who have supported and encouraged me in all my decisions. Thank you, Mom & Dad!
This concludes my field study blog.
Thanks to all for reading!
On Sunday, the day after our last flight, I went on a hike to Castle Rock with a couple other ROSETTA folk.
Being the only day in the week that we are not on the schedule to fly, of course, the skies were clear and visibility as good as can be. The wind, however, was a different matter altogether. As soon as we managed to find our way out of town to the trail, we were subject to the most chilling winds.
Along the trail there are small dome structures called apples …
…that provide emergency food and shelter. We stopped inside the first apple to check out the interior and escape the unrelenting wind.
Due to time constraints (i.e., a lack of pee-bottles), we chose not to do the loop but to hike to Castle Rock and do the climb up to the summit, which just opened for the season that day.
The Castle Rock climb is a decent scramble…
…and ropes are placed along the route to aid the climb.
The last survey flight was completed on December 3rd. This flight concentrated on an area in the southern part of the Ross Ice Shelf. Travelling anywhere on the shelf requires some work.
Although the IcePod remains attached to the lever arm on the plane until surveying ends for the season, the gravimeters are removed from the plane after each flight and loaded back on before take-off. The gravimeters need to be properly disconnected and wrapped in blankets before a cargo takes them via tractor to the plane.
As soon as the gravimeters are on the plane, they are surveyed.
Once the pod is warmed up, sensors are checked, gravimeters are loaded, and a survey is completed, the team is then ready for take-off.
The flight included many short, critical lines that crossed the grounding line of the Ross Ice Shelf.
Each turn on the western side of the shelf provided spectacular views of the Transantarctic Mountains…
… which divide East and West Antarctica.
The aircrew are super friendly and had no issues with me entering the cockpit several times to set up cameras, and they even let me hang out during a turn and for landing.
Despite the many flight cancellations, this season’s data collection was certainly a success.
The Ross Ice Shelf (RIS) is a floating extension of the West Antarctic Ice Sheet that occupies the southern Ross Embayment in West Antarctica, and acts as a buttress to the flowing Antarctic ice sheets. The bathymetry beneath the RIS in West Antarctica controls the circulation of sub-shelf ocean water that may warm the ice shelf from below, with consequences for shelf stability and climate warming.
Sparse depth-sounding data from the 1970’s Ross Ice Shelf Geophysical Glaciological Survey (RIGGS) provide control points, but the map produced from this survey is at 55 km resolution. ROSETTA-Ice will improve upon this, mapping the RIS using 10 km resolution.
The sub-RIS bathymetry cannot be measured directly. Whereas marine surveys might be able to map bathymetry using echo sounding or by towing a gravimeter, we cannot do that because there is a massive ice shelf in the way. The bathymetry must be determined through the use of geophysical data— gravity and magnetic data, specifically —to determine the subsurface geology, which can then be applied to interpretations of the probable bathymetry beneath the shelf. The subsurface geology can be constrained by airborne gravity and magnetic data, that reflect the size, type, and origin of geological features, such as igneous bodies or fault zones.
The aim of ROSETTA-Ice (A systems approach to understanding the Ross Ocean and Ice Shelf Environment, and Tectonic setting Through Aerogeophysical surveys and modelling) is to learn more about the interactions between ice, ocean, and underlying rock.
ROSETTA-Ice uses IcePod…
…a suite of instruments that includes three gravimeters, a magnetometer, LiDar, visual and infrared camera, DICE (deep ice radar), SIR (shallow ice radar), and a PNT (position, navigation, and tracking) system that includes GNSS and IMU.
Stay tuned to see the IcePod in action!
Every morning, I take a ~20 minute shuttle to get to work.
We work in a RAC tent…
…located on Williams Field (an airfield) so that we have easier access to load and unload our equipment.
Our RAC tent is split into two main rooms: the front room is our office space and the back room is our lab space.
Setting up the tent itself was an entire project. My intention was to upload a stimulating time-lapse of the process, but unfortunately McMurdo’s connection is quite stubborn.
The office is where all the data archiving, QC’ing and processing occurs, to ensure that each flight of data is sound and secure. The lab space contains all the hardware that will be installed in the plane.
Obtaining a grant from the National Science Foundation (NSF) was a hard-fought process, and given the high frequency of flight cancellations due to gnarly weather and/or mechanical issues, we use our time on the ice as efficiently as possible. Each opportunity to fly is critical, the data we collect from each flight precious. After each flight – the goal is to fly twice a day – the data is carefully archived and copied to several safe locations. The data is then QC’ed. Lines, or even segments of lines for flights are closely examined so that we can be confident that our surveys are producing good, usable data.
These processes can take many hours, since our survey collects data using a variety of instruments. For details on methods and instrumentation, check the blog soon!
After many hours in the RAC tent sitting and working with computers, preparing for and eager to begin surveying, we needed to stretch our legs.
I joined a few other ROSETTA-Ice members on a night hike to Observatory Hill, or Ob Hill, as it is commonly called.
The trail is steep and partially covered in snow, but avoiding the loop and hiking just to the summit and back totals less than a mile. Ob Hill is accurately named, and rewards hikers with unobstructed, beautiful views.
We had warmed up quite quickly from the climb and having gained some elevation the relentless sunshine felt even stronger, so we relaxed on the summit for about a half hour. There is a cross at the summit, erected in 1913, and it is a memorial for Captain Scott and his crew who died in 1912 on their trek back from the South Pole.
We were surprised to realize it was 10:00 pm when we got to the bottom – it is easy to lose a sense of time when the sun never sets!