In 2018, Cody Barnett was a University of Maine undergraduate who traveled to Alaska to participate in the Juneau Icefield Research Program (JIRP) along with two other Maine graduate students. In 2019, UMaine began offering a new six-credit field course in which students learn how to study glaciers and their surrounding environments, and the field methodologies and skills needed to conduct polar research. JIRP, established in 1946, is the longest operating field research and training program of its kind in North America. Seth Campbell, assistant professor of glaciology, and a UMaine and JIRP alumnus, directs academics and research for JIRP. Barnett, a Camden, Maine native, is now a master’s student studying glaciology at the University of Kansas with associate professor Leigh Stearns, who received a Ph.D. from UMaine in 2007.
JIRP stands for the Juneau Icefield Research Program. It’s a field program that’s been around since 1946. The program basically brings students from around the world and faculty from around the world to the icefield for a two‑month period of time.
They do a combination of research, everything from glaciology, to atmospheric sciences, to geology‑type topics. Students gain experience by actually doing research‑based activities. Last year, we negotiated to bring the program to the University of Maine.
The experience was amazing. I got to spend six weeks on the Juneau icefield in Alaska. I got to spend that time making collaborations with a large number of my peers and researchers in the field, while also learning glacier expeditionary travel techniques.
I learned a lot of field collecting methods. We collected rocks for cosmogenic nuclide dating. We collected snow samples.
The National Ice Core Drilling Program was there. They were drilling an ice core — testing their thermal drill. As students, we were able to go up to their camp and sample the ice core, as well.
In the classroom, you learn about all these different processes that are taking place in landscapes such as this. To be able to see them actually happening in real time sort of cements those foundations that you’ve been learning about.
This site itself has the actual longest record of glacier change in North America. It’s a great location to study that change over time.
It’s an absolutely powerful and inspiring experience. You get to see the glaciers change right before your eyes and feel the gravity of the situation. Honestly, you learn skills that you cannot learn in the classroom, whether it’s from glacier travel, to sampling techniques, to just living in a remote area. I highly encourage it.