• Alaska's shrinking glaciers: integrated glaciological research for hydrological, ecological, and environmental education applications

      Young, Joanna; Pettit, Erin; Arendt, Anthony; Conner, Laura; Hood, Eran (2020-05)
      As air temperatures in Alaska are rising, glacier melt is accelerating and affecting hydrological resources and downstream ecosystem function. The extent to which glacier loss may change hydrological regimes in coastal climates, and how that may impact nearshore marine conditions, is uncertain. Moreover, from a social-ecological standpoint, many citizens today are disconnected from these types of environmental changes, in part due to isolation from visible climate change impacts. This dissertation addresses the dual need for examining recent Alaska glacier changes and resulting hydrological and marine impacts, and for exploring education strategies that leverage glacier changes for environmental identity development. In Chapter One, I present a conceptual framework that links the physical and social sciences research herein as equal components of a social-ecological system. In Chapter Two, I use a glacio-hydrological model to uncover that coastal glaciers of the Juneau Icefield have yet to pass `peak water' delivery. I also find that between 1980 to 2016, glacier ice melt increased annually (+10%, p = 0.14) and in spring (+16%, p = 0.05), leading to changing freshwater composition. In Chapter Three, I compare modeled Mendenhall River discharge to nearshore oceanographic measurements, finding that salinity and density in the upper 15 m are strongly glacially-inuenced (10 to 30 PSU and 1010 to 1023 kg m⁻³), and that glacier runoff exerts a stronger control (r² = 0.66) than total runoff. Large, signicant trends are also detected for 1997 to 2016 August modeled glacier runoff (p = 0.02, + 15%) and observed salinity (p = 0.01, -3.2 PSU), linking these phenomena and revealing ongoing changes. Finally, in Chapter Four, I analyze social science data from youth participants in a science outreach program in a climate-impacted glacier landscape. I find that better understanding ecosystem linkages and seeing the scale of glacier loss first-hand promote environmental identity development by building relatedness and pro-environmental motivation. Together, the glaciological and environmental education research herein provides diverse perspectives on improving both scientic and citizen understanding of glacier mass loss in a changing climate.