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Juneau Icefield Research Program appoints new director

Posted: November 20, 2011 - 1:07am

Many of Alaska’s glaciers may be retreating, but ice field research surges ahead with the appointment of a new director at the Juneau Icefield Research Program.

The Foundation for Glacier and Environmental Research, the nonprofit organization that supports JIRP, announced Friday that Jeffry Kavanaugh is the program’s new director.

Kavanaugh is an associate professor at the University of Alberta in the Department of Earth and Atmospheric Sciences and director of the UA Field Research Program.

Kavanaugh has conducted research on the Alaskan, Lemon Creek Glacier side of the Juneau Icefield as well as on its northern edges on the Llewellyn Glacier in British Columbia, according to a Juneau Icefield Research Program release. While at the University of Alberta, Kavanaugh’s research covered glacier dynamics, mechanics of unconsolidated materials, subglacial and groundwater hydrology, permafrost and periglacial landscapes, environmental change, glacier response to changing climate, ice core paleoclimatology

“Through my research, I seek to improve our understanding of glacial systems: how they flow and respond to forcings, how they interact with climate and sea level, how they archive past climates and how they shape the landscape,” Kavanaugh said.

A particular area of focus is fast flow exhibited by surging glaciers and ice streams.

“My current research is focused on how mechanical conditions at the glacier bed are controlled by hydraulic conditions in the subglacial water system,” he said.

Kavanaugh gets hands on with this work, in the lab and out in the field. He has developed and installed novel subglacial instruments to develop and analyze numerical models, he said.

The icefield research program is an eight-week glaciology field camp that introduces students to ice and climate research. Students travel from Juneau to Atlin, British Columbia across the Lemon Creek, Taku, Matthes, and Llewellyn glaciers, according to JIRP. Students learn about and participate in research from nunatak base camps. A nunatak is an isolated peak of rock projecting above a surface of a glacier or ice field.

Kavanaugh succeeds Interim Director Jay Fleisher. Fleisher, who led from 2009 to 2011, became director after the retirement of the program’s founder Maynard Miller. Miller founded the program in 1946.

The program is currently recruiting for summer 2012 participants. Find out more information at www.juneauicefield.com.

• Contact reporter Russell Stigall at 523-2276 or at russell.stigall@juneauempire.com.

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