Team Alps 2014: Luxurious (?) Alpine fieldwork

Hi all! My name is Cianna, and I am currently in the 2nd year of my PhD in Physical Geography, studying a specific type of glacial deposit in the European Alps. My research background includes hillslope and glacial geomorphology and sedimentology with research locations in the Rocky Mountains in Colorado, the Olympic Mountains in Washington, and the Southern Alps in New Zealand.

I clearly picked this vein of scientific research based on the places I know it can take me, and this summer, I had the wonderful opportunity to spend an entire month doing fieldwork in the Austrian Alps in between my first and second years. This was also an opportunity for four undergraduates, who are interested in Quaternary glacial dynamics and modern alpine river systems, in the summer before their third years to accomplish fieldwork for their dissertation projects

There is something to be gained from rugged, camping-based fieldwork, and I have had these experiences. But sometimes, it is nice to come back to a warm dining room at the end of a long day of digging with a four-course meal waiting. It is particularly nice to have this warm dining room (with Backgammon and tea) when an incredibly wet July has barred you from going outside for safety concerns.

Team Alps 2014 descends from the Schwarzensteinkees valley to the lower valleys (Waxeggkees in the background) and our accommodations (Berliner Hütte in the background). This is an example of a BEAUTIFUL alpine day, perfect for fieldwork.

Team Alps 2014 descends from the Schwarzensteinkees valley to the lower valleys (Waxeggkees in the background) and our accommodations (Berliner Hütte in the background). This is an example of a BEAUTIFUL alpine day, perfect for fieldwork.

 

 

The fieldwork group started as six, until my supervisor (Dr. Sven Lukas) left about 10 days in. Then, it was down to me doing my PhD fieldwork and monitoring four undergraduate students as they completed fieldwork for their dissertation projects. The undergraduates worked in pairs, while I was off to my study area (with interruptions from curious horses and attention-starved sheep). We would work from shortly after breakfast to shortly before dinner, when we would all meet up again to discuss the day’s progress, questions, and stories.

Curious Horses

A herd of horses spends summers in the Schwarzensteinkees valley, my primary study site. Some are curious and nosy, others keep to themselves. It is certainly nice to have some friendly faces around on long days!

 

Little Lamb

“Pay attention to meeee! I am so much more adorable than the rocks you are trying to measure!” A flock of sheep also spends the summer in the Schwarzenstienkees valley, and are quite needy for human attention.

The amenities provided by a popular Alpine hiking hut create quite cozy fieldwork. That is, until we were stuck inside for periods of days while stuck in a cloud of relentless downpour. We quickly tired of board games, cabin fever struck, and the drying room was a terrifying place of dampness and stink. As students, we seldom paid for a hot shower and instead learned the fine art of hut trough washes in the cold bathroom under near-icy water from the tap.

Foggy Day

An example of fieldwork in “The Cloud”. Sometimes, visibility was reduced to less than 5 meters! But, that’s still better than a relentless downpour…

 

Stay tuned for more about the scientific excitement (and the despair we overcame!)…

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