What we are all about

Living on the Edge is the field study of earthquakes, volcanoes, and other hazards where tectonic plates collide. Field studies focus on understanding the science behind natural hazards that lead to catastrophic events and subsequent loss of life. Fieldwork is aimed at recognizing hazards and understanding the processes behind the hazards. The blog chronicles the participants and their experiences in Alaska Summer 2009

Sunday, June 21, 2009

Matanuska Glacier!

SOO We have a weak connection at the main gate of the Glacier Park Campground, so here's an unexpected updated!  Read what the students have to say so far!

Ed Milde: I am both a Geology and Environmental Science Major.  I am a rising junior at Union, and this is my first trip to Alaska.  So far the trip has been more than I could have ever hoped for.  We are only three days into our stay and already I have seen and done things that I never thought I would be able to do.  Yesterday we spent the day in Anchorage and the town of Palmer.  After that we travelled to the Matanuska Glacier, which is where I am writing this entry.  It’s an incredible view and we can see the glacier clear as day from our camp sight.  Today we went onto the glacier itself, and spent the entire day there talking about the different aspects of glaciers and how they change throughout the years.  The scenery here is absolutely incredible.  As we were hiking yesterday one of the other students here commented on how the mountains in the background looked like they were painted there and weren’t real.  In the glacier we visited a place called Hidden Lake.  It was an enclosed turquoise lake within the glacier itself, completely closed  off from the world.  It was incredibly serene, probably one of the calmest places I have been in a very long time.  It is surreal here, especially for a kid who was born and raised in Brooklyn.  I haven’t seen nature like this my entire life, and I cannot wait to see the other places we are going to go.  I am easily entertained; I am still reeling from the fact that we have seen three moose up here.  I have never seen a moose in my life.  That is a big deal for a city boy.  Anyway so far the trip is incredible, and I can’t wait to see more of Alaska, hopefully everything is good for you wherever you might be.  Thanks for reading.

Shabana Hoosein: Hi there! I am an Environmental Science major on the Ecology track. I am a rising junior and this is not only my first trip to Alaska but the west coast in general. I’m really loving Alaska so far. Its so surreal that I have to remind myself that I’m here every two seconds. Most of the time I think a lot of things here are the same, but they’re actually very different! Things like the time difference, the Universities, and especially the whole sleeping during the day thing. Oh and did I mention the glacier that we hiked today? Yea that’s pretty different. Matanuska glacier was unlike anything that I would have ever imagined. Coming from Long Island, we don’t have much land elevation, but hiking today was fun. It was almost like we were in an ice jungle gym! Surprisingly we got some plant biology in today’s hike, which was awesome! I think some people got bored after identifying a couple of plants, but I would have spent hours there! In general, every corner I turn, there’s something new and different that blows my mind. I wasn’t sure what to expect when I was on my way here, but I knew that this trip would be a journey to remember and right now I feel like it is going to be that and so much more.

Tyler Izykowski: Howdy y’all! I’m a Geology major/Environmental Science minor from Clifton Park, NY.  I’ve just finished my sophomore year at Union and am ecstatic about being up in Alaska learning about geological hazards first hand.  We just finished our 3rd day here and have already seen and experienced a lot, most notably our day spent exploring the Matanuska Glacier.  Our day began with “egg-a-muffins” at 8:00 am before setting out to the glacier.  We hiked into Hidden Lake where we took our shoes off and waded across a glacial stream.  After stopping for lunch and learning about some of the glacial debris present on the glacier, we pressed onward, climbing up and sliding down the ice until well into the afternoon.  Upon exiting the glacier, we stopped to learn a bit about plant identification and the processes of glacial retreat. Dinner consisted of a group effort of grilling anything and everything available for a smorgasbord of quesadillas.  We have a long drive tomorrow to the Alaska Range so the rest of the night we’ll just be broing out by the fire and relaxing.  So far the trip has been great and the group dynamic has been incredible!  It’s hard to imagine that a dull moment will go by on this trip considering the awesome group of people we have.  P.S. three moose and counting…

Liz Morgan:  What’s going on lower 49? I’m a Geology Major and rising junior from New York’s, Utica. Life here in Alaska is very different from what I’m used to back home. There are mountains everywhere! The people here very friendly and I’ve already gotten a business card from a Denali Commission Surveyor. She who told me if I ever decided to move to Alaska after college, to give her a call and she would gladly pull some strings and help me find a job in the Geosciences department of her office. As for today, I walked on my first glacier! It was an incredible feeling to be dwarfed by such a huge force of nature. We saw blue, white and black ice and enormous crevasses. Trust me the pictures don’t do the experience justice. After sliding about on the lower glacier for a couple hours, we were all excited to be back on more stable ground and were slightly more excited to grab some dinner. Our campsite is located about 200 yards for the glacier’s base; talk about a background for a meal, huh? As much fun as it was here, I’m happy to be moving on in our trip. Each day holds new excitement and I’m ready to experience whatever Alaska has to offer. After the trip is said and done, maybe moving to Alaska wouldn’t be such a bad idea; its state mineral is gold and 50% of the population live in one city (Anchorage). Hey, it might be fun to live in a place where there are more moose than people.   See you in three weeks friends and family! 

Tyler Willey:  Ayo all! I’m a Geology and Environmental Science major, and rising junior from Stockton New Jersey.  So far Alaska has been amazing. Pictures from previous trips do no justice for what we are experiencing first hand. Yesterday, our first full day in Alaska, we ventured over to the Alaska Volcano Observatory and the Alaska Tsunami warning center.  The AVO was a huge surprise to me, due to the fact that it was about 5 times larger than the Montserrat Volcano Observatory I visited in Montserrat this last winter. Being able to actually see a COSPEC in person, and all of the cameras and seismic monitoring on Mt. Redoubt was amazing! All together AVO had over 30 computers, which showed up to the second seismic readings and camera views of Mt. Redoubt.  After that we headed to the Tsunami center where we saw where recent earthquakes in the world, and learned about how fast magnitude and tsunami warnings are recorded and sent out all over the world. As for today, we spent most of the day playing on the Matanuska Glacier, which is conveniently located right next to our campsite. The blue color of the ice in the crevasses was so pretty, and climbing up the icy slopes was a great way to burn off all of those s’mores we devoured last night. Also, another highlight of the glacier was wading into Hidden Lake, a glacial lake located in the glacier.  The water was very refreshing to drink, however it was hard to tell whether I was walking in mud or the tingling was just the numbness in my feet. After a long day of climbing and exploring the glacier, much like a little kid, I could go for a nice nap right now. The 24 hour daylight has definitely been messing with my time schedule, and I rarely have any clue as to what time it is. Tonight, however, I am sure I will have no problem falling asleep in the daylight.  Tomorrow is a new day, and I have no doubt that I will be amazed by what else Alaska has to offer.  Catch y’all laters!!

Isy Zellweger: Hi everybody! My intended major is environmental policy.  I am a rising sophomore from Rye, NY and this is my first trip to Alaska.  After long plane rides, we all finally made it here and so far its been great. I am so excited that I have been given this amazing experience to explore the field. Yesterday we visited the Alaska Volcano Observatory and the Alaska Tsunami Warning Center- both very cool, and reassuring. It was very interesting to see all the different technologies behind monitoring volcanoes, earthquakes and tsunamis. Today we walked over to Matanuska Glacier from our campsite, which was truly amazing. Not to mention we have full view of the glacier from our tents- very beautiful. Being my first glacier visit Matanuska glacier exceeded all my expectations.  It was quite something being able to walk up onto a glacier, being able to see it first hand. We were able to see numerous different moraines, moulins,  crevasses, and glacial lakes to say the least. A few of the students were adventurous to put their feet in the water- very cold!  Overall Alaska has the most stunning scenery I have ever seen in my life. Almost in every direction you look there is a mountain range towering across the landscape, something I do not mind at all. It’s 8:35 PM right now and it honestly looks like 3:00 PM in the afternoon- this whole “it doesn’t get dark” thing is a bit confusing, but I think I’ll be able to adjust.  A part of this trip, which I am highly anticipating, is seeing the volcanoes, another incredible natural hazard. Actually I am highly anticipating every part of this trip- I can’t wait to explore more Alaska!  Goodbye everyone!

Ben Carlson: Sup everyone down south. I am from the greater Boston area (Acton, MA to be exact) and I am currently a declared Environmental Science major. These first few days in Alaska have been activity filled with barely any time to fully realize that we are thousands of miles from home despite the incredible terrain. Our exhaustion following the day of travel was immediately followed Saturday morning by a trip to the Alaska Volcano Observatory (AVO), a particularly active agency following the recent eruptions of Mt. Redoubt only 100 miles or so from Anchorage. There have been numerous eruptions lately resulting in large ash clouds that hinder the flight paths of planes arriving and departing one of the world’s most important cargo airports. We then ventured an hour North to the Alaska/Western Pacific Tsunami Warning Center which was particularly interesting as only the night before, a magnitude 4.6 earthquake shook the coast of southern California, requiring the Tsunami Warning Center to submit a Tsunami risk report which was, thankfully, quite low. We then finally arrived at the end of our first day with an immaculate view of Matanuska glacier, a ~25 mile long valley glacier emerging from the mountains into the valley we are camping at. Hiking onto the glacier was a first for everyone on the trip and was an incredible experience while looking down into the moulins and glacial lakes really provided prospective as to how immense and complicated these glaciers really are. Even though we have been in Alaska for just over 48 hours, I’m as excited as ever and cannot wait to explore the rest of this beautiful state. Peace out

Taylor LaBrecque:  Hello Everybody! I’m from Falmouth, Maine and just completed my freshmen year and am interested in environmental science. I’m so excited to be here after the long flight across the country. Our first visit here in Alaska was to AVO, the Alaska Volcano Observatory. We were able to see all the maps and cameras monitoring the recently erupting Mt. Redoubt. The images they were able to capture were unreal. We learned about the potential consequences that the volcanic ash could have on air travel and cities both near and far. In the past the ash has traveled as far down as Texas. After AVO we jumped in the car for an hour ride to the Tsunami Warning Center. There are only two in the US; the other one is in Hawaii. The center allowed us to create a tsunami using a toy model. Although it was just a model, the devastation that the giant wave created was stunning. We stopped at a couple other sites before we reached the site where we would be pitching our tents. We chose a spot where Matanuska glacier was the first thing we saw in the morning. This morning we had an early breakfast and headed out for the massive glacier. We made it much farther on it than I ever imagined. We hiked to a hidden lake near the front of the glacier where we were all able to take an ice cold drink of water. On the glacier we learned about crevasses and moulins and the complicated process by which they are created. All of us surely enjoyed the extended hours of sunshine today. Hope everyone in the Northeast is still enjoying that rain.  See you everyone.

Marisa Kwoczka:  Hey everyone! I am an Environmental policy major and a rising junior from Mendham, New Jersey. So far Alaska has been amazing! The views of the glaciers from the plane were incredible. I had to lean over the woman next to me in order to take some great camera shots. Once we arrived in Alaska, some of us went to a nearby fishing area and watched the locals fish for King Salmon. Afterwards we crashed for the night at the University of Anchorage Alaska. During our first day in Alaska we visited the Alaska Volcano Observatory and learned how the volcanoes in Alaska were being monitored 24/7. Next, we went to the West Coast Tsunami Warning Center and watched a presentation on past tsunamis and the effects on Alaska and other places around the world. Tsunamis were also being monitored 24/7 at the Tsunami warning center. Other than the tsunami warning center in Alaska, there is one other warning center in Hawaii. For the rest of the day we visited a few very scenic areas and took spectacular pictures of braiding streams and mountains. We ended the first day at a camp sight by Matanuska Glacier. On day two we spent the entire day hiking the Matanuska Glacier. All of us wanted to jump in the lake within the glacier but it was way too cold but Tyler, Izzy, and Ed managed to walk around in it. It was my first time seeing a glacier in person and I can’t wait to see more of them as our trip progresses. I was a little nervous throughout our hike because I am pretty clumsy, but I made out of the glacier okay! Our pictures look awesome and will make you will want to come and join us for the rest of the trip!  Talk to you later and enjoy our blog and pictures!

Alex Connell:  Hello! I am an economics major and an environmental science minor and I’m a sophomore from Westford Massachusetts. I have only been here for three days and have all ready had some incredible experiences. Even the plane ride had beautiful views of mountaintops and glaciers. Only hours after getting off the plane I saw the largest moose I have ever seen as well as watched a wonderful Anchorage sunset complete with a lecture about how Anchorage is under the threat of an impending volcanic eruption from Mt. Redoubt. A large-scale eruption from Redoubt could cause dramatic problems such as shutting down air travel of both people and goods into Anchorage and showing the entire city in a blanket of ash. Lucky the friendly people at AVO are constantly monitoring this volcano to protect the public from a potentially dangerous situation. It was interesting to see both the technology as well as understanding the system of informing the public in the event of an eruption from Mt. Redoubt. After that we swung by the West Coast - Alaska Tsunami Warning Center and we given a great tour of the facility as well as a presentation about both the history as well as the seriousness of being able to warning communities around the Pacific Ocean. It was incredible to see the level of sophistication and area of protection that the Alaska Tsunami Warning Center has and provides. After that we arrived at the Matanuska Glacier, which is by far the most majestic place I have ever stayed. The Glacier and mountains surrounding our campsite seem like the backdrop of a Hollywood blockbuster. We spend all of today exploring and learning about the glacier. It was my first time on a glacier and I as in awe of its size and ability to move the earth. The glacier moves through the valley dragging and depositing sediment as it accumulates and melts its ice. The melt water of the glacier is a beautiful shade of blue I have never seen in my life. Along with the massive amount of sediment moved the glacier also creates large crevasses as well as moulin’s, which are large holes in the glacier that are created by movement of the glacier and the glacial melt water. It was quite a humbling experience wandering through these massive ice formations that I will never forget. I am really excited to move on tomorrow and see what else is in store on this trip.  Talk to you later.

Editor's note - the comments are great!! Happy Father's Day everyone, and we saw another moose on the way to the gate to post this!


  1. Happy 20th Birthday to Tyler today, 6/22! This is definitely a birthday you'll NEVER forget!

    Mom, Dad and TJ

  2. Happy Birthday Tyler!!! Can't wait to hear your stories when you come back! Have a great time!


    Lisa, Jim, Ryan and Kristen

  3. Happy birthday to my awesome grandson! Look forward to the pictures and stories. What a way to celebrate your 20th birthday. Enjoy!

    We love you,
    Nana and John

  4. Glad to hear the earthquake isn't slowing you down!!!

    All the profiles/comments were great. It is nice to put names and faces together.

    Have a blast, it is still raining here in the Northeast by the way.

    Clare LaBrecque

  5. Happy 20th Birthday Tyler, looks like you're having a great time. What an adventure.

    Love your FAVORITE Aunt and Uncle, shhhhhhh
    We know who we are. xoxoxoxox

  6. Hey Tyler, Happy B'Day. Looks like a great time and a great place, wish I was with you. Take alot of photos. BE SAFE!!! All our love from your MOST FAVORITE Uncle Chuck,Aunt Kim and your cousin Zeke.

  7. Hi Tyler! Happy Birthday! Glad to see your having a great time. Can't wait to see pictures! Love you!
    Love your FAVORITE cousin- Shea

  8. I am both proud and jealous of all of you. Please catch tons of fish and update all the pictures your can! It doesn't get any better than this. Tyler Izykowski, you are now a man.
    Love, Jon

  9. Happy 20th Birthday, Tyler! I'm sorry about being a day late, however, I just got this link from your Mom. What a truly awesome opportunity you all have! Enjoy every minute. I can't wait to hear all about it when you return. After reading everyone's descriptions of the day, I was not surprised to read that you were one of the few who tested the very cold waters. Enjoy and have the time of your life!!

    Love, Debi, Jack, Meg and Sydney