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Anderson Grad Takes on Glacial Challenge in Alaska

Date: Aug. 28, 2001
By: Chris Curran
Photos by Colleen Kelley
Contact: Dawn Fuller
Phone: (513) 556-1823
Archive: Research News

Janelle Sikorski is in love...with glaciers. She says she cried when she saw her first one this summer...the jagged ice of Matanuska Glacier in south central Alaska. Matanuska quickly became her favorite, even though she's taking part in a University of Cincinnati course, which will take her to more than a dozen glaciers before it ends Aug. 27. Janelle Sikorski

"It became my favorite, because it was the first one I saw in person...the first one I actually got to walk on...slip on...and sink knee deep into the ooze."

Still, Sikorski, a 1998 graduate of Anderson High School and a senior at UC, has never met a glacier she didn't like. Does that make her a glacier addict?

"I am now," she agreed. "Once I started getting up close, seeing and touching real glaciers, it hooked me even more."

For example, Sikorski was greatly impressed by the Blackstone Glacier in Blackstone Bay near Whittier Alaska. While enjoying a brief boat tour of the bay, Blackstone gave birth -- calving off countless "bergy bits" in an explosive cataclysm.

"That sound is so incredible," recalled Sikorski, who was lucky enough to catch all the action when a wall of ice gave way.

Despite her love of glaciers, Sikorski says she's never read a glacier textbook. It's the field experience which is teaching her more about geology than she ever expected.

"I'm on a field camp high. I definitely want to come back," said Sikorski who is considering graduate school at the University of Alaska--Fairbanks(UAF). She's going to take the recommended route, visiting during the extremely cold winter months to see if she can adapt to Alaska's darker side.

Her interest in the outdoors dates back to her childhood. "Just being in Cincinnati with all the creeks and fossils is where it starts." Her eighth grade science teacher at Anderson fueled her interest in geology, and then she got the opportunity to tag along on field trips out west with her brother-in-law Gary Fligor who teaches science in Middletown.

This August, she's learning how to study glacial systems like a research scientist, working under the direction of UC geology professor Thomas Lowell. Lowell's course, Glacial Field Methods, is one of UC's most challenging from both a physical and mental perspective. Students have to use their observational skills to develop and test hypotheses about how glaciers work. That field research requires daily hikes over incredibly rugged and often icy terrain. "I survived Alaska in one piece," summed up Sikorski proudly, who also spent seven weeks in an UAF field camp before joining up with the UC group in Anchorage. Her only regret is not making it north of the Arctic Circle. She was close during field camp 200 miles north of Fairbanks, but didn't quite hit the magic line. Janelle Sikorski

She did learn a great deal about herself though. It was the first time she had been so far from home by herself. "Intimidated? That is a big YES!"

"They all knew each other, and I didn't know anyone until I got there. But I made a lot of friends, and it was hard to separate us at the end."

When Sikorski returns to Anderson Township at the end of the month, she just might shed a few more tears as she leaves her new friends and her summer love - the glaciers. But she's actually looking forward to a very simple pleasure back home...sleeping in a real bed and going out to eat "every single day!"

Read about the experiences of other students on the trip.

 
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