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West Chester Resident Trades TV for Glacial Studies

Date: Aug. 24, 2001
Contact: Dawn Fuller
By: Chris Curran
Photos by Colleen Kelley
Phone: (513) 556-1823
Archive: Research News

Patrick Applegate doesn't own a television set. He says it's the "ultimate defense against cable telemarketers." However, it's also the most obvious example of his outdoors lifestyle.

His love of nature and interest in photography have taken Patrick across the country, and this summer, he's part of a University of Cincinnati geology expedition to the glaciers of Alaska. Patrick Applegate on overlook from Exit Glacier hike to the Harding Ice Fields

Patrick, a 1999 graduate of St. Xavier High School, is entering his third year at UC. He's already completed his official course requirements for a major in geology, but he doesn't believe he's learned nearly enough yet.

"Dr. Lowell says no geologist can have too much field experience. Having had so many courses from him, it's interesting to see what he's been talking about."

Dr. Lowell is Thomas Lowell, professor of geology at the University of Cincinnati and the leader of the three-week Glacial Field Methods course that Patrick is taking. Thomas Lowell points out a rock that has been carried down by ice.

The course requires keen observational skills and the ability to develop and test hypotheses about how glaciers move and affect the surrounding landscape. But the course is also physically demanding, as the students spend the entire time living in tents and hiking mile after steep mile in search of new discoveries.

For Patrick, the hiking is one of the best things. He loves to discover new paths through Mount Airy Forest back in Cincinnati and rarely passes up the chance to head outdoors.

"The hiking is an end in itself," said Patrick. "One of the major reasons I chose geology is that I could spend a lot of time outdoors. My father is an engineer and spends probably 10 hours a day in front of a computer. I really respect his technical proficiency, but I don't want a job like that."

The Alaskan scenery which shifts from spreading fields of flowers to wild, rocky cliffs and the strikingly blue ice of the glaciers have certainly made an impression on all of the students in the UC course. Patrick was most impressed, though, by the evidence of the glaciers' rapid retreat in recent years.

"It's incredible to me that in 150 years, some of these glaciers have lost what might be 50 percent of their ice mass," said Patrick. In fact, the course has focused on glaciers might be a key indicator of global warming and climate change. Patrick Applegate working with Warren Huff on site at Matanuska Glacier

Patrick won't miss Alaska when he returns to Cincinnati at the end of the month. He says Ohio is his favorite part of the country, and there's always something new to discover, even in the very familiar Mt. Airy forest.

"It's great to find one of those trails that aren't on the map and follow it for awhile, then pop out someplace familiar. I can see things that other people haven't seen, and that's interesting."

Read about how another researcher has developed a geological dating game.

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