Girls On Ice

Girls On Ice

Photo courtesy of Jessica Badgeley

In July 2017, UW Civil and Environmental Engineering student Oriana Chegwidden left her laptop at her desk and took her hydrology outside. As a member of the Computational Hydrology group, her expertise is in projecting climate change impacts on the hydrology of the Pacific Northwest. While typically that involves running large numbers of hydrologic simulations on supercomputers, this time, it involved an engaged group of high school girls and a few pieces of paper on the left moraine of the Easton glacier on Mt. Baker. We’ll let you decide which kind of hydrology she preferred.

Chegwidden (in green in the image above) was a visiting scientist with a science, mountaineering and art summer program called Girls on Ice. Every year, the program supports a small group of high school girls on a 10-day expedition to Mount Baker, where they conduct their own science experiments while camped out on the mountain.

Keen to share some hydrology, Chegwidden helped the girls examine the landscape around them to better understand the processes behind the water in their environment. As a group, they surmised what the hydrograph of a stream fed by the Easton glacier meltwater might look like. Then, they hypothesized what those streams might look like after climate change alters the role of glaciers and snowmelt. They sketched their hypotheses of the hydrographs and then compared them with future projections from the scientific literature. They were in good agreement! It made Chegwidden wonder why more hydrologic modeling wasn’t conducted outside.

The program, a part of the umbrella organization Inspiring Girls Expeditions, is partially funded by the National Science Foundation and the University of Alaska-Fairbanks. It is also fueled by an incredible network of volunteers, many of whom are graduates of the program. If you’d like to support their incredible work, they are currently engaged in fundraising efforts for keeping their mission alive.  Please visit their website.

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