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PHS students track LeConte Glacier for 30 years Glacier remains stable for past seven years

 

Submitted Photo

Petersburg High School students study the movement of LeConte Glacier with PHS teachers Victor Trautman and John Kludt-Painter, who will take over the project when Trautman retires. Shown here are the students (from left) Krissa Davis, Eva Kowalski, Fran Abbott, Sam Merifern, Cynthia Benitz and Sierra Streuli.

For the last 30 years, students from Petersburg High School have tracked the movement of LeConte Glacier and continue this tradition to this day.

PHS teacher, Victor Trautman, along with students have used approved surveying techniques to measure the terminus of the glacier. The group usually does this in the second week of May and they map it from there.

“With this map we are able to generate the general idea of whether the glacier is advancing or receding,” Trautman said. “What we have to realize is that the glacier is always moving, but then it calves off.”

That movement and calving is what is being measured by this group of students.

“For about the last five to seven years it is about the same,” Trautman said. “In a given year it will advance 50 feet or recede 100 feet, but overall the terminus has remained the same.”

Trautman explained that every day different ice is seen but the terminus itself, where it is located, is basically in the same place the second week in May every time they have gone over to look at it.

The program was started in 1983 by Paul Bowen. When Bowen retired, Trautman inherited the project and they already have a replacement, John Kludt-Painter, when Trautman retires.

“The school and Temsco have been big supporters of the project,” he stated. “Temsco has done this as a huge favor to the school for basically the cost of fuel and we are very thankful for that service.”

There is an application process for the students to become part of this program.

“We don't call it an extracurricular activity, but it is outside of class,” Trautman stated. “We use lunch time hours every Wednesday to basically practice on how to measure.”

The students apply and only six students can become a part of the program because of the space available in the helicopter.

“I have four seniors this year,” Trautman said. “I already have their replacements trained.”

According to Trautman, the students train for two years before they can go to the glacier for the actual measuring.

“There is a huge commitment involved with becoming part of this program,” he stated. “There are a couple of juniors that will get to go again this year, but they have trained for two years in order to be allowed to do this.”

Students begin the program as sophomores, juniors can apply but will spend all of their junior year training and continue training throughout their senior year to be able to join the group at the glacier.

Sophomore students will actually to train for three years as a part of the program.

“These students consider this a very prestigious activity and the school considers it a valuable program,” Trautman said. “This is something that will show up on their resume that will not show up on anyone else's. It demonstrates true commitment to whatever these students want to do.”

Trautman does not think that each of these students will become surveyors, but the ability to commit and stick to a project is much more worth the time and effort he puts into the program.

“Every time I have asked students if it was worth it, they have always given positive feedback,” Trautman said. “I don't know if they are trying to be nice to me, but with all the work that goes into this project, I would say they do believe it is worth it.”

According to Trautman, the school holds the only landing permit in that wilderness area.

“The UAS has come here to do some measuring,” he stated. “They have to land on our permit. We have a unique situation with that permit. We keep in good graces with the Forest Service and so far we have done very well.”

Trautman explained that the students are very dedicated to this program and he has enjoyed working with each and every one.

“I look forward to each year,” Trautman said. “Every year there are new additions to the program and I enjoy experiencing the excitement with the students. They make each trip new for me.”

 

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