Glacier science gets a thumbs-up from users of social media

Alaska Pacific University took part in a National Park Service experiment aimed at using social media to field questions about glaciers submitted by Facebook and Twitter. Representing APU was Earth Science Associate Professor Michael Loso, who publishes frequently in peer-reviewed publications devoted to glaciology, alpine research and climate change, among other topics.

Loso was part of a Park Service panel gathered Feb. 8 in Anchorage to respond to the more than 30 questions submitted. Inquiries ranged from the technical – concerning glaciers and the climate condition known as Pacific Decadal Oscillation – to the encyclopedic, wondering how many glaciers there are in Alaska. (Answer: About 100,000, but only 600 or so are named.)

“Open forums for people interested in science are just plain fun,” Loso said. “I’ve studied glaciers for most of my professional career, but I can never predict the kinds of questions non-scientists are curious about.” For instance, one question asked about the wildest experience researchers could recall while conducting field work. Loso’s response: seeing a black bear fall into a crevasse at 13,000 feet on the West Buttress of Mount McKinley.

“I’d absolutely take part again,” Loso said, noting that the forum was a chance to highlight scientific research he conducts in Alaska parks. The Park Service said its glacier chat prompted a significant increase in website visitors.