APU on the Web: Candela explains icefield study for LinkTV viewers

Glacier science undertaken by double-major Sal Candela is showcased in a short film that takes viewers to one of the world’s largest non-polar masses of snow and ice.

Candela, ’15, is completing bachelor’s degrees in Outdoor Studies and Earth Science and was selected for summer 2013 fieldwork by the Juneau Icefield Research Program. It recruits students from around the world for real-world training in earth sciences, wilderness survival and mountaineering.

“Sal really exemplifies active learning at APU,” said Associate Professor Michael Loso, director of the University’s Master of Science program in Environmental Science and Candela’s academic adviser.

“Radar data collected by Sal on the Juneau Icefield will provide the foundation for a really exemplary senior project,” Loso said.

Candela joined an expedition that studied why most Southeast Alaska glaciers are melting and how they’re contributing to the global rise in sea levels.

Dating to 1948 and attracting international experts, JIRP is among the longest continuous-running research efforts of its kind. The icefield some 90 miles north of Juneau is about the size of Rhode Island and is reached by hiking and skiing through several glacier systems.

For an “Earth Focus” segment on LinkTV, Candela demonstrated the use of ground-penetrating radar. The device fits into a case resembling oversized airline luggage; it’s then dragged by a sled fixed by tow rope to Candela’s waist and assembled for field readings.

Candela used GPR to gather information from wide areas between snow pits dug by team members to calculate how much glacier melt is running into the oceans.

“If I have a question about what I’m seeing on the radar, I can go jump in a five-meter-deep hole and actually see what is there,” he said.

Visual clues include the boundary between snowfall from one year and the next, known as the annual layer. Another feature is accumulated snowfall in winter compared with loss of glacial mass balance because of melting, calving and other summertime events.

Candela used snow pits to calibrate the GPR for a fuller understanding of the icefield system. Among other field data, GPR readings are incorporated with GPS data and three-dimensional imagery.

“By pairing visual observations with what’s on the radar, it allows us to come to a much stronger conclusion about where the annual layer is or where the specific density change might be that they’re looking for in the mass balance process,” Candela said.


APU is Alaska’s private four-year baccalaureate arts and science university. We’re committed to experiential learning that incorporates Alaska as our classroom. APU is an Equal Opportunity/Affirmative Action institution.