PhD update: April 2016

This month has been a mixed bag, beginning and finishing in Svalbard with brief visits to Edinburgh and Vienna in between. It’s been a very intense month of writing, conferencing and fieldwork. I’m a bit burnt out but it is not over yet…

The month started with travel as I had finished up in Svalbard and was heading back to Edinburgh. I spent 2 weeks in Edinburgh continuing thesis writing, which is still going strong. I had my 24-month PhD review which all seemed positive and I miraculously managed to convey the focus of my research and thesis.

The weeks went too quickly though and suddenly EGU was looming over me and I had to quickly put a poster together. The EGU (European Geosciences Union) conference is one of the biggest gatherings of scientists specialising in geosciences, held annually in Vienna. It was one of my first big conferences and was a fantastic experience (for more on my time at EGU, you can read my blog post about it here). Whilst there, I managed to meet with one of my supervisors and had a good discussion with him about one of the chapters of my thesis. It’s tickled my writing itch again and I have been writing whenever possible.

After a weekend back in Edinburgh after EGU, I flew out to Svalbard to begin fieldwork in Kongsfjorden. We are currently based in Ny Ålesund, the northerly most research town in the world, and using helicopter to fly out to several locations to install time-lapse cameras. These cameras will capture images of three separate glaciers over the course of the summer. Two cameras are positioned at Kongsbreen and Kongsvegen glaciers to monitor retreat rates, calving dynamics and fjord circulation patterns as part of the long-term monitoring project of Kongsfjorden, which is coordinated by Norsk Polarinstitutt.

Nick Hulton with one of our time-lapse cameras at Kongsbreen (May 2016)

Nick Hulton (University of Edinburgh, University Centre in Svalbard) with one of our time-lapse cameras at Kongsbreen. Kongsbreen is situated at the end of Kongsfjorden, just north of Kronebreen. Both Kongsbreen and Kronebreen have experienced marked retreat over the past couple of years, and it is suspected that current rates of retreat are linked to their vulnerability to changes in ocean temperatures (for more on rates of glacier retreat in Svalbard, see Luckman et al., 2015)

Nine cameras will be installed around Kronebreen in an attempt to acquire a three-dimensional time-lapse sequence of the glacier front. Currently 2 cameras have been deployed and we have 7 waiting to go. Unfortunately there has been a spot of wet, misty weather here at the moment which means we have been grounded for now. More information about this work has been posted as a separate blog post here.

So my month has started and ended in Svalbard. I can’t seem to get away from this place… and that’s okay! I love it out here, even when the weather is bad. I am very tired but this rain and cloud has been a saving grace in some ways as I have been able to rest for once. Next month I will be finishing up here and then returning to Edinburgh for a full month of writing (hopefully). No doubt other plans will come up though.