Subscribe to Newsletter

Ice Ice Baby: Glaciologist Dr M Jackson INTERVIEW

We've launched an exciting new section looking at the expanding area of expedition travel. We begin with an interview with DR M JACKSON, a glaciologist and National Geographic expert, about her life’s work and her role educating and informing travellers onboard expedition vessels.


What was it about glaciers that first attracted you?

I did not intentionally pursue a career focusing on glaciology, but regardless of whatever I was studying in school, glaciers kept popping up – they became an organising point for my career.


What do you like most about being a glaciologist?

Whether I’m researching landscape change or writing a novel, painting or exploring, glaciers are there in the front of my mind. What I love the most about glaciers is that they’re incredibly wild and free – and I feel my most alive when I am with them. 

As a glaciologist, I love that I get to shape my own career and pursue my own areas of interest in whatever form they take. There is so much to understand and study about ice that the field is incredibly wide and open.



Why are glaciers so important?

Glaciers are natural wonders. To me, they’re shape-shifters, wild and alive. They hold the keys to the secrets of both humanity’s past and future. 

They’re our global libraries, for millions of years recording the very air we breathe. Glaciers regulate our global water budget, store and release water on a planetary scale. To live on planet earth is to live on a planet with vibrant, dynamic ice.


What impact has climate change had?

At times, it is completely shattering to witness the glaciers I’ve dedicated my life to understanding and protecting dissolve away at rates never before seen in human history. 

In many ways, I’m friends with glaciers that I’ve returned to year after year after year and I care about what happens to them. 

Too often now, when I return to glaciers in Alaska, in Iceland, in Antarctica, I barely recognise the ice – it’s deteriorated so much, so fast. I fluctuate between such sadness and anger. 

The scale of glacier loss today is unprecedented and it is deeply intertwined with ongoing climatic changes. 

This is what I think about and this is what drives me to work harder, to travel on National Geographic Society expeditions and educate people about the ice they’re seeing. 

We need to learn about ice now and learn to care about ice, because we are running out of time.



Is the situation irreversible?

Too many people dismiss glaciers as un-savable – permanent victims of climatic changes. I don’t. I think we can save our world’s ice and I work each day doing original research, advocacy and communication. 

I lecture all over the world, write books, give interviews, do whatever I can to keep people talking about glaciers and thinking about a future that includes ice.


How did you come to work with National Geographic (NG) and how long have you been working with them?

I have been working with the National Geographic Society for around a decade and it has consistently been one of the most rewarding experiences of my life.



What does being a NG expert mean and what type of projects do you work on with them?

Expeditions that have a National Geographic expert are unique –passengers have continual trip-long access to some of the world’s leading experts in topics unique to each trip. 

I’m a glaciologist and have been working with ice worldwide for over a decade now and I bring an enormous body of knowledge to these expeditions. 

As an expert, I’ve also been trained by the Geographic in science communication: how to share my knowledge in a way that transcends disciplines, backgrounds and languages.


You have already been on two PONANT and National Geographic Expeditions to Alaska and Antarctica. What did you like most about these expeditions and what was your role onboard?

The two other expeditions I’ve been on in Alaska and Antarctica were simply amazing. My role was to give both formal lectures and many, many informal field talks. 

I got to talk to passengers about places where I was doing first-hand research, explain what we were seeing and what forces were at play and answer questions. 

It was great on my end to interact with passengers, learn from them and share my specialised knowledge of these remote places we visited.



You’re joining another expedition to Greenland and Newfoundland in August. What can guests onboard expect to learn from you?

I’ve been working with glaciers worldwide for well over a decade and I’m looking forward to teaching passengers everything they need to know to be able to understand the glaciers they’re seeing on this expedition. 

I’ll be giving passengers a series of talks walking them through the basics of glaciers, what is happening to glaciers in the places we’re visiting and how people everywhere are connected to glaciers.

And, of course, I’ll be ashore each day with passengers answering questions and sharing my knowledge!



What are you looking forward to most on this journey?

I have travelled to Greenland before and I am looking forward to this trip because much of my work has involved being in the centre of the island where the landscape is often entirely white: white ice, white sky, white tents. 

I’m looking forward to seeing colourful Greenland – the vivid fjords, bright blue tidewater glaciers, green mosses and lichens, and so much more. I always come away from Greenland feeling awed by the fierce tenacity of life.


What can guests look forward to on this expedition?

I’m excited for this upcoming cruise because we’ll get to see glaciers big and small – coastal tidewater glaciers cascading off some of the most remote landscapes on this planet. 

We’ll get to see land shaped each day by ice, see forces creating (and destroying) before our very eyes. Itineraries like this are once-in-a-lifetime.


M Jackson will be travelling on Le Champlain to Greenland and Newfoundland during August 2020.


All images supplied


Click here to read the latest issue of traveltalk Click here to read the latest issue of traveltalk
Written by: DR M JACKSON as told to Traveltalk
Published: 20 March 2020

comments powered by Disqus