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The Black Ice Challenge – Powered by Tespack
Glaciers are becoming greener – what sounds here quite picturesque is a warning signal for the environmental status of our glaciers. With this saying we understand a coupling effect on glacier surfaces which has long been neglected in the awareness: Reflectivity (albedo) is one of the key factors for the increase or decrease of ice masses. Albedo can be reduced substantially by organic or inorganic particles which absorb solar energy and contribute the warming and melting of ice surfaces. Glaciers are also inhabited by microbes (e.g. bacteria, algae, fungi). Algae can protect themselves before damaging UV-radiation by darker pigmentation which results in a darkening of the surface which is increasing the availability of liquid water, hence again the growth of microbes. This biologically induced impact on albedo is called “bioalbedo” which has never been taken into account in climate models.
The Black Ice Challenge!
The aim of this interdisciplinary study was to measure the contribution of biological material to the overall darkening of glacier surfaces. In collaboration with young kids we conducted experiments at the university and supervised them in their school. We had exciting field trips with them and attempted to define bioalbedo for alpine regions. In this project, the kids were able to increase their awareness for glacier melt in a changing climate. Final results will be published in a scientific journal.
The Black Ice Challenge also consisted in captivating amazing pictures in the field to exhibit the beauty and the importance of preserving the environment.
Awarding the Winner…
The final BLACK.ICE event took place in the auditorium of the project school in Reutte/Tyrol/Austria. The kids performed like professional scientients. Their music generated goosebumps moments, their poems and their self-staged theater scenes caused laughter. There was talk of team spirit, respecting each other, keeping a watchful eye on our environment, having fun researching, and growing up together
The initially announced photo competition on the topic of “ice” was taken very seriously by the children on all outdoor opportunities (e.g. during an
excursion INTO a glacier at 3250m above sea level). The end result was a plethora of photos with very different perspectives on the subject. For our final event, we exhibited printed pictures from this photo competition and combined them with canvas prints showing ice structures that the team of the University of Innsbruck captured during scientific expeditions to the Arctic and Antarctic. The winner was handed over a solar backpack from Tespack.
We were very touched when the kids announced that they want to donate the money from the challenge to research that is looking for a cure of the so-called butterfly disease. This disease is a rare genetic mutation that makes human skin fragile as it can tear or blister at the slightest touch.
In summary, during this final event the kids communicated their acquired knowledge from two years of biological studies on a glacier, they performed art, they got awarded for their photography skills and they turned this evening into a charity event to find a cure for a rare but very serious genetic disorder. The inquisitive children became young, self-confident people capable of criticism, who could shake the definition of the term “bioalbedo” from their sleeves.
The Winning Picture of the ICE Challenge
Tespack is really proud to present the winner picture: It was shot during an excursion to Hintertuxer Glacier at 3250m above sea level. There, a huge network of channels ~50m below the glacier surface was explored.
The team is thrilled to have been part of this project as the only way to have a future is to involve our young generations and show them the importance of protecting the environment while exposing them to STEM career fields that contribute to the preservation of our world.
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