Supporting the study of lichenometry in the Zillertal Alps, Austria

By Alpkit

Joshua is the latest individual to receive funding from the Alpkit Foundation. He would like to research the lichen communities of a recently de-glaciated mountain valley in the Zillertal Alps, Austria. Currently studying a masters in Environmental Science, Joshua is undertaking the trip in order to complete his dissertation. The project will involve studying lichen on glacial moraines to date their time of formation (Lichenometry), giving a greater understanding of glacier retreat over the past 160 years. This information can be used to give a better understanding of anthropogenically forced climate change and thus help to protect the rapidly diminishing land forms that are alpine glaciers. The project will last for approximately 2 weeks in June and July this year.

Joshua explains to us why he is doing the project. “I am undertaking this project firstly as it forms the main component of my master’s degree, which will conclude as a 30,000 word thesis on "Testing the reliability of lichenometric dating in continental high-altitude sites.” Lichenometry as a geocronolocial dating tool is an important and highly popular scientific method used in glacial geomorphology, archaeology and has more recently been used to date historic earthquakes. Some of the main advantages of using lichenometry to date glacial moraines are that it is a cheap and fast process that does not require complex or expensive equipment. Alongside this it can be used to give reliable age estimations up to the past 500 years, the period in which other dating methods such as radiocarbon dating have a weak precision.

The reasons I decided to undergo an Environmental Science MSc, and subsequently this specific project, is due to my love of the outdoors; the mountains and glaciers (with their mysticism and magic that has drawn many a mountaineer before me). I also achieve a sense of pride whilst trying to gain and discover a greater scientific understanding; allowing us to better understand our world, the systems involved within it and the damage humans are causing on our one and only home. My individual work will form a platform from which a better understanding of natural systems can be formed, and once we better understand a natural system we will be better prepared to protect and preserve it.”

The Alpkit Foundation are helping Joshua with the cost of flights to Austria. Not only will this project benefit Joshua and his research project, but the scientific community also, as at present lichenometry is in a period of uncertainty. Environmental studies, like this one, are crucial in broadening understanding of the world in which we live in, helping us to preserve it for future generations.

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