A Berry College professor could be spending the summer on a research vessel in the Arctic Circle — if the COVID-19 pandemic eases up.

Associate Professor of Geology Tamie Jovanelly was selected to spend about three months aboard an old-fashioned tall ship examining climate change and water quality in the International Territories of Svalbard.

“I have been working toward this goal for the past 20 years and am thrilled to finally be going to sea,” Jovanelly said. “This will be my first trip that far north.”

Svalbard is a group of islands, an archipelago, between the Scandinavian peninsula and the North Pole. It’s on the edge of, and inside, the Arctic Circle. The largest island is Spitsbergen, followed by Nordaustlandet and Edgeøya. The largest settlement is Longyearbyen, with a little more than 2,300 residents.

Instead of being based in a town, Jovanelly will live and work aboard a tall ship moving between the various islands. They’ll navigate fjords and examine glaciers to get a better feel for the impact of climate change and water quality.

Jovanelly recently published a new text book, “Iceland: Tectonics, Volcanics, and Glacial Features” based on multiple research trips to Iceland.

“I want to include the information I learn from this project in the second edition of that textbook,”’ Jovanelly said. “I’m really excited to get a chance to gain a better understanding of the dynamics of glaciers.”

Many people have a grasp on the retreat of glaciers as a result of global warming. Jovanelly said she’s particularly interested in learning about how water melting from the top of a glacier permeates it, and then melts from the underside to cause additional slippage.

“I’m also interested in studying the large icebergs,” Jovanelly said.

She’s witnessed a lot of ice calving — big chunks falling off the face of a glacier. But she said she’s never seen some of the massive icebergs as those in the Svalbard region.

The Svalbard region was also historically known for its coal mining. The Berry professor is interested to learn about the long term effect, much of it surface strip mining, on the islands.

“I feel like all of that mining activity must have had some impact on water quality,” she said.

The good news for Jovanelly is, if the COVID-19 healthcare emergency doesn’t ease up and permit the project to go forward this summer, her participation will carry over to the summer of 2021.

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