Alaska Wrangell Mountains Summer Field Studies

Summer 2019 (Full Session)
Daytime EveningWeekend
Day, Evening, and Weekend
Class Size: 16
Credits per quarter

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Taught by

Shawn Hazboun
environmental sociology, energy and climate change, social science research methods

This interdisciplinary expedition in Alaska’s Wrangell-St. Elias Mountains will help students understand geophysical, biological and cultural change in a rapidly evolving setting situated in the United States’ largest national park. With glaciers flowing from 16,000-foot peaks, canyons deeper than Yosemite, and spruce-forested valleys, the Wrangell-St. Elias study area is in the middle of the world’s largest international complex of protected wilderness lands. Glaciation, volcanism, erosion and ecological succession are exposed and active, making Wrangell-St. Elias an ideal natural laboratory in which to explore Alaska’s landscape of extremes. In one and three-week backpacking trips in rugged Alaskan wilderness, including camping and hiking on glaciers, students will investigate the politics of Alaska’s protected lands and inquire into personal roles in wild lands preservation and conservation. This program considers geologic time and geomorphic process questions such as, “How did the Wrangell Mountains form and what is the history of the glaciers they support?” Hiking up from the valley floor, we ask questions such as, “What are the successional changes in fluctuating glacier-edge environments?” “What are the ecological characteristics of unique alpine habitat where Dall sheep, brown bear, and mountain goat overlap?” Quantitative methods will be used to assess botanical diversity. Throughout the program we will also study adaptations of species to the stresses of sub-arctic existence, and see first-hand the effects of climate change on the landscape. Following in the footsteps of Darwin and Linnaeus we will keep a daily natural history field journal, writing and drawing our observations for a permanent personal record of our time in the Wrangells.

The first part of the summer is quite structured, with lectures, workshops and field exercises providing a foundation in local geology, ecology, culture and policy.  Starting in Week 2, students will develop skills in backcountry backpacking and camping in Alaskan wilderness. The second half of the summer centers on field work in small, applied group projects. During a three-week backcountry expedition with one re-supply, students will focus intensively on data collection and research. The results of this field work will be synthesized during the last week of the summer, culminating with oral and written project presentations to our group, and local people interested in Wrangell-St. Elias National Park & Preserve.

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This offering will prepare you for careers and advanced study in:

Environmental science, environmental studies, natural history.


Credits per quarter

Online learning:
  • No Required Online Learning - No access to web tools required. Any web tools provided are optional.

Program Cost: $9400.  This including all expenses in the front- and back-country, transportation within Alaska to and from Anchorage, as well as 16-credits summer tuition.  The expenses not covered are travel to and from Anchorage and backpacking gear. A list of required backpacking gear can be found at:

May 4 th Deposit deadline (first half of fee)

June 1 st Deposit deadline (second half of fee)

June 28 th Summer School Tuition Due

Upper division science credit:

Student can earn up to 8 upper-division science credit if their field research project is natural science oriented and reflects upper-division quality.

Class Standing: Freshman–Senior
Class Size: 16
Daytime EveningWeekend

Scheduled for: Day, Evening, and Weekend

Advertised schedule:

This summer program runs from June 22-August 9, 2019.  Students will be picked up in Anchorage and driven to McCarthy, Alaska on June 22nd.

Located in: Olympia

Off-campus location:

The program will be based out of McCarthy, Alaska.