Friday, 20 July 2018

Teaching Alpine Processes - in Arolla Switzerland with the University of Lausanne

Inspirational view of Mt Colon on the first day of work
I have just returned from an inspirational week teaching a new Lancaster University 3rd year undergraduate module in Arolla in the Swiss Alps.  The new module,"Alpine Environmental Processes", was run in collaboration with our colleagues at the University of Lausanne, arising from a series of long term discussions we have shared seeking a strategic partnership.  

Particular thanks and credit must go to Professor Stuart Lane from University of Lausanne who was our collaborating partner and helped lead the way for us Stuart has been researching in Arolla since his first visit back in 1989.   Stuart is an inspiration. 

Stuart Lane with the students

The LU team, myself L and Rob Mills R

Our base was the stunning Hotel Aiguille de la Tza Arolla and I was accompanied by the talented Dr Rob Mills from Lancaster, who also has prior experience researching in the valley.

The format was that Lancaster and Lausanne students partnered together and chose to focus on some detailed aspects of alpine environmental processes, choosing from a number of thematic areas.  This year, as it was a pioneer, the Lancaster group was relatively small and we had groups focussed on studying soil respiration in relation to avalanche damage, studying the effects of soil nutrient cycling in relation to an altitudinal gradient, studying processes leading to glacial ice melt in relation to moraine cover, and finally studying rates and properties of glacial meltwater.

On the medial moraine of the upper Arolla Glacier

Studying soil respiration with an altitudinal gradient

It was a marvellous week that I found it rewarding and inspiring, and I was particularly excited to be able to walk on the Haute Arolla Glacier and see processes close up, some of which took me back to my undergraduate days.  I took lots of photographs which you can view here and also made a film which can be viewed below, and we have a hashtag #LECAlpine.  I cannot wait until next year!

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