The impact of climate change is particularly noticeable in the Alps due to its effects on glaciers and permafrost. The last few years have seen an increase in the number of landslides, debris flows and other collapses directly linked to the consequences of the melting of ice masses and normally frozen rocky areas. These geophysical phenomena can and will, at least in part, call into question certain human activities in the high alpine valleys as well as urban planning. Beyond the ecological problems which are already dramatic in themselves, the consequences generated are also economic and political. It is therefore vital to closely monitor the state of these glaciers and their evolution. Due to the large amount of glacial expanses present in its massifs, Valais, located in the heart of the Alps, is a territory particularly suitable for the study of alpine glaciers. The organizers of the Inside The Glaciers project decided this year to carry out their investigations on various Valais glaciers.
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This project will take place over a period from August to November 2021 in the Swiss Alps, more precisely in the canton of Valais, according to a traveling route that will allow you to explore and study from inside and outside the following glaciers:
The objectives of the Northern side of the Alps project are as follows :
- GLACIOLOGY: Carry out glaciological surveys on glaciers and in contact caves where the presence of water and air simultaneously has a significant impact on the process of ice melting and collapse. This work will be carried out by Doctor Davide Fugazza of the University of Milan in collaboration with the organizers (Alessio Romeo and Francesco Sauro) and the caving technicians, through field investigations, surveys with high resolution drones and satellite images.
- MICROBIAL ECOLOGY: Perform samples of bacteria present on glaciers as well as in cavities in order to establish connections between these different groups. This study will be carried out by professors Andrea Franzetti of the University of Milan-Bicocca and Roberto Ambrosini of the University of Milan.
- NANOBIOCHEMISTRY: Take samples in order to study mineral interactions / extremophilic microorganisms, verify the presence of pollutants (organic elements, heavy metals, nanoparticles and microplastics) and study the resistance of these extremophilic microorganisms in the presence of these pollutants. These investigations will be led by Doctors Roberta Brayner, Nguyêt-Than Ha Duong, Benoît Piro and Yann Sivry from the University of Paris-Diderot as well as by Professor Nicolas Menguy from the University of the Sorbonne.
- CAVING: Explore endoglacial cavities in order to better understand endoglacial hydrology.
- DOCUMENTATION: Shoot the sequences of a film recounting the work and the explorations carried out during the project.
The Northern side of the Alps project led by explorer and photographer Alessio Romeo and Professor Francesco Sauro will rely on the active participation of research centers, companies (for 3d digitization) and internationals caving associations.