Ulyana Nadia Horodyskyj—Scientist and Alpinist
CHANCES ARE THAT if you study climate change, as 32-year-old Horodyskyj does, you’re heading to some of the most extreme places on the planet: the icefields of Mount Everest, the fjords of Baffin Island, the glaciers atop Kilimanjaro. That’s because it’s those places where the effects of a changing planet are often most easily observed.
“For me, science and adventure go hand-in-hand,” she says. The scientist, part-time professor, and assistant mountain guide has been tracking snow and ice conditions since 2008. In 2016, she founded Science in the Wild to bring adventurous citizens along to help collect data and see science in action. Her latest research, studying the impact of soot from North American wildfires, took her to Norway’s desolate Svalbard archipelago in 2018, with a documentary film coming this year about climate change and industrial pollution.
Science has taken you to some extreme places. What’s been the most remote?
“The Coronation, an outlet glacier of the Penny Ice Cap on Baffin Island. To get there, me and a teammate flew a Cessna 210 from Boulder, Colorado, all the way to Baffin Island. It was challenging—lots of crevasses—and we skied over 50 miles. My sled, filled with instruments and samples, was about 75 pounds.”
Why did you start Science in the Wild?
“When I was staying in villages in Nepal, I’d do most of my work in the communal dining rooms and I would get a lot of questions. Everyone wanted to know what I was doing, so I started inviting them out. Science is such a conceptual thing. This makes it tangible. Especially when it’s something as important—and politically charged—as climate change.”
What have the Svalbard trips been about?
“The snowpack there is melting faster and faster, and one of the reasons is soot from the wildfires in North America. The particles are very small, but they’re dark, so they absorb more of sun’s rays than clean snow and ice. You just don’t think about the global impacts of things like wildfires in California. Or pollution. These trips are about the bigger picture, looking at these kinds of far-reaching impacts.”
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