Lisa White collects rock samples for science on a climb of Denali in Alaska. Photo credit: Lisa White

I have endeavored to climb Denali for several years, and through my preparation, planning, and training, realized that Denali is a place that few people will have the opportunity to experience, so I was excited to share my time on the mountain with others in a scientific way, a way that would have a positive impact on many people.  

Initially, I planned  to participate in ASC’s ice worm study, which was perfect … I would be spending half of my time on the mountain digging caches and blocks for snow walls where I could easily look for snow worms with minimal additional effort.  Not that I’m lazy, but I didn’t really plan on having much extra energy.   I was a little disappointed when the focus shifted from looking for worms to rock collection.  Rocks!  I had to take a deep breath and bite my tongue to prevent screaming that I had been carefully cutting the tags out of every piece of clothing to reduce weight!  Carrying anything extra was not in my plans.    

However, collecting rock samples turned out to be much more rewarding than I initially imagined.  With ASC’s help, I was able to work directly with Dragos Zaharesu, the Principal Investigator from the University of Arizona, to understand the importance of his research.  Dragos explained that by analyzing the microbes imbedded in the rocks to he would gain clues as to how the environment was changing in some of the world’s most remote places.  These clues could then help our conservation efforts.  I realized that I had the simple part of the task – all that I had to do was collect the rocks.   As I was doing so, I thought about the tiny microbes that had been on them for countless years, and how they would help us make better decisions about how to preserve our world for countless years in the future.  What a gratifying feeling to know that I was playing a small role in a project that could have a big impact.  And, the rocks were small enough that I didn’t even notice them in my pack!  

By Lisa White, ASC Adventurer