Cusco 2015

Monday, August 10, 2015

The first ACSP-Cusco expedition was successfully completed in August, 2015. Our objective was to measure black carbon in the mountains around the region.  Black carbon is a common by-product of fossil fuel combustion and biomass burning. Black carbon is a highly light-absorbing pollutant, and along with the effects of a warming climate, it is accelerating the rate of glacier loss. Loss of mountain glaciers impacts a major water resource for large human populations, such as the city of Cusco. Understanding how local sources of pollution are affecting glacier loss can help natural resource managers and policy makers make timely decisions and better manage this critical resource

With the help of several great ACSP volunteers, and expert mountain guide, Nathan Heald, our team collected snow and glacier samples from three high mountains (Chicon, Ausangate, and Soray) in order to measure the content of black carbon.  In addition, collaborators from the local university and the National Park Service helped us collect an additional 12 snow samples from mountains the Cusco region.  Two Peruvian university students were able to participate in one of the less technical climbs and gain valuable experience in hands-on mountain science.

Expedition leader, Dr. Carl Schmitt, gave several talks at the local university (Universidad Nacional de San Antonio Abad del Cusco: UNSAAC) and met with numerous Peruvian students and researchers to discuss future research projects.  The physics department of UNSAAC requested the aid of ACSP scientists to help develop a PhD program by developing research and educational collaborations with US scientists and institutions.  Given the interest and potential for strong, long-term partnerships with local researchers and institutions, ACSP is planning another research expedition to the Cusco region in the summer of 2017.