Icelandic Glaciers is a challenging Earthwatch-funded expedition, based in spectacular and rugged terrain. The glacial environment is highly dynamic and in Iceland, interaction with volcanoes makes it more so (Russell, 1997; Harris, 2000). Glacial floods dominate events in this environment, along with glacial surges. Our work basically aims to decode earth surface processes to try to build up a picture of past environmental change and to predict likely future events.
Like many Earthwatch projects, work is sometimes messy, we get dirty, wet, tired, cold, (and sometimes hot), we stay in tents, facilities are primitive and we work hard. Many might naïvely imagine, given some of the preconceptions about Earth Sciences, that work in this type of environment would not attract women; however, over the past six years it would be difficult to say from which gender group we have received the most volunteers. Our youngest female volunteer was sixteen years old, our oldest in her seventies and I have detected no difference in enthusiasm, interest or ability between genders or over that age range.
One of our volunteers in 1999, Pearl Jordan, a mature veteran of many expeditions, became so involved in what we were doing that it was a major wrench for her to leave the glacier after two weeks working on it. If there is any surprise at seeing female principal investigators (we currently have two) or assistants (to-date, about ten) involved in the research, it has not been particularly apparent. I recall only one early team in which one of the male volunteers found difficulty in accepting that there was a woman in charge and a female assistant with whom he had to work. Being funded by Earthwatch has been a very positive experience for me as a female researcher.