ECSU graduate student explores Norwegian glaciers

N.E. Langhorne
November 21, 2014

Each year, Elizabeth City State University professors, students and staff who've traveled beyond American borders recount memorable trips with hopes of inspiring others to travel abroad. Education, the instructors insist, continues beyond the walls of the classrooms. Andrew Brumfield ('13), an ECSU graduate student, has vivid memories of the trip he completed just two months ago and willingly shares the details with other students. As the ECSU campus sweltered in last August's heat, Brumfield donned winter gear to hike glaciers 3,800 miles away in Norway. He graduated from the university with a bachelor's degree in engineering technology and began working. Yet, he decided to return to ECSU to pursue a master's degree in mathematics. Brumfield said he was "totally blown away" when the opportunity arose to participate in a research excursion. "I went from not even thinking about college or doing research to standing on a glacier," he said. Brumfield was part of an international group of students that traveled to Norway. Brumfield and another ECSU student, James Headen, took part in the research excursion through the CReSIS Glacier Exploration for Undergraduates program, a partnership between ECSU and the Pennsylvania State University aimed at increasing the participation of minority students in the geosciences and providing genuine research experiences. Brumfield said he learned about the trip through Dr. Linda Hayden, director of the Center of Excellence in Remote Sensing Education and Research at ECSU. The nearly month-long excursion was conducted in collaboration with the Brathay Exploration Group in Norway. It allowed Brumfield to see the effects of climate change on Norwegian glaciers up close, bringing about better awareness and understanding of the seriousness of the issue. "Because we were there in the summer months, the glacier was a far back as it can be and you could see where it was last year at this time," he said. "The instructors would tell us, 'You're the only humans to be on this part of the ground because before now, ice would cover this.'" Brumfield's adventures began in early August when he boarded a plane in Norfolk, Va., bound for Philadelphia for the first leg of the trip. From there, he traveled to England and Scotland. "Scotland is very beautiful," he said. "That is the most beautiful place I think I've seen in my life." Scotland also is where Brumfield received expedition training. Instructors taught him and others on the excursion how to use an outdoor stove, how to put up a tent, how to pack their bags and how to read maps and estimate travels. In Scotland, the group went on a two-day trek in Cairngorms National Park. The next stop was Norway. In Norway, the excursion group traveled to a glacier museum where they learned more about glaciers and climate change and underwent several days of glacier training before going on a three-day camping and trekking exploration. "We got to explore some of the ice, go through tunnels and do some ice wall climbing, which is pretty cool," Brumfield said. The group learned safety techniques like how to use an ice pick to prevent sliding and how to rescue someone who falls into a crevasse, or a deep crack in a glacier. The students had to carry kits that weighed several pounds on their treks and spent several nights in tents and in hostels. Brumfield said experiencing the excursion with an international group of students was humbling. "You would think that going abroad you would meet people who have no clue what you're talking about, but I was surprised that we had a lot of things in common," he said. "We got to know each other very well. I can almost say we were close to family through that time." Although his career in engineering may not lead him back to a glacier, Brumfield said the experience still had valuable career benefits like learning to work with people from diverse backgrounds.