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Ohio State, Oregon professors collaborate on glacier research

Ohio State and Oregon’s competition on the football field has concluded, but their collaboration in another area continues.

After it was certain the Buckeyes would meet the Ducks in the national championship, Mark Carey, an associate professor of history and associate dean of the Robert D. Clark Honors College at the University of Oregon, reached out to Bryan Mark, an associate professor in geography at OSU and a Byrd Polar and Climate Research Center researcher.

“I wrote to Bryan and said, ‘Well, looks like we’re going to have to become bitter rivals.’ And he just said, ‘Bring it on.’ We joked a bit about it,” Carey said.

Carey and Mark are co-founders and co-directors of the Transdisciplinary Andean Research Network, a team of researchers whose goal is to collaborate on various projects that help people understand the environmental and human impacts of climate change and glacier retreat in the Andes Mountains in Peru.

“We’re from different disciplines, but we share the same field time, so we try to work together in the field and share ideas,” Mark said. “We’re trying to come at the same subject area from different perspectives, but while sharing the same time and space.”

Along with Carey and Mark, TARN also is composed of researchers from University of California-Berkeley, University of California-Santa Cruz, University of Texas, McGill University and the Université du Québec, Carey said.

Carey said his friendship with Mark has formed by time spent in the field in Peru and while presenting work at conferences.

“Over time, we’ve gotten to know each other better and become more like friends, and not just strictly collaborators,” he said.

Carey said he and Mark first met in 2003 at a science conference in Italy. Previously, each had worked on the same mountain range in Peru, and they soon realized they had much in common.

Over the next six years, Carey and Mark kept in contact and the concept of research collaboration began to form.

After meeting again at a 2009 glacier workshop in Peru, they decided to apply for a National Science Foundation grant. The TARN collaboration began to solidify.

In 2010, the research project Hydrologic Transformation and Human Resilience to Climate Change in the Peruvian Andes was awarded a National Science Foundation grant through the Dynamics of Coupled Natural and Human Systems program. Carey said this project transitioned into TARN.

“We’re trying to understand how the water moves down through the system, how people are affected and how people affect the water by using it — by demographic changes, by economic change — and put all that together, so we can really get a good sense from the high Andes all the way to the Pacific Ocean,” he said.

From 2011 to 2013, TARN researchers brought undergraduate and graduate students from several universities to Peru, where they examined glaciers, gathered water samples and conducted interviews and archival research, Carey said.

“The project is really teaching students how to do interdisciplinary research, to do a variety of things,” he said. “And it really helped us think through the issues and the problems by spending that time together in the field.”

Ryan Crumley, a second-year master’s student in atmospheric and climate studies, said he spent three weeks in Peru with TARN, along with Mark, his graduate adviser.

“It’s great to have these professional relationships and networks where there are other people who can speak a lot more clearly to a different aspect of the same issue,” Crumley said. “By working together, I think it really helps broaden the scope and understanding of the analysis.”

Carey said that although the National Science Foundation grant ended last October, TARN researchers are continuing to keep in contact, sharing ideas and insights, as well as working on future publications.

“TARN continues to be a pretty lively group,” he said. “There’s constant communication and traffic among all of us … I don’t have any doubt that we are going to continue working together.”

Carey said now that the dust has settled on the football national championship, and the friendly rivalry is behind them, the collaboration has grown even stronger and is moving forward.

“I actually think it’s helped bring us together,” he said.

Mark said he is currently on a four-month sabbatical in Peru and is getting ready to teach a course, Global Change in Mountains, this February at San Marcos University in Lima.

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