It's incredible to have access to so many leading researchers in the field

Jodie Geldard PAC Alumni
Jodie Geldard
Expedition Guide and Glaciologist and Postgraduate Researcher in Glacial Geomorphology
MSc Polar and Alpine Change alumni
PAC alumni Jodie Gelard discusses her time as a student at Sheffield and her career since graduating.

What has been your career path since leaving Sheffield?

Six-weeks after completing my masters degree, I was on my way to Antarctica to work as a Polar Expedition Guide and Glaciologist. This is something I’d worked towards for almost a decade, seeking experiences and qualifications which would lead me towards this opportunity.

Being in the field has always sat alongside research for me, and so it was never going to be long before I stepped back into active research. In 2022, I embarked on a PhD in Glacial Geomorphology with the aim of pursuing a career in Geomorphology.

What does your current role involve on a day-to-day basis?

What Expedition Guiding and Field Research have in common is that weather plays a very important role in day-to-day activities, and therefore so does flexibility! As an Expedition Guide, I seek out the true wonders of the polar regions for people to experience, whether that be the glaciers and ice sheets, the wildlife and flora, or the history. I lead people on land in polar bear and fur seal territory (although not at the same time!) and on the water as a Zodiac (inflatable rib boat) driver.

As a PhD researcher, I like to balance my time between the office and laboratory, with researching in the field and science communication. As well as my research project, I’ve also put time into training through attending workshops on themes such as engineering geology, glacial geomorphology, programming in R and Python, age-depth modelling, publication and communication, and careers.

What are the most rewarding aspects of your job?

Discovery! There are so many parallels between research and guiding, but discovery is the most rewarding aspect of both for me. Being a PhD researcher offers flexibility in terms of my exact research direction, which is exciting, and means I can follow a direction of interest and discover something new. I’ve already discovered things during the first 3 months of my PhD which were totally unknown beforehand!

The most rewarding part of expedition guiding is seeing other’s faces light up as they experience the magic of the polar regions. It’s the same reason I keep returning. Every day is different, and you never know what’s round the corner, which is exciting in itself!

What did you enjoy most during your time in the School of Geography and Planning?

The School of Geography and Planning at Sheffield is unique as there are so many cryospheric researchers all in one building. It’s incredible to have access to so many leading researchers in the field, and this means opportunities for possible research projects are vast. I enjoyed meeting many of the researchers during the PAC course, either through modules, fieldwork, or the well-attended coffee mornings and research seminars.

Were there any modules, lecturers or researchers who really inspired you?

The regular research seminars were really inspiring as they showcased a broad range of cryospheric research. Dr Felix Ng, Director of the PAC Course, lead the ‘Current Issues in Polar and Alpine Science’ module, which involved in-depth discussions of the seminars and exploring the research through analysing scientific papers. Professor Chris Clark’s longstanding research on the British and Irish Ice Sheet was really inspiring and, as my research project supervisor at Sheffield, he really helped guide me in the direction of my thesis write up through in-depth discussions on landscape development.

The BRITICE CHRONO project, led by Professor Chris Clark, is also very inspiring towards my current PhD research on the Loch Lomond Readvance in the Scottish Highlands. The field class to western Greenland, led by Dr Andrew Sole and Dr Stephen Livingstone, was a highlight of the PAC course and something I found massively inspiring. Our field camp overlooked the Greenland Ice Sheet, and each day we conducted research on the ice sheet itself and within the surrounding landscape. I gained experience in field techniques such as moulin dye tracing, mapping ice sheet geomorphology and understanding landform-sediment processes, hydrological monitoring of an outlet glacier, measuring ablation using ablation stakes, and GPS-monitoring of ice velocity.

This research allowed me to understand summer dynamics of the Greenland Ice Sheet and its outlet glaciers, something which has inspired my presentations as an Expedition Guide and Glaciologist, and also my current PhD research of reconstructing ice dynamics.

What skills did you develop at Sheffield that you use in your current job?

Fieldwork skills, ArcGIS, independent research and presenting have been some of the most useful skills to me in my current role. My PhD research involves mapping palaeo glacial landsystems and so the skills I developed in field mapping and ArcGIS while doing my masters have been very important. The PAC conference helped me to improve my oral and poster presentation skills, including the creation of these resources, and these skills have been invaluable to me as an onboard Glaciologist and PhD researcher. As an Expedition Guide, field safety and navigation are imperative skills to have, and so having a knowledge of landscape development, mapping and using GPS equipment has been incredibly useful.

What aspects of your experience in undertaking the PAC Research Project have helped you in your current job?

I gained knowledge and field experience in remote regions during my research project which certainly helped me to not only stand out in a competitive job market but also to work successfully in my current roles. I developed my own masters research project, which involved mapping a full high-Arctic valley system. The project incorporated almost 3-weeks of fieldwork in Polar bear territory, passing a field safety course, analysing remote sensing, mapping and improving my knowledge of geomorphic processes and landscape development. This research project gave me the opportunity to develop skills such as field safety, mapping and ArcGIS, as well as gain knowledge in landform-sediment processes, which have ultimately helped me to secure positions as an Expedition Guide, Glaciologist and Postgraduate Researcher.

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