Dr. Joseph Cook, Free Climber

An interview with one of Experiment’s researchers

george
george
Feb 10, 2014 · 4 min read

Adventure. Excitement. Wonder.

Very few of us could say that these words apply to our everyday lives, let alone our jobs.

But Joseph Cook isn’t like most of us.

There’s been quite a bit of demand for an interview with him from our users on Experiment, so I recently sat down with him for a chat. You can find his project page here. Hurry! His project is ending this Friday (2/14).


Who are you, and what do you do?

My name is Joseph Cook and I currently work at the University of Derby in the UK. I lecture on physical geography. My research interest is in glaciology, particularly glacier microbial processes. I’m also an avid rock climber.


The view from the summit at the Incredible Hulk in High Sierra, California. Joe took a year off after getting his PhD to focus on rock climbing.


I’ve heard that you’ve climbed with Steve McClure in the past!

[laughs] That’s true — the Sheffield climbing scene is quite tight so the superstars mingle with us mortals! I was lucky enough to be part of “Team Suffer” during the year I took off and hit Malham cove with Steve a few times a week for a couple of months early last year. That season was pretty awful; terrible weather and unreliable conditions really hampered us and we have both had to dig deep to see our projects through to completion, but I managed my first three 8c’s and Steve got his new 9a+! An unforgettable season!


Streams containing biologically inoculated water in Midtre Lovenbreen, Svalbard. Microbial colonies darken the ice of glaciers and cause them to melt faster.


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Joe’s primary research in Greenland is on surface microbial colonies and the effect that they have on glacial melt. The Earth’s ice is melting faster than anyone expected and as the amount of liquid water increases, so do the surface impurities, whether they be abiotic or biological (algae, bacteria, and other microbes). This in turn melts the glacier even faster, producing a vicious cycle of accelerated warming.

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“One of my goals is to be able to combine my passion for climbing with glaciology.”


Surface microbes are largely responsible for the dirty appearance of the ice in this image. Image taken from Joe’s 2010 expedition to Greenland.


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How did you get interested in glaciology? Was that your childhood dream?

[laughs] No, I actually wanted to be a scarecrow when I was little. I think it was from a TV show, I’m not sure.

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I was originally studying the polar caps on Mars and trying to draw analogues between them and the ice caps here on Earth during my PhD.


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“Then I realized that I was more interested in just studying the stuff we have here on this planet because it was much more tangible and I was able to measure things empirically. Professor Andy Hodson, whom I was extremely lucky to work with, introduced me to the field of glacier microbiology and I’ve been hooked ever since.”

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Joe mountain biking the “Full Enchilada” trail in Moab, Utah

How can we find out more about your research?

I have a project on Experiment where I’m raising funds for a trip to Greenland. You can also check out my blog for more information about my glacial research.

If you have any questions, you can leave comments on my project page and I’ll answer them!

Yesterday’s Future, Delivered Today

A collection of interviews with researchers from Experiment

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    george

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    Yesterday’s Future, Delivered Today

    A collection of interviews with researchers from Experiment

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