Storm Peak Lab hosts last of university summer classes | SteamboatToday.com

Storm Peak Lab hosts last of university summer classes

Liz Forster

As skiers and boarders float past Storm Peak Lab on their way to the Chutes or Buddy's Run, scientists are studying snow composition and atmospheric conditions. Although the Morningside Lift isn't running, SPL does not halt operations in the summer, despite the absence of passersby, and this summer has been no exception.

In addition to the lab's year-round monitoring of atmospheric particles and gases, SPL hosted two summer classes of high school and college students. The lab has hosted winter classes for more than 30 years and has periodically hosted summer field classes, but never the two taught this summer.

"The lab is open to university groups across the country to use,” said SPL’s director, Dr. Gannet Hallar. "Sometimes, the lab is used for specific field study projects, but this summer, it was only used for field classes."

During these field classes, students live in the bunk rooms inside the lab, which allows them to live and breathe atmospheric science.

The first class, which ended this past Friday, included a group of junior and senior chemistry majors from Hendrix College, a liberal arts college in Conway, Arkansas.

"The Conway area doesn't have a lot of resources for undergraduates to explore specialty fields like atmospheric chemistry," said Dr. Courtney Hatch, the professor for the class. "But I had these students who wanted to explore opportunities in research at the national lab level, so we did a whirlwind tour of national labs in the Front Range and ended in Steamboat at Storm Peak Lab."

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The tour included a NOAA lab, the National Renewable Energy Lab and the National Ice Core Lab, among others. As their final stop, the students completed research projects using one of the instruments at SPL as a way to synthesize the information they had gathered at the other labs.

"At Storm Peak Lab, the students could put all of what they had learned together to make connections in what was being measured at Storm Peak and what we saw at the other national labs," said Hatch, who had met Hallar at SPL's ASCENT conference for female scientists six years ago.

Hatch has not yet received the formal reflections papers from her students on their experiences at SPL.

The second class brought high school students from the Pathways for Science program at Yale University in New Haven, Connecticut. The program was funded by a National Science Foundation Faculty Early Career Development award given to Trude Storelvmo, assistant professor of geology and geophysics at Yale University.

The students, all of whom attend a New Haven public high school and are often from underrepresented groups, were taught atmospheric and climate science during the class. Four of the students were selected to participate in field study at SPL, measuring aerosols and clouds using the lab's measuring tools.

Storelvmo was not available to comment.

To reach Liz Forster, call 970-871-4374, email lforster@SteamboatToday.com or follow her on Twitter @LizMForster