American Alpine Club Research Grants

American Alpine Club-funded researchers have traveled around the world, from top to bottom, asking questions and digging into snow and earth seeking answers. They seek to expand our knowledge of our climbing environments; to enrich our understanding of global climber impacts; and to support and improve the health and sustainability of mountain environments and habitats.


In 2017, Dr. Alison Criscitiello and her team traveled high above the Arctic Circle to extract ice cores from beneath a midnight sun.

A short walk to work: field camp (in background) on northern Ellesmere Island consists of three tents, and also marks the spot where the Twin Otter lands and takes off. The core site is just a short walk away on the icecap, in an area free of contamination from humans and planes.

"I anticipate that the Mt. Oxford ice core will capture regional Arctic Ocean and Baffin Bay conditions as well as large-scale pollutant fingerprints."

-Dr. Allison Criscitiello

"Analysis of this valuable new ice core will allow us to investigate interactions between Arctic sea ice variability, Arctic climate, and ice cap mass balance in the far north of Ellesmere Island."

-Dr. Allison Criscitiello

Dr. Criscitiello ice-coring under the midnight sun.


Now, perhaps more than ever, it is imperative that we work to protect the spaces and places we hold most dear—our alpine environments. You don't have to travel to the coldest reaches of our planet to find opportunities to study environmental changes impacting our climbing landscapes.

Research grantee Anya Tyson, M.Sc., was awarded funding to work with young adventurers to collect data on whitebark pine and Clark's nutcrackers, two prolific and co-dependent inhabitants of subalpine environments.

One out of every two whitebark pines has perished in the last few decades due to the combined effects of an invasive fungus and a native bark beetle. Tyson's research focused on this environmental crisis by asking young adventurers to collect data on whitebark pine and Clark’s nutcrackers.

In 2017, the Clark's Nutcracker Project engaged 289 total participants in data collection, including 236 young adventurers. Once our student and instructor teams were out on their backpacking or climbing trips, they carved out time to collet data at opportunistically established survey sites.

-Anya Tyson

Students were given the opportunity to provide expedition feedback following their return from the wilderness:

"I am so glad to be able to participate in this study! Thank you for your hard and wonderful work! This world is worth it!"

-Young citizen scientist

Students of five organizations (NOLS, Teton Science Schools, the Community School, Wyoming Catholic College, and Powell High School) reinforced their commitment to wild landscapes by documenting whitebark pine health and the presence of Clark’s nutcrackers on wilderness expeditions. In total, they completed 54 surveys across four remote mountain ranges.

Anya Tyson in the trunk of a whitebark pine.


Scientific research in the mountains encompasses more than chemical analysis and quantification of species. 2016 grant winners Jessica DiCarlo and Katie Epstein set out to study the impact of the massive 2015 earthquake on the Nepali farming social-ecological system (SES). Their research has informed two conference presentations—the Social Science Baha in Kathmandu (2016) and the Association of American Geographers (2017)—and they have published their studies in Case Studies in the Environment and Ambio: A Journal of the Human Environment.

The American Alpine Club proudly supports these researchers who are actively working towards a greater understanding of the wildest places on earth: their biologies, adaptations, inter-species dependencies, and the human impact on all of it.

Further examples of AAC Research Grant awardees:

Kate McHugh - 2017 Research Grant Recipient

Wilderness Rock Climbing Indicators and Climbing Management Implications in the National Park Service

Rebecca Finger - 2017 Research Grant Recipient

Limitations to shrub expansion in a warmer Arctic

Rachael Mallon - 2017 Research Grant Recipient

Biogeography of Snow Algae Communities in the Pacific Northwest

As we continue to support the work of researchers around the world, we are always seeking new partners and sources of funding. If you would like to contribute to this important work, please consider donating to the American Alpine Club's Research Grants.

Remember to specify in the comments field that you would like your donation directed towards Research Grants.

Questions? Email grants@americanalpineclub.org

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