The 2019 Girls on Ice Alaska team travels down Gulkana Glacier at the end of their expedition. The group is currently accepting applications for three expeditions planned for this summer. (Courtesy Photo / Erin Cutts, Inspiring Girls Expeditions)

The 2019 Girls on Ice Alaska team travels down Gulkana Glacier at the end of their expedition. The group is currently accepting applications for three expeditions planned for this summer. (Courtesy Photo / Erin Cutts, Inspiring Girls Expeditions)

Inspiring Girls Expeditions to resume this summer

Three Alaska-based trips are planned for 2021

A program that helps teenage girls learn about nature, science, art and outdoor recreation is ready to restart this summer after COVID-19 prompted a change of plans in 2020.

The University of Alaska at Fairbanks-affiliated Inspiring Girls Expeditions group pairs girls from diverse backgrounds with early-career professionals for a 12-day, tuition-free wilderness expedition modeled after authentic science expeditions.

“Teams of nine girls and three or four instructors go into the field to observe the landscape through science and art. They design experiments and collect data. They use a backcountry mode of travel and learn to walk on glaciers and learn mountaineering,” said Sarah Clement, Alaska program coordinator, in a phone interview this week.

Fatbiking and Packrafting to Bristol Bay

Clement said the group hosted virtual expeditions last year after their in-person plans were scrapped due to COVID-19. But, the group plans to resume trips this summer. Three expeditions are planned for Alaska. Girls on Ice, will take place at Gulkana Glacier in the Eastern Alaska Range, Girls on Water is set for South Central Alaska in the Kachemak Bay, and Girls in the Forest will take place in the Upper Chena River.

Finding diverse groups of girls and instructors is a high priority for each expedition, and the process is managed through an online application. According to Clement, the program generally gets more applicants than they have available slots for each trip.

“We intentionally build teams that are diverse in many ways, including interests and life goals. Some team members are passionate about science, some about art, some outdoor recreation,” Clement said, noting that the group isn’t seeking the best students or greatest athletes and that most participants don’t have prior outdoor experience.

“It’s really just a group of curious people who want to learn, said Livana Hill, a participant in the 2017 Girls on Icy Fjords expedition, who now works for the organization while studying architecture at the University of California at Berkley.

Program introduces girls to science expeditions in wilderness

“At the time, I didn’t feel passionate about anything but learning. You meet people from all over, and they all are just as curious,” Hill said.

“Our goal is for our participants to learn as much from each other as much as the instructors. We want passionate people,” Clement said.

“Before I went, the only thing I would do outdoors was run outside on a track,” said Hill, who grew up in California.

“It’s been one of the most meaningful things I’ve done. Just being out there with no mirrors, and experiencing staying warm and comfortable and learning. I realized that’s all I needed,” Hill said.

The group was founded in 1999 by Erin Pettit, a glaciologist who was a graduate student. She brought the program to Fairbanks shortly after joining the faculty there.

• Contact Dana Zigmund at or 907-308-4891.

How to Apply

Who: Any girl who will be age 16 or 17 on June 1.

When: The window to start an application closes on Jan. 22, with Jan. 29 as the last day to apply. Expedition teams are named in March.

How: Visit

More in News

A Princess Cruise Line ship is docked in Juneau on Aug. 25, 2021. (Michael Lockett / Juneau Empire File)
Ships in Port for the week of Oct. 2

Here’s what to expect this week.

Screenshot / Alaska Public Media’s YouTube channel 
Bob Bird, left, chairman of the Alaskan Independence Party, and former Lt. Gov. Loren Leman make the case in favor of a state constitutional convention during a debate in Anchorage broadcast Thursday by Alaska Public Media.
Constitutional convention debate gets heated

Abortion, PFD factor into forum.

Clarise Larson / Juneau Empire
Faith Rogers’ loved ones, from left to right, James Rogers (father), Michelle Rogers (sister), Harmony Wentz (daughter), Maria Rogers (mother) and Mindy Voigt (friend) sit with Faith’s three dogs in their family home. Faith Rogers, 55, of Juneau was found dead along a popular trail on Wednesday, Sept. 21. Police are investigating the death as a homicide.
‘It’s shocking’: Family hopes for answers after suspicious death of loved one

“She wanted to make things beautiful, to help make people beautiful…”

People work together to raise the Xa’Kooch story pole, which commemorates the Battle of the Inian Islands. (Shaelene Grace Moler / For the Capital City Weekly)
Resilient Peoples & Place: The Xa’Kooch story pole — one step toward a journey of healing

“This pole is for the Chookaneidi, but here among us, many clans are represented…”

A bracket fungus exudes guttation drops and a small fly appears to sip one of them.( Courtesy Photo / Bob Armstrong)
On the Trails: Water drops on plants

Guttation drops contain not only water but also sugars, proteins, and probably minerals.

A chart shows what critics claim is poor financial performance by the Alaska Industrial Development and Export Authority, especially in subsidizing private industry projects intended to boost the state’s economy, during its 55-year existence. The chart is part of a report released Tuesday criticizing the agency. (MB Barker/LLC Erickson & Associates/EcoSystems LLC)
AIDEA’s fiscal performance fishy, critics say

Report presented by salmon industry advocates asserts state business subsidy agency cost public $10B

Police vehicles gather Wednesday evening near Kaxdigoowu Héen Dei, also known as ]]Brotherhood Bridge Trail, while investigating a homicide. (Ben Hohenstatt / Juneau Empire)
Police: Woman was walking dogs when she was killed

JPD said officers are working “around the clock” on the criminal investigation.

Most Read