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 dana.zigmund@juneauempire.com 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

Jasmine Chavez, a crew member aboard the Quantum of the Seas cruise ship, waves to her family during a cell phone conversation after disembarking from the ship at Marine Park on May 10. (Mark Sabbatini / Juneau Empire file photo)
Ships in port for the week of June 22

Here’s what to expect this week.

(Michael Penn / Juneau Empire file photo)
Police calls for Thursday, June 20, 2024

This report contains public information from law enforcement and public safety agencies.

Pins supporting the repeal of ranked choice voting are seen on April 20 at the Republican state convention in Anchorage. (James Brooks/Alaska Beacon)
State judge upholds most fines against group seeking repeal of Alaska ranked choice voting

An Anchorage Superior Court judge has ruled that opponents of Alaska’s ranked… Continue reading

Joshua Midgett and Kelsey Bryce Riker appear on stage as the emcees for MixCast 2023 at the Crystal Saloon. (Photo courtesy Juneau Ghost Light Theatre)
And now for someone completely different: Familiar faces show new personas at annual MixCast cabaret

Fundraiser for Juneau Ghost Light Theatre on Saturday taking place amidst week of local Pride events

Jasz Garrett / Juneau Empire
A section of Angoon along the coast is seen on June 14. Angoon was destroyed by the U.S. Navy in 1882; here is where they first pulled up to shore.
Long-awaited U.S. Navy apology for 1882 bombardment will bring healing to Angoon

“How many times has our government apologized to any American Native group?”

Juneau Mayor Beth Weldon announced this week she plans to seek a third three-year term. (Juneau Empire file photo)
Mayor Beth Weldon seeking third term amidst personal and political challenges

Low mill rate, more housing cited by lifelong Juneau resident as achievements during past term.

(Michael Penn / Juneau Empire file photo)
Police calls for Wednesday, June 19, 2024

This report contains public information from law enforcement and public safety agencies.

A king salmon is laid out for inspection by the Alaska Department of Fish and Game at the Mike Pusich Douglas Harbor during the Golden North Salmon Derby on Aug. 25, 2019. (Peter Segall / Juneau Empire file photo)
Emergency order bans king salmon fishing in many Juneau waters between June 24 and Aug. 31

Alaska Department of Fish and Game says low projected spawning population necessitates restrictions

Three cruise ships are docked along Juneau’s waterfront on the evening on May 10, as a Princess cruise ship on the right is departing the capital city. (Yereth Rosen/Alaska Beacon)
Sitka residents join those in Juneau proposing hard caps on cruise ships as tourism grows

Two ballot measures could be presented to local voters in the two Southeast Alaska towns this fall

Most Read