Max's research team hiking in Patagonia, Argentina

Displaced in Scotland, CSE student uses local landscape to raise awareness about climate change

Ph.D. student makes the most of COVID-19 displacement

Max Van Wyk de Vries loves cold weather. So, it’s fitting that the Ph.D. student from France chose the University of Minnesota Twin Cities for its long winters—and the respected glaciology experts in the College of Science and Engineering's Department of Earth and Environmental Sciences.

“Over the course of my Ph.D., I’ve spent two field seasons in Patagonia collecting data on glaciers, and I’ve gotten to work with a wide range of collaborators doing different things around the U.S.,” said Van Wyk de Vries, a recipient of the University's Doctoral Dissertation Fellowship and former recipient of CSE's Lee S. Whitson Fellowship. “It’s been a really interesting project, and it’s really the reason why I went to Minnesota.”

The COVID-19 pandemic arrived during his most recent visit to Argentina’s Patagonia region in March 2020. Because the United States initiated a travel ban on more than 30 countries, including France, Van Wyk de Vries eventually made his way to Dundee, a coastal city on the eastern side of Scotland.

Conveniently enough, the Scottish landscape is rife with glacial features. That topography inspired him to apply for funding from the British Society for Geomorphology to do a science outreach project that showed what Dundee looked like 20,000 years ago during the Ice Age. He worked with local video animator Kieran Duncan to create a short video explaining how glaciers formed the city’s current landscape—and to illustrate how climate change could affect Earth’s glaciers today. Their film was displayed alongside local artifacts in the McManus Art Gallery and Museum in Dundee.

Learn more about Van Wyk de Vries’ story in the video below.

Watch the original video Van Wyk de Vries and Duncan created.

Story and video by Olivia Hultgren

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