An Interview With Ulyana Nadia Horodyskyj 

Editor: Thank you so much for sparing some time for us Ulyana, when you’re in the very middle of a very important expedition in Nepal. Conditions have been precarious weather-wise, so we’re obliged that you took a few moments to speak with us before you head out amongst the highest peaks in the world. 

You were featured in Rice Magazine and recently gave an interview to NPR, and it seems that your work as a researcher is gaining a larger audience with every expedition.

Would you tell our readers what it is that you do exactly?

Ulyana Nadia Horodyskyj: My work started in 2011, studying the growth and evolution of supraglacial lakes using time-lapse photography. These are bodies of water that reside on the surfaces of glaciers, expanding and deepening with time within the glacier's ablation (melt) zone. As these lakes grow, they pose flooding threats to Sherpa villages below.
Over the years, after gaining more field experience and funding, I've been able to set up a better camera network, meteorological stations, multiple buoys (to measure lake water temperatures and water level changes), and conduct open water side-scan sonar surveys to quantify these changes.  

Given a cyclone last fall (October 2013) that derailed some of my lake work, due to one meter of snow on the ground, I set up a station to track snow melt and albedo (reflectivity) changes. I also sampled the nearby snow and filtered it, finding high concentrations of dust in just days after the storm. Thus, a new part of my project was born: studying the impacts of particles, such as dust and black carbon (soot) from industry, on snow melt. Given these particles are dark-colored and can absorb more solar radiation, quantifying their concentrations is important when trying to understand impacts to snow melt higher up, in glacier accumulation zones, where glaciers grow.  

Editor: You’ve graduated from some of the best universities in the nation: Brown University, Rice University and are a former PhD Researcher at The Fulbright Program. What drew you to this field?  

Ulyana Nadia Horodyskyj: I've always had an interest in the outdoors. It was planted at quite an early age - 6 years old, when I traveled to the Alps with my family. But I actually didn't get into climbing and mountaineering until age 22. Prior to that, I had devoted my teenage years to getting good at science - competing in science fairs and symposia, to gain experience in public speaking and to earn money for college. When I discovered that I could link science with athletics, there was no looking back.   I am drawn to challenges, so, of course, I looked for the biggest one: the Himalaya. I like pushing the limits of my mind and body and I hope through all this project work that I inspire a new generation to go out and explore. There's no
replacement for boots on the ground.  Our climate is changing and we have a responsibility, as stewards of the planet, to do something about it. I am quite passionate about this and, thus, am devoting my life to bringing about awareness and change.  

Editor: Currently stationed with your team in Nepal, you mentioned a push up to 17,500 feet, near Cho Oyu, the 6th highest peak in the world. How did that go? 

Ulyana Nadia Horodyskyj: The approach to the climb was challenging given powder snow covering large boulders underfoot. If you're not careful, it's very easy to twist an ankle or knee, especially when carrying a heavy pack. Sometimes, I would end up in a hole up to my thigh,
desperately trying to dislodge myself. You can imagine hours of this gets to be quite painful. The snow was a result of Cyclone Hudhud slamming against the Himalaya a week earlier.  Another challenge was the extreme temperature fluctuations: during the day, on the ice, we would hit 97 deg F. At night, it would drop to 1 deg F.  We did manage to get onto the tongue of the glacier and collect some snow samples. The motto for the team is: safety, science, summits. We followed that and I am proud of my team for it. 

Editor: Climate change is obviously a serious matter for all those who care about our planet. Which peaks are the closest to your heart and why? 

Ulyana Nadia Horodyskyj: Everest definitely holds a special place. There's something about that mountain. Whenever I see it in person, it still gives me chills. There's a lot of history and mystery there. In addition, given my early exposure to the Alps, I'd say the Matterhorn, Eiger and Jungfrau. I am planning a climbing trip in the near future, to retrace my family's trip and see how the glaciers have changed. And, if it's in the cards and conditions are good, I will attempt to climb all three. 

Editor: That sounds really great! Do you ever think of summitting Everest or K2?

Ulyana Nadia Horodyskyj: Indeed, I would like to attempt both. However, I do believe in apprenticeship in the mountains. Baby steps. I still have much to learn (and endure) in the mountains before going big. I find that the mental challenges are probably a bit tougher to weather than the physical ones: to be able to keep calm and focused in the face of danger or threat of death takes a mind of steel. These are mountains without mercy and deserve the utmost respect.  I look forward to the mountain journeys ahead! 

Editor: Thank you so much Ulyana, we wish you the best of luck in gathering data, and please stay safe in Nepal. We hope to do follow up interviews with you as often as we can. 

Interview conducted by Vera Kaikobad L. Ac.
Editor of the Facebook page 'An Interview With'.

Editor-in-Chief of
Interview © Vera Kaikobad L. Ac.
All images © of the photographer, used with Ulyana's permission.

On the Cover :

Dr. Ulyana Nadia Horodyskyj PhD

Cover Date: November 1st, 2014