Changes to the ecosystem as a result of the effects of global warming over time can be difficult to see with the naked eye.  Then & Now: The Changing Artic Landscape is a multimedia exhibit that allows one to do just that.

The exhibit, sponsored by RA Nelson and the Town of Vail, will be shown at the Betty Ford Alpine Garden’s newly completed education center from May 2nd to July 10th. Admission is free with a $5 suggested donation and open to all ages. 

Created by Ken Tape of the Institute of Arctic Biology at the University of Alaska Fairbanks, Then & Now is a visually striking exhibit that uses the process of repeat photography – where historical photographs are contrasted with contemporary images taken from the exact same vantage point – to clearly illustrate the effects of global warming in the Alaska’s Northern Slope and Brooks Range. Using this technique, visitors can witness the devastating effects of global warming on glaciers, alpine vegetation and even topography. 

“The great thing about repeat photography is that it is open to interpretation,” Tape told the Fairbanks news outlet The News Miner. “You don’t need a Ph.D. to interpret the data. That’s the layer that’s removed with repeat photography. You might not understand why the changes are happening, but you can still see the outcome.”

With 15-pairs of repeat photographs, Tape is able to show varying levels of ecological damage. While one image might show that a glacier has completely disappeared over the years, another image might show no change at all.  

“There is a photo pair in the exhibit that hasn’t changed at all. That’s my favorite because the sense of timelessness still does exist in select locations. It shows you just how stable up there it can be,” he told the News Miner. But, “when you do see the changes you start thinking about what’s causing them.”

The traveling exhibit, which included openings at Amherst College, the University of Alaska Fairbanks and The Paleontological Research Institution, also includes interactive 360-degree panoramas and animations depicting how thawing permafrost can change the landscape and how researchers determine Arctic temperatures from thousands of years ago.

Using high-resolution imagery this feature allows visitors to zoom in on any aspect of the landscape – even a single blade of grass – to provide an in-depth look at the fragile ecosystem. The interactive pictures are further enhanced with natural sounds, in-depth descriptions of the area and stories from Alaskan natives who detail how their culture is affected by the environmental degradation. 

In order to delve deeper and bring a local perspective to the exhibit, the Gardens will host 30-year veteran climatologist Joe Ramey to speak on June 16th. Ramey studied climate patterns out of the National Oceanographic Atmospheric Administration’s (NOAA) Grand Junction office for the past 30 years. By tracking decades of data like maximum and minimum temperatures as well as levels of precipitation Ramey is able to correlate historical trends and give perspective to the current climate debate.     

Betty Ford Alpine Gardens is Eagle County’s botanical garden.  Located in Vail’s Ford Park, the Alpine Gardens focuses on understanding and conserving the mountain environment and shares this knowledge with guests and scientists throughout the world.  

Under blue skies more than 300 days each year, Vail is an extraordinary mountain resort destination. Vail is where outdoor pursuits meet village sophistication. Offering more than 5,200 acres of developed ski and snowboard terrain including seven legendary Back Bowls in winter, and flourishing with new summer activities in preparation for the debut of Epic Discovery in 2016, the options for year-round adventure are endless. Coupled with the vision inherent in the spirit of Vail’s founders, and a modern day commitment to excellence in all aspects of guest service and operations, Vail is a mountain resort like nothing on earth.


Contact: Liz Campbell, liz@bettyfordalpinegardens.org or 970-476-0103 ext. 5 or 970-376-1389
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