Jo Smith

Jo Smith's picture

Area of responsibility: 

Environment, ethics and science

Current occupation: 

PhD student (Organic Geochemistry & Earth Surface Processes)

Personal bio: 

Having been dragged up hills for as long as I can remember, I temporarily deserted the mountains as an undergraduate to do a little bit of rowing. However, I came to my senses on moving to Cambridge, and took up every one of the (surprisingly many) opportunities that arose to get back into the hills. Joining Cambridge University Hillwalking Club, I soon found myself climbing and mountaineering, as well as walking, all over England, Wales, Scotland and the Alps with friends made in the club. It seemed only sensible to become President soon afterwards, in order to arrange trips as favourably as possible for my own explorations! In recent years, I have particularly enjoyed classic summer alpine and Scottish summer and winter mountaineering, but still relish the experience of merely being in remote, beautiful places and jumped at the chance to spend three weeks in an unexplored valley in the Tien Shan.

What made the expedition special for me was the necessity of approaching the landscape as an explorer, with no knowledge of what was around the next corner or over the next ridge: an aspect of mountaineering that is rarely on offer in the modern era. Being the first to stand on top of a 4000m+ mountain takes some beating, but the journey to get there - being involved in the expedition from the start, knowing that we made it happen without help from tour companies or guides, and seeing all our plans and hard work come together successfully – was far more rewarding. On a personal note, I also felt a great sense of achievement in learning how (and then proving that) expeditions can be environmentally responsible.

Back in Cambridge, I am coming to the business end of my PhD at the Department of Earth Sciences, which involves investigating carbon cycle and erosion processes in temperate mountain forests. Fieldwork has been large part of my research, with extended periods of time spent sitting by streams in the rain in the Swiss Alps and Oregon Cascades, but I am now writing up my thesis and deciding what to do next. When not chained to my desk or seeking topography, I play fiddle in the Cambridge University Ceilidh Band, explore East Anglia on my road bike and am presently enjoying the entirely new challenge of learning to sail.