M Jackson is an adventurer and environmental educator pursuing a doctorate in geography and Earth science at the University of Oregon, where she is researching glaciers and climate change. M also holds a Masters of Science degree from the University of Montana. She’s worked for more than ten years in Alaska and the Yukon Territory guiding backcountry trips and exploring glacial systems, and has led National Geographic Student Expeditions programs in Alaska and Iceland.

What do you do when you’re not leading trips for NGSE?

When I am not adventuring with NGSE, I am pursuing a doctorate in geography and Earth science at the University of Oregon where I am researching glaciers and climate change in Iceland.

You led our Iceland Expedition last summer. What is your connection to this part of the world?

I base my doctoral research in Iceland and because I’m terribly excited about the Arctic region. I’ve spent large amounts of time in various Arctic areas including Alaska and the Canadian North. As an outdoor educator, I enjoy employing glaciers as accessible and visual tools for not only communicating climate change, but also the majesty and awe of existing on this planet. Standing on a glacier can teach lessons about this planet, and what is at stake, far quicker than most lectures in classrooms.

What is the most significant lesson that you want your students to take away with them?

The most significant lesson I hope my students learn on their trips is that they are an important part of the world they live in. The decisions they make back home have far reaching implications—and those implications are simultaneously local and global in nature.

Where is the first place you traveled to that left a lasting impression on you?

I am so fortunate to have traveled to many of the far-flung regions of this world. However, the first place I ever traveled to that made a lasting impression on me was Tasmania. I traveled to Tasmania in my very early twenties, and I specifically remember being in awe of the glaciated landscapes, the mountains, and the enormous ferns that grew in the dense forests. I have not yet returned to Tasmania, but I carry that incredible landscape with me in my mind, and I recognize elements of it in so many unique yet similar places across the world.

What are your hobbies, aside from traveling and sharing your insights with our students?

I have a variety of hobbies that all seem to involve keeping my body moving! I enjoy Ashtanga yoga, skiing, trail running, hiking, and kayaking. Indoors finds me painting portraits, reading all sorts of literature, and trying out new recipes in the kitchen.


What has been your proudest achievement so far in your career?

I am incredibly proud to be working for the National Geographic Society. I grew up being inspired on a monthly basis by what I found in the pages of National Geographic magazine. Working for National Geographic helping to share awareness of this world is deeply gratifying.

What is your favorite Icelandic food?

Prepare to be grossed out! I have an unhealthy love of something Iceland is very, very famous for: hot dogs! Icelanders are very proud of their homegrown hotdogs. You can buy one at gas stations and metropolitan restaurants alike. I recommend trying one with all the fixings.

What is the next destination on your travel wish list?

Greenland. I can’t wait to check out the large ice systems in Greenland.

What item won’t you leave home without when traveling?

I have two items I won’t leave home without: first, my Nikon camera is essential to documenting what I see, and second: a small plastic sleeved photograph of my family so they’ll always be close with me.

One fun fact about yourself.

I just recently completed my first course in Appalachian basket weaving—and yes, essential to basket weaving was working under water!