“When something bad happened, Adam was happy.
When something good happened for my research, he
wasn’t,” Blomdin laughed, noting that, in terms of film
drama, collecting small samples of rock could not compare to almost being carried away by a river current.
Blomdin received his master’s degree at Purdue in
2015. He continued his earth science research to a PhD
— which he received in December — at Stockholm
University in Sweden. However, he is still linked to the
Purdue program through his use of the Purdue Rare
Isotope Measurement (PRIME) Laboratory. Marc Caffee,
professor of physics and astronomy and director of the
PRIME lab, makes a cameo in the documentary.
“Mongolia was one of the most interesting places
I’ve ever done field work,” Caffee says. “The landscape
was spectacular and the people, both in our party and
those that lived nearby, were extremely helpful.”
Blomdin’s research is part of an international effort
known as the Central Asia Paleoglaciology Project. The
team relied on geological mapping and cosmogenic
nuclide dating to characterize the valleys and acquire
the age of former glacier limits. Each boulder told a story.
“Going out in the field and collecting the samples
was the fun part,” Blomdin recalled. “In PRIME Lab, I
worked for months and months and months. I was pro-
cessing these rock samples there doing different wet
chemistries and physical preparation. The idea here is
that I’m extracting the beryllium from my rock samples.
I’m measuring the tiny concentrations using the accelera-
tor mass spectrometer.”
Shot in July and August 2014, the film benefited from
ideal weather conditions in Mongolia. Temperatures
cooled in Kyrgyzstan, especially at night, due to a higher
Conflict arose not only from the river. The rocky
terrain shredded truck and van tires like confetti. Hikes
up steadily inclining hills for ideal samples were difficult.
Language barriers with Mongolian, Russian and
Kyrgyzstani police and military caused some frayed
nerves during the shoot.
Then there were technology issues in the wilderness.
High-powered satellite phones were best for communica-
tions, but sometimes calls went unanswered while
In the back seat, Robin Blomdin, an Earth, Atmospheric,
and Planetary Sciences alumnus, felt dread in the pit of
his stomach, while filmmaker and fellow Swede Adam
Stjärnljus was thrilled in the passenger seat.
With his handheld camera rolling, Stjärnljus was
along for the ride as Blomdin navigated this former state
of the Soviet Union in search of boulder samples that
— after analysis — would tell the story of the glacial
history of the region. The story could offer clues to how
the central Asian area would be affected by climate
Blomdin’s two weeks of field research in Kyrgyzstan
along with three weeks in nearby Mongolia were the main
material in Stjärnljus’s short-form, 47-minute documentary, “Through the Valleys.” The film debuted online in
January, but its first public screening was Feb. 10 at
Purdue’s Stanley Coulter Hall.
At the screening, attended by dozens of Purdue
students, faculty members and community members,
the Swedish duo was asked about that dramatic scene
at the Kyrgyzstani river.
The movie is available at
By Tim Brouk