Talking interdisciplinarity: Lessons from ARCTOS on basic and applied sciences

By Melina Kourantidou, PhD candidate at the University of Southern Denmark

Successful grant writing is a large concern for many scientists these days, and has become indispensable for career development within academia.  Being a social scientist myself, trained in environmental and resource economics, I have always felt that the dominant presence of natural scientists in review panels of interdisciplinary agencies for grants, works against proposals with a socioeconomic focus. I have felt the same way about reviewers in some interdisciplinary journals within my field, e.g. within fisheries economics.

My experience and interaction with other academics and professionals makes me confident that I am not alone in this. Just to share few examples, I have come across reviews that find the ‘’commons problems’’ from open-access fisheries to be economic jargon in need of a glossary. The ‘’commons’’ first appeared in the natural sciences literature and is therefore not an exclusive domain of economists (see Garrett Hardin’s seminal paper in Science on the tragedy of the commons (1968)). More recently (2009), Elinor Ostrom was awarded the Nobel Prize in economic sciences ‘’for her analysis of economic governance , especially the commons’’. Last year I had a prominent scholar, within behavioral economics pertinent to environmental policy, share with me that a reviewer returned his paper back with the characterization ‘’fiddling’’. I can go on and on with many examples of reviewers blind to the importance of well-established interdisciplinary concepts and approaches. However, the point I want to get across is that academia still lacks behind in effectively supporting interdisciplinary efforts. One reason for that could be that payoffs from research so far have been through increasing specialization and silo mentality which are an obstacle to acquiring the depth needed in breadth of understanding to support such efforts.

The ARCTOS workshop that I attended this January in Tromsø and Svolvær, exposed me to a different school of thought that might not have alleviated my concerns over the challenges of interdisciplinary research, publishing and grant writing, but it definitely did broaden my horizons. The ARCTOS workshop is an annual arrangement for early-career scientists engaged in Arctic research that takes place alongside the Arctic Frontiers conference, under the auspices of the ARCTOS network. My interaction with fellow early-career Arctic scientists helped me step out of my comfort zone and learn more about the cultures and ways of thinking in other disciplines. The instructors were a diverse group of scholars with intimate knowledge of Arctic-related issues within marine ecology, social geography, ecotoxicology, ecophysiology and biochemistry, biology, geosciences, statistics and many more. In addition to the lectures and the team-work, the organizers brought on board research advisors from the Research Council of Norway, as well as successful recipients of other Norwegian and EU grants, to offer tips and advice on how to write successful applications.

On day 1, as a warm-up and introduction to the workshop, Prof. Paul Wassmann brought up the challenges he sees in interdisciplinary research. For him and his marine ecologist peers, one of the main challenges natural scientists have to face lies in uncovering the direct contribution of their research to society. That often hinders their research from being funded, especially when the applied side of their proposed projects appears to be missing, which is an intense ‘’political’’ requirement these days partly stemming from industry needs. Paul shared his concerns that most of the grant calls these days have very short-term goals and horizons (of e.g. 3-5 years), which may not allow for major scientific breakthroughs.

According to Paul, expectations to meet socioeconomic goals and reflect upon entwined policy implications of the proposed research have taken over (especially at EU level grants) and can be expected to overshadow long-term research and therefore continue to undermine basic science. He despaired at the increased pressure for applied research, which he argues lowers the chances in the long-run for innovative scientific ideas. He attributes this phenomenon to the current political trajectory and points at examples of how evaluations of proposals take place, reflecting upon how science has become an instrument that serves political purposes for the most part.

By the end of Paul’s lecture, I felt that my views on the type of research society should be funding were starkly different from Paul’s views. His lecture did, however, successfully engage the group of participants into a very constructive dialogue throughout the workshop. I tried to make full use of this diversity of perspectives and experiences to build a better understanding of the challenges within interdisciplinary research and ways to get it funded. On that note, the UNESCO Science Report aligned with the views of the International Council for Science, finds that ‘’basic science and applied science are two sides of the same coin’’ and further notes that they are ‘’interconnected and interdependent, and, thus, complement each other’’.

In one of my recent works ‘’Research Agendas for Profitable Invasive Species,’’ I raise the issue that in practice, environmental policies often rely heavily on biological/ecological research and can lack economic underpinnings. So something to ask here is, who are the primary policy advisors and who sets the research agendas? It has been reported in the literature that resource mismanagement often stems from the fact that resource managers are primarily trained in biological/ecological sciences and therefore may miss important aspects of basic economic thinking (Karpoff, 1987). However, Karpoff’s argument is vulnerable to criticism today because the field of environmental and resource economics has been growing over the years, receiving increasing attention amongst traditional ecology/biology educational institutions and also wielding significant influence on resource managers and policy makers across the world. It is fair to accept though that there is still a long way to go for effectively reconciling the role of basic sciences with applied sciences as well as to open the door to interdisciplinary approaches compatible with multiple interests. In doing that one needs to consider the complementary features as well as the trade-offs between, on the one hand, basic sciences and applied sciences and, on the other hand, basic sciences and social sciences. The allocation of research resources depends upon various different variables, but as a general principle the next research dollar is better spent where the marginal return is the highest. Economists are generally trained to think at the margin, which is not necessarily the case with other scientists. Given that the payoffs of research in different fields are not clear-cut, it is hard to readily consider how research resources should be prioritized. However, with this article my intention is to point out that we might need to rethink of why funding one type of research should come at the cost of the other.


Many thanks to all the organizers and participants for the wonderful and stimulating 2018 ARCTOS workshop!

The Arctic is no longer on the edge

It is now the epicenter of the world and climate change

By Christy Hehir, PhD Researcher at The University of Surrey, UK.

During the opening speech of the conference, Mikael Damberg (Minister of Enterprise and Innovation of Sweden) said, “The Arctic is no longer on the edge. It is now the epicenter of the world and climate change.”   As the icon of climate change, the Arctic is experiencing year on year growth of tourism – with visitors desperate to see the disappearing landscapes. But can last chance tourism ever be justified environmentally?


My research assesses the impact of travelling on conservation through the means of donations to an environmental/wildlife charity. Further, it explores whether connection to nature is the mechanism by which wildlife travel is converted into financial donations. If last chance destinations can be shown to have a long-term positive impact on the tourists’ environmental behaviours after they leave the site, the net effect for wildlife in general would clearly be a positive one.


Presenting at Arctic Frontiers has enabled me to debut my research within an international arena on sustainable development in the Arctic. Outcomes following discussions with academics, government officials and industry have helped create a firmer foundation for my research and have opened doors for future collaboration. Further the unique opportunity to attend with fellow researchers (across both natural and social sciences) who are equally as energetic and passionate about the future of the Arctic was completely inspiring.

Big thanks to ARCTOS Research Network for sponsoring my attendance.  It has been an honour to be part of the PhD 2018 cohort.

Please connect with me via twitter @christyhehir or email me directly for further information regarding my research .

All we need is Arctic networking!

Written by Meric Karahalil

I almost had no idea regarding Arctic issues as most mid-latitude countries people, before I started to study on my Ph.D. at Istanbul Technical University in Turkey. I feel lucky enough to have advisor who is the director of National Polar Research Center (PolReC). When I started to search what was happening in the polar regions and how does it affect humanity, I realized that it needs more attention than ever not only by Arctic Countries people but also every single person on earth. As also highlighted by some speakers that What happens in Arctic does not stay in the Arctic.


I was looking for conferences and workshops that meeting with senior researchers as well as other early career scientists who are all interested in Arctic issues would help me to understand more. And I found Arctic Frontiers which is one of the main scientific events in the Arctic region and the Arctic Frontiers PhD Workshop organized by ARCTOS, and I was very happy to had an opportunity to be there and present my poster.


This year, we were around 24 participants at the workshop coming from different countries. It was said that Turkey’s first representative was me. It was an honor and pleasure for me to be there. Tromsø was not welcome me with the current -15 degrees Celsius as coming from warm country. But It was unique to meet all those warm people with different cultures. And I will support my friends who study on Arctic issues to attend this conference and workshop. The Arctic Frontiers PhD Workshop was actually making the link between each participant involved in very different research interests (social science, politics, natural science). It was nice that we attended not only scientific sessions but also the political part of the conference that we could get to know positions of different countries and regions about Arctic issues. The scientific sessions were wide – from aquaculture in the North to Arctic societies and industrial developments; from circumpolar safety, search and rescue collaboration to shipping issues.


We learned a lot about different interesting and important topics and had the chance to listen to great lectures, presentations, and discussions. The educational program of the workshop lectures given by distinguish Tromsø University professors, Akvaplan-Niva researchers and local Lofoten artists. During the workshop participants were divided into four groups, based on multidisciplinary and international principles. Using an imaginary call for proposals announced by ARCTOS, students prepared four interdisciplinary Arctic-related project proposals and gave an interactive presentation.


All projects were highly appreciated by the jury, but the winner was my gorup: with the proposal SNOW RISK. We learned about how research proposal writing should be and now I feel more prepared to ask for a research grant.

The workshop lasted almost ten days, from 21th of January till 1rd of February – Arctic Frontiers conference in Tromsø, Hurtigruten cruies to Svolvær – a small fishery town in the heart of amazing Lofoten Islands.


In addition to the educational program, we had social gatherings  allowing us to get to know each other, to learn something new from different disciplines, and to build our networks. We had excursions to museums and the coastal administration, meetings with artists and a walk around Svolvær acquainting us with the culture, history, people and nature of Norway and Lofoten. It was exciting to know about traditions and culture. Definitely, it was unique due to well-organized travel and accommodation, wise work-life balance during the workshop. And It was so hard to say goodbye to new friends. I hope, rapidly growing Arctic science will give us a chance to get together more than once! All we need is Arctic networking.

Unlocking Inspiration

Written by Jack Whitacre

Artists, designers, and scientists can keep their ears peeled to the methodologies of other projects for inspiration. Rather than stay in a silo we can roam through the intellectual landscape of other disciplines for insights and new possibilities.

This mindset lead to three project concepts which I hope to pursue: a) transforming all of Norway’s aquaculture pens into real-time temperature sensors with WiFi, for a “mesh grid” of seasonal and yearly change in a variety of conditions and inlets; b) placing RFID or GPS in marked fish raised in lab, and then released with migrating cod in the North to trace the migration through time and space and create maps, and points of reference for assessing the impact of climate change; and finally c) placing aquaculture pens in concentric circles around oil driving platforms and other marine installments to measure the impact on fish health and the effects of overlapping industries.

picture Jack

The Arctic Frontiers Conference sparked all of these scientific and commercial ideas. Our group heard leading artists, historians, and scientists, with expertise ranging from policy to marine geology and pollution. There are always more lessons to be learned.

For example, sometimes a paradigm can be turned on its heard: a presenter mentioned a popular, but controversial, paper by Jensen called “Drilling for the environment”. This piece made the case that Norwegian oil extraction was cleaner than Russian extraction so it was better for the Arctic. The principle of turning one concept’s foil into a strength can be very useful for persuasion, new paradigms, and non-binary thinking. We’ve also learned a variety of study mechanisms for natural science experiments. For example, we reviewed the value of replicates in large scale plankton studies and the benefits of fabricating custom equipment and devices, such as floating laboratories.

Finally we’ve learned that science might be able to ‘prove’ the need for further research of any element of a process.Isolating the level of analysis from genetic to cellular to physiological to population, alters lab and field experiments. Whether a scientist works with underwater UAVS, history, or culture, an open mind to the experiences of others increases appreciation and builds inspiration for new projects, collaboration, and discovery.


Can we have our cake and eat it too?

An oil-based economy fighting climate change

Written by Doris Friedrich

Despite all the enlightening presentations and lessons during the conference and the PhD workshop afterwards, the talk and discussion that stayed in my mind the entire time is the opening debate at the Arctic Frontiers, featuring among others Erna Solberg, the Prime Minister of Norway, as well as ministers from Finland, Sweden, Iceland; Jeffrey Sachs of the Earth Institute at Columbia University, and Petteri Taalas of the World Meteorological Organization.

In her speech, Erna Solberg insisted that Norway’s Arctic oil exploitation does not contradict acting against climate change. And that “it is possible and necessary to do both.” Well aware of the climate-related changes that can already be seen today and the need to protect natural resources, she argued that the extraction of one barrel of oil from the Norwegian continental shelf results in less climate-damaging emissions compared to oil produced in other countries.

Erna Solberg at Arctic Frontiers 2017 (photo: Terje Mortensen/Arctic Frontiers 2017)

After all the warnings and arguments about the urgency of action against climate change, but also the potential environmental damage from offshore oil exploitation in the Arctic, this take on the debate struck me. How is Norway’s Arctic oil production not in direct contradiction with working on climate change? Can we have our cake and eat it too?

In stark contrast to this perspective was the message of Ingrid Skoldvær from the Youth and Nature Organization Norway, who spoke after Solberg’s statement. In her opinion, the respect for nature that should come with living in the Arctic environment, is often not present when politicians of today make decisions for tomorrow, looking for instance at the poor job of balancing environmental protection and development. She pointed to the rig that was anchored right outside Tromsø and made its way to the Barents Sea a few weeks later to search for more oil – “a big paradox”.

Ingrid Skoldvær at Arctic Frontiers 2017 (photo: Alberto Grohovaz / Arctic Frontiers 2017)

Julienne Stroeve’s talk about climatic changes and the urgent need to act also had a deep effect on me. She explained that climate-related changes are not only visible in summer anymore, but has started to extend to other seasons. The ten lowest sea ice extents since measurements began were recorded in the last ten years and the pace of the ice’s disappearance is accelerating. To visualize our footprint on the environment, she referred to her travels by plane. Every time she flies from New York to London, she melts three square kilometers of sea ice, the thought of which is terrifying – at least to me. I was fortunate to be able to interview her for a news article for High North News and was amazed by her commitment and her courage to take the bull by the horns.

Julienne Stroeve at Arctic Frontiers 2017 (photo: Terje Mortensen/Arctic Frontiers 2017)

So, while we learned about a lot of different interesting and important topics and had the chance to listen to great lectures, presentations and discussions, climate change and environmental issues stuck on my mind. Climate change also found its way into my poster presentation on the regulation of Persistent Organic Pollutants (POPs) (see article here) due to the potential increases of POPs related to warmer temperatures and the resulting harm to the environment.

To conclude, I want to give decision-makers in the Arctic food for thought. As Ingrid Skoldvær put it during the conference: “The decisions made today will have consequences far beyond the four-year parliamentary turn. No pressure.”

And to add to that: consequences far beyond the Arctic. Shouldn’t we, based on this, apply the principle of precaution to make sure we don’t mess up before it’s too late? Instead of clinging tight on to fossil fuels, it seems more sensible to shift our economies towards renewables and a green future “already” now. #makefactsgreatagain

Art, Science, and Networking

Written by André Frainer

The ARCTOS workshop proved to be much more than just a very interesting workshop in a wonderful location. With lectures spanning many areas of interest to young scientists, from how to write a CV to how to communicate with journalists, and counting on visits to local museums and artists, the workshop was truly an eye-opener to a deeper engagement in science and society.

We started with various lectures at FramCenter, in Tromsø, where we learned about time series data on bivalves and what that can tell us; wars and conflicts in northern Scandinavia and the importance of Northern Norway in times of peace; and horror stories about journalists misinterpreting science for the sake of their newspapers profit.

After some pizza and an awesome musical concert, we headed to Hurtigruten for a smooth trip to Svolvær. During the trip, we continued with lectures on CV structure, aquaculture, and the different ethnicities inhabiting northern Norway, among other topics. At this time, it was already becoming clear that although the participants had very different science backgrounds and interests, many nice and fruitful collaborations would be possible.

As we checked-in at the hotel in Svolvær, we were ready for some sightseeing and an exploration of the local culture, but not before an introduction of our activities during our stay in Svolvær. First we were divided into groups and given the task to write a research proposal for a fictional ARCTOS funding agency. Really cool idea, and truly important for all the future researchers participating in the workshop. Then, we learned how to think stats on a way opposite to what most people do, i.e., to identify groups containing members as different from each other as possible (how can a group be formed statistically by combining the extremes? Our in-house world-class expert showed us the trick). It was about time to have dinner and explore the surroundings.

Visiting and talking to the local artists made us understand that science can do much better at engaging with the real world, and it probably should. From the display of sounds and colours of the local landscapes to building bridges made of war tanks, we learned that our impact on society can be improved by utilizing our senses together with our reasoning.

After amazing days interacting with local artists, fisheries authorities, high-ranked scientists, PhDs who started their own business, and ourselves, all with the company of two virtuosi musicians, we came to the sense that this workshop truly connected nodes of a network that were idle, awaiting to be connected to a larger and much more functional network.

16 words about the workshop

It was a dream, wasn’t it? Sometimes you are not able to distinguish reality from fantasy. That’s why it’s extremely important to take pictures during a journey. To have some clues afterwards.

In September you submit an application for participating in the workshop. In November you are informed that your application has been accepted. You are happy. You buy tickets and forget about this until you receive an email from Ulrike in January, where she says that we all will meet in Tromsø just in few days. Now you become surprised and ecstatic. Whereas, you’re starting to realize that you will get out from your daily routine soon.

To get to Norway you should initially take a train to get to Saint-Petersburg (oh, those lucky people who have sufficient airports in towns where they live in). However, you have no right to complain. Firstly, a distance is just a part of a journey. Secondly, in two days you will be involved in the most magnificent event of your last seven years. You don’t know about it yet, but it doesn’t matter at all. Just turn your MP3 player on and close your eyes.

You wake up in six hours when the train has already arrived at a railway station in Saint-Petersburg. Then you make your way to Pulkovo airport. You desperately try to save your poster and yourself from damage in crowded underground and buses. Rush hour is particularly ruthless time in cities with 5-million population.

After two layovers at Riga and Oslo airports you finally get to Tromsø. And you immediately start feeling that something is going on in your mind. Strange and pleasure sensation. You see that Tromsø is swallowed by darkness which can not conceal the beauty of the town. On the contrary, it emphasizes the magic of the place, where everybody seems friendly and happy.

The following two weeks will be over in the blink of an eye. Each day will be full of various amazing occasions. Sleeping is just waste of time, because you don’t want to miss out on something. It should be 32 hours instead of formulaic 24 out there. Science, fjords, parties, art, Svolvær, lectures, pizza, yoga, ocean, music, fish, excursions, ships, northern lights, and, of course, people. Intelligent, creative, open-minded.  I wish I could hug you all again. You are the best proof that human existence on the Earth has an evidential sense.

Text and picture: Aleksandr Medvedev

Great impressions of Arctic Frontiers PhD workshop

Text and photos by Anna Kuznetsova

“The best investment in the Arctic region is the investment to knowledge”, – Anne Husebekk, Rector of UiT-The Arctic University of Norway

This statement of Anne Husebekk became a slogan for me during my Arctic Frontiers trip; it accompanied us, young researchers, during our work at the Arctic Frontiers PhD workshop.

Arctic Frontiers is one of the main scientific events in the Arctic region and about the Arctic region, and I was very happy to have an opportunity to be there and to present my work. It was nice that we attended not only scientific sessions but also the political part of the conference, as we could get to know the official positions of different countries and regions (and not only Arctic) about Arctic issues. The scientific sessions were wide – from biology and ecology to social sciences; from sea ice, fisheries and industry to policy-making, shipping and socio-economic issues. For me, as a social scientist, it was difficult at first to listen to the presentations about ecological issues, carbon, plankton, or oil and gas. However, all things are interrelated and the social life of people, their living conditions, directly depend on the processes occurring in ecology and biology. That is why it was very useful to get knowledge from natural sciences as well. We also presented our own research during the conference. I had a poster presentation about northern indigenous peoples and I was glad that researchers from different spheres and institutions showed interest in this topic.

Photo: Ulrike Grote

Our PhD workshop started with the welcoming gathering, introducing the workshop itself, teachers, lectors and participants. The main part of the workshop was held in Svolvær, on the Lofoten Islands. The nature there is amazing! Mountains, fjords, water and snow! We were happy to work there, enjoying such a wonderful place.

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One of the most interesting and useful things during the workshop was to write a research proposal for grant application. We were divided into several groups across our disciplines, home countries and working places. Honestly, it was not easy to be the only social scientist in a group and participate in the group discussions. But two nights spent in writing the proposal did the job and finally our proposal was done. The next step was to present it. We decided to introduce our project all together as each of us was responsible for different packages of the research. Some teachers noted that it was a good idea to have such representation – people from different places speak about one common topic and eventually our group won the research proposals competition! We were satisfied with the work done and this small winning and nice gifts were the great ending of the event. This experience was extremely useful for me. I was pleasantly surprised that I can contribute to natural sciences researches by conducting a part of the research about social issues.

Photo: Ulrike Grote

In addition to the educational program, we had social gatherings allowing us to get to know each other, to learn something new from different disciplines, and to build our networks. We had excursions to museums and the coastal administration, meetings with artists and a walk around Svolvær acquainting us with the culture, history, people and nature of Norway and Lofoten. It was exciting to get to know about everyday life and traditions of local people.

Thus, as the Mayor of Tromsø, Kristin Roymo told us, we share a land, a tough way of living beyond geopolitics, very special weather conditions, and we need to stay together. I share this point like many others and think that the Arctic Frontiers PhD workshop gave us an opportunity to meet each other, to get to know our cultures better and to stay together.

Coming out of the natural sciences closet: remembering the human component of the Arctic ecosystem

Text and pictures by Kyra St. Pierre, University of Alberta, Canada

Natural scientists are trained to see an ecosystem as the sum of its parts, a complicated fabric that only stays together if all the threads are intact. Coming from a very sparsely populated country, one critical thread that I often neglect (and I am certain that I am not alone among natural scientists) is the human component of the arctic ecosystem. Just as polar bears, muskoxen, and snowgeese call the Arctic home, so too do people in each of the 8 Arctic countries. Although I have always known this to be true, the two weeks of Arctic Frontiers put a spotlight on the people of the Arctic, the infrastructure and homes that they have built over centuries and will continue to develop, a reality that I am not soon to forget.

For me, one of the most powerful moments during the Arctic Frontiers Conference was when a young 17-year old high school student from Tromsø (picture below) addressed the assembled prime ministers, foreign ministers and business people from around the world (undoubtedly an anxiety-inducing audience for even the most experienced speakers!), eloquently demanding that they remember the people of the Arctic when waving their policy wands from the south. The “Arctic” capitals of Oslo, Stockholm, Helsinki, Ottawa, Copenhagen, Washington, and Moscow (except for Reykjavik) are far removed from the realities of the North and yet decisions made in these relatively southern locales have profound consequences on the people of the Arctic. I was warmed by the frequent use of the term “arctic neighbourhood” when describing relationships between regions, a much cozier and grounded narrative to international relations than is typically portrayed in the media!


This theme continued throughout the conference and workshop, as we learned of the Arctic region’s role during international conflicts (spoiler: no serious conflict to date has been about the Arctic), the long history of the fishing industry in northern Norway, and the future of arctic governance in an increasingly globalized world.


Fishing nets in Svolvær


Stockfish drying in the elements

The lecture by Paul Wassman on board the MS Nordkapp about the ethnic mosaic of northern Norway was particularly eye-opening to me. Northern Norway is a relatively small area of the global Arctic and yet it alone is home to a surprising diversity of peoples (Norwegian, Sami, Kven) who have shaped the region into what it is today. If you consider that each Arctic country is home to its own unique mosaic of peoples, then the Arctic region as a whole isn’t just a fabric but an intricate tapestry, which will continue to evolve as it has for centuries.

Welcome to Tromsø and Arctic Frontiers 2017!

Written by Ulrike Grote, UiT, Tromsø, Norway

The next workshop is only two days away and this time 27 young researchers will attend the conference followed by a 5-day trip to Svolvær on Lofoten. A look at the map where people come from in terms of their current working place reveals that we are not as international as in previous years but don’t let yourself be fooled! Many of the participants do not work in the country where they were born. We will surely have a great mix of nationalities and backgrounds. Looking forward to seeing you all very soon!

Reflecting the Arctic Frontiers through the eyes of a social scientist

Written by Vesa Väätänen, PhD student at the Geography Research Unit, University of Oulu, Finland

The latest Arctic Frontiers PhD workshop took place in January 2016 together with the Arctic Frontiers conference titled ‘Industry and Environment’. As the 2017 conference is getting very close, I would like to reflect the experience of the 2016 conference from a perspective of a social scientist, which I take myself to be as a political geographer.

Arctic Frontiers is a well-established conference dealing with Arctic issues. It has brought people from the fields of science, politics and business together for several years now. As knowledge regarding the various processes of change affecting the Arctic region has been built up, calls for more comprehensive approaches integrating sound science, political decision-making and economic practices have become more vocal. At a glance Arctic Frontiers provides a platform for just that. The question remains whether this kind of interaction truly happens, or do politicians, scientists and business people just show up in Tromsø every year for the sake of politics, science or business. In other words, do politicians only show up to meet other politicians, and to promote their viewpoints to each other, and to bask in media spotlight? Do business people only show up to meet other people of the business community to network and enhance prospects of economic development and profit-making in the Arctic? Do researchers only show up to promote their own research and to discuss issues with other people doing research on same scientific fields as themselves? These are the questions that from my point of view are crucial regarding the practical value of Arctic Frontiers in contributing to more comprehensive approaches on Arctic issues. Furthermore, in a more general perspective these questions are focal when thinking about global approaches on the Arctic in any given context.

At this point I have to say that perhaps one shouldn’t be too skeptical since political decision-making regarding Arctic issues is more often than not informed by scientific knowledge, especially regarding environmental factors. Through political processes scientific knowledge also guides the ‘invisible hand’ of economic practice in the region, which induces more environmentally and socially sustainable practices. The point is, however, in imagining the bigger picture. Are people operating in these three fields really as informed, or even interested in what takes place in the other two? This is the interplay that intrigues me. In Arctic Frontiers 2016 the policy, science and business sections were quite clearly separated from each other. As the conference started with the policy section, it was clear that media showed interest and security was on high alert. After the politicians left, and one could say that they really did before the science section started, it was clear that a true interplay and discussion did not take place at least on a large scale between politicians and scientist in the confines of the conference. Similarly, as UiT campus functioned as the venue for most of the events in policy and science sections, the business section mainly took place in downtown Tromsø, meaning that a buffer zone of a few kilometers was left between the scientist and business people.

This seclusion (undeniably also stemming from logistical and practical constraints) serves to undermine the interrelations between policy, science and business in the Arctic context. If we first think of science, one could ask how much of the research presented in the conference has received funding from an institution or organization directly or indirectly under political steering. It’s impossible to tell, but a large chunk, I guess. Thus what researchers do depends to a great degree on political decisions, and in some cases serve directly the political agenda of the funder. Perhaps we as scientists do not reflect on that connection too much, as we are just pleased to have received funding to pay our bills. Another issue that scientists do not perhaps think about too often is the contribution of our research to economic development in the Arctic. As regulatory policies are informed to a large degree by research on the effects of economic practices on the environment and people living in the Arctic, much of the knowledge produced through Arctic research is then utilized by economic actors, such as companies to meet those regulations and to overcome other barriers. This enables economic development, such as resource extraction that would otherwise not have happened. Then again the promises of economic profit drive the political forces that influence what research is being funded and so on, and so on. I would suggest that we can see a clear pattern here.

I would like to again remind at this point, that one should not wane into despair by thinking that each field and each person are just parts of a big profit-making machine where policy and research merely serve the interest of capital. Rather the point of this short reflection is to encourage people in politics, business, and especially in science to identify their role in this cycle. By acknowledging the wider effects of each political decision, each investment and each published research paper we can lose the field-centric blindfolds to really encourage dialogue between the fields to simultaneously critically examine the effects retaining the blindfolds may have. If this seems like too ambitious a goal on the short term, at least I would encourage people to maintain a critical eye on what we are doing, and what others are doing around us.

This is the point I would especially like to make for PhD students in social sciences pondering whether or not to apply for the Arctic Frontiers PhD workshop. In addition to being a great opportunity to meet and have fun with other people from multiple fields of science (and why not politics and business), the conference part of the workshop provides a good setting for participant observation to examine how the politics, business and science in the Arctic Frontiers may, or may not come together. Needless to say, this kind of an analytical approach to the conference should not stand in the way of fully enjoying the great experience that the conference and the PhD workshop provide.

Were discussions on Russia at the Arctic Frontiers conference balanced?

by Lukas Allemann

This blog entry takes as a starting point two events about Russia at the last Arctic Frontiers conference in order to describe how dichotomies are constructed and one-sidedness sometimes concealed.

At the last Arctic Frontiers conference I visited two side events related to Russia and its policies in the Arctic. For me it was out of question that such a topic would somehow reflect the general current tensions between Russia and the West. However, I was very interested in what way that would happen, especially as I saw quite some Russian names among the participants of these discussion panels.

The first event was called “Russia, our neighbor in the Arctic”, a panel in which some experts were to discuss Russia’s foreign policy in the High North. The second discussion I attended was in the framework of the Open Arctic, a series of side events open not only to conference participants but also to the local population. The panel was called “Barents co-operation: today and tomorrow”, and I attended the armchair talk about nuclear cooperation in the region.

“Russia, our neighbor in the Arctic” featured the experts Bobo Lo, Arkady Moshes, Katarzyna Zysk, Geir Hønneland and Dmitry Tulupov. For me it was no surprise that the discussion quite quickly shifted from the Arctic context to the Ukrainian context. However, the abstract of the event was concluding on a positive note stating: “We look back on 20 years of successful and peaceful cooperation in the Arctic – what is to be expected in the next 20 years?” Considering this, I was surprised how categorical in their dooming views some participants of that discussion were. One could hear statements like: (A) “Things will get worse before they get better”, making responsible for this solely Russia’s bullish stances, or (B) “Russia is not interested in cooperation for its own sake. It has such an interest only if there will be a direct benefit” (both Bobo Lo). The most radical statement was (C) that if the Central European counties were not NATO members the conflict between the West and Russia would probably not take place in Ukraine but in Poland, and it may be armed (Arkady Moshes).


Panel discussion “Russia, our neighbor in the Arctic” with Geir Hønneland, Arkady Moshes, Katarzyna Zysk, Dmitry Tulupov and Bobo Lo (Photo: Pernille Ingebrigtsen/Arctic Frontiers 2016)

Just a short comment on these statements. Statement A ignores that in Eastern Europe during the last 25 years there has been at least one other bullish actor, the USA, influencing politics through all kinds of foundations (Ukraine is no exception) and dominating the NATO in Europe (note that as a rule the supreme NATO commander in Europe is always an American citizen). Statement B puts an obvious principle of foreign politics of all big powers as if it was something peculiar to Russian politics. And statement C is such a blatant speculation that I was outraged to hear it in a supposedly academic discussion.

Although I personally do not agree with the described stances and “it is crucial to refuse all reductionist diagnoses of the current situation” (Yurchak 2014, an article worth reading about the Ukraine crisis, written by the well-known Russian-American social anthropologist Alexei Yurchak), my main point here is not to contest such views. Rather I would like to point out that, although some statements were extremely polemic and at the same time superficial, there were no voices in the panels contesting such views, or they were too weak to be heard. At the end of the panel discussion “Russia, our neighbor in the Arctic”, when we were walking out of the lecture hall, I was talking to some colleagues and we were wondering who were actually these people in the panel, some having Russian sounding names, who were giving so pejorative one-sided characterization of the situation. We didn’t pursue that question anymore because, as usual in such conferences, the programe was very tight, meaning that there is a huge amount of information to be absorbed but no time to properly process it. The question later came back to my mind, and I wanted to investigate more exactly the backgrounds of the participants of that panel which at a first glance looked quite balanced in its composition. After some research I compiled the following table:

Name Affiliation Background (based on CV)
Katarzyna Zysk Norwegian Institute for Defense Studies Norwegian Armed Forces; NATO
Bobo Lo Chatham House Think Tank Organizations promoting Atlanticism
Arkady Moshes Finnish Institute of International Affairs, till 2015: Chatham House Organisations promoting Atlanticism
Geir Hønneland Fridtjof Nansen Institute rather independent
Dmitry Tulupov Russian International Affairs Council; St. Petersburg State University Russian Federation Ministry of Foreign Affairs; Ministry of Education and Science

The analysis of the backgrounds of the panelists reveals that, if we accept that we are living in times of a deep split between Russia and the West (and that is the main message the panelists were conveying), this split was not represented in a quantitatively balanced way. The only person representing the Russian perspective was Dmitry Tulupov. He was not only quantitatively inferior, but, with his quiet manner and his statements not going beyond the Arctic context, he was too academic to drown out the heightened rhetoric of the atlanticists in the panel.

The more regionally oriented armchair discussion on nuclear security in the Barents Region revealed a similar pattern, at least in quantitative terms: One representative of the Russian standpoint against four representatives of the Nordic perspective, as you can see in the following table.

Johnny Almestad Norwegian Ministry of Foreign Affairs
Per Strand Norwegian Radiation Protection Authority
Nils Bøhmer Bellona
Timme Ellingsjord Nature and Youth
Gennady Matishov Murmansk Marine Biological Institute

However, in this discussion, the Russian viewpoint couldn’t be taken seriously enough not because it was too silent but too loud. Matishov, probably both due to his personality and due to the fact that he felt insecure in his “minority status”, started shouting around, being too bold and irrational in his reasoning, causing some embarrassment among the audience and the organizers and thus losing credibility.


A Soviet propaganda poster about American presence in Europe stating “Phrases and… bases”; from Scott Thoe’s presentation during the Young Scientist Forum PhD seminar. Photo: Lukas Allemann

All in all, both panels gave me the impression that the organizers of the Arctic Frontiers conference did not take enough care about creating a platform of true exchange of opinions on equal terms, and thus missed their goal of being a truly cosmopolitan conference. They rather repeated the behavior of most mainstream media, which, when it comes to discussing the relationship between the West and Russia, do not rely on a broad enough range of experts. They rather seek advice from a limited pool of specialists from the “regular go-to places … when seeking expert opinion and analysis”, as Crosston (2015) fittingly put it. I conclude my blog entry with a strong recommendation to take your time and read Crosston’s sharp-minded meta-analysis of Russian-Western relationship analyses. You will certainly look with more critical eyes on information you will be served by well-established experts in discussion panels and newspaper articles about Russia and the West. In addition, I would like to thank the organizers of the Young Scientists Forum PhD seminar for not repeating the mistakes of the Arctic Frontiers organizers. The seminar was not at all about mainstream thinking, but through its unique kaleidoscope of presenters and participants it encouraged us all to look beyond our disciplines, and beyond our cultures. In the context of the problems between the West and Russia I especially appreciated Scott Thoe’s presentation, in which he encouraged us with the help of art to see in “the Russians” smart and rational, ingenious and quick-witted people and not only gloomy and menacing statesmen suffering from an inferiority complex, as suggested by certain scholars.

5 good reasons to take part in the Arctic Frontiers PhD workshop !!!

By Pierre Blévin, PhD Candidate in Marine Ecology, La Rochelle University, France. Interested in the effects of pollution on Arctic seabird in Svalbard, Norway.

1°) This year, we were around 22 participants coming from 15 different countries (India, Brazil, Norway, Denmark, Russia, Slovenia, Finland, USA, Canada, France…). The Arctic was actually making the link between each participant involved in very different research interests (social science, politics, natural science…).

It was unique to meet all those people with different cultures… but I am not going to talk about the dancing classes during the evening where everyone was proud to show the dancing style of their own country!

2°) During the week, we received really interesting talks (13 in total) from 8 different lecturers. We covered a broad panel of Arctic subjects. Here are some examples :

  • « The ethnic mosaic of northern Norway: Challenges and possibilities » (Paul Wassmann)
  • « Arctic science diplomacy for peaceful management of a changing world » (Rasmus Gjedssø Bertelsen)
  • « The most important animals in high latitude marine ecosystems » (Stig Falk-Petersen)
  • « Show me the data! » (Michael Greenacre)
  • « Lofoten and the visual arts » (Svein Pedersen)
  • « Entrepreneurship and art in a Barents region context » (Scott Thoe)

We even received a yoga class ! It was the first time for me… Rather funny than relaxing but at least, now, for sure I know that I am not flexible at all !

3°) After the Arctic Frontier Conference, we left to Svolvær in Lofoten with the Hurtigruten (a big boat with sauna and Jacuzzi). What a wonderful place ! Each day, we had excursions :

  • Stokmarknes Hurtigruten Museum
  • Lofotmuseum/Gallery Espolin/Lofotaquarium
  • And several walks around Svolvær. Thanks to our guides, Asle Guneriussen and Stig Falk-Petersen for making those walks very pleasant.

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All pictures taken by Pierre Blevin

4°) Of course, we learned about research proposal writing, which was actually the aim of the workshop and I feel now definitely more prepared to ask for a research grant. During the week, we were divided in several groups. Each group was working on their own research proposal and the last day, we had our final presentation the proposal. Although our group did not win, I will remember for a while about this wonderful song « STOP THE POPs », beautifully sung by Alexei ;).

5°) A music band, « Kaa » joined us during all the week and we enjoyed a lot all their concerts… I will remember all my life this last night. We were on the way back in the Hurtigruten, somewhere between Svolvær and Tromsø. The « Kaa » band decided to improvise a concert outside, on the deck where everybody were dancing under a fabulous northern light !

Pierre, the french guy with the very french accent !

Northern lights in Northern Norway

By Jaroslav Obu

Besides the scientific and educational experience, the workshop was very rich with different personal impressions. For participants who are not living in high latitudes, seeing the northern lights was a unique experience. During the conference I even heard senior scientists asking the people that are studying northern lights for a forecast.

The weather was mainly cloudy during the conference. Despite some moments of clear sky the aurora was unfortunately not visible. The predicted increase in geomagnetic activity did not happen because the solar wind blew just past the Earth. On the evening, just before boarding Hurtigruten, magnetometers showed some aurora activity. Few of us went up the hill in the search of darker spots, where we had a chance to see a green curtain gently dancing above the houses of Tromsø.


The first days in Svolvær were cloudy and snowy so the beautiful Lofoten landscape turned white, but the sky remained grey. The third day of the workshop brought some hope with partly cloudy evening and slightly increased geomagnetic activity. Faint auroras were visible through hazy sky on Svinøya, where the disturbing strong city lights were not so strong. But then some clouds covered the sky again. To our surprise, green bands appeared on the sky again during the jam session of KAA band and we rushed out with only our slippers on to see the aurora that became stronger and before the clouds returned.


I decided to try my luck the next evening and go slightly higher, away from the city lights. The weather forecast was promising that the sky would clear up late in the evening. The snow was getting deeper and deeper and soon I was trudging in a meter of snow. I came high enough so that the view over the city and nearby mountains was nice. Shortly before  midnight the forecast came true and the background of nearby mountains that were lit by city lights turned green. On thw way back, when hiking through fresh and soft snow, the northern lights came closer and were slowly dancing above mountains.



The next evening we boarded Hurtigruten and were heading back to Tromsø and soon after leaving Svolvær we could see some northern lights dancing in the sky. These were soon hidden behind the clouds of snow showers. After midnight, close to Stokkmarknes, the sky was clear again and the aurora became brighter. While we were together spending the last evening on the deck the aurora was shining above us and showing the best performance right at the end of the workshop.


Arctic Frontiers PhD Workshop 2016: An overview with a touch of impression

By Elena Guk, Ph.D. student in Recreational Geography, Saint Petersburg State University, Russia

In 2016, the Arctic Frontiers PhD Workshop gathered 22 young scientists from universities and research institutions representing both Arctic and non-Arctic countries – Norway, Russia, Finland, Sweden, Denmark (including Greenland), Canada, UK, the Netherlands, Germany, France and India (and the map of citizenship had been colored even more). Students’ research topics were ranging from Beaufort Sea fish communities to tourism on Taimyr Peninsula, thus demonstrating great thematic and geographical variation of young Arctic science nowadays.

The workshop lasted ten days, from 25th of January till 3rd of February – four days during the Arctic Frontiers conference in Tromsø, and six after, on board famous coastal steamer Hurtigruten and in Svolvær – a small fishery town in the heart of amazingly scenic Lofoten islands.


On the way to Svolvær – Photo: Ulrike Grote

The educational program of the workshop included three major parts. First, each participant presented their research in the Science section of Arctic Frontiers. Second, there were twelve lectures given by Tromsø University professors, Akvaplan-Niva researchers and local Lofoten artists – theoretical (e.g. The ethnic mosaic of Northern Norway: Challenges and possibilities by Paul Wassmann), practical (e.g. Lessons on a transdisciplinary excellence by Rasmus G. Bertelsen) and even art-related (e.g. Lofoten and the visual arts by Svein Pedersen). And, last but not least, the core event – training on preparing research proposals, which was held during the travel days.


Brainstorming – Photo: Elena Guk

For this purpose workshop participants were divided into four groups, based on multidisciplinary and international principles. Using an imaginary call for proposals announced by ARCTOS, students prepared four interdisciplinary Arctic-related project proposals and gave interactive presentation of them to the evaluation team. All projects were highly appreciated by the jury, but the winner was only one: the proposal CRABS – Crab-related Resilience Assessment of Biology and Society.


Final presentations – Photo: Elena Guk

Another (and even maybe more important) result of the workshop – a great young researcher team that had been built disregarding of the study field and country each of us represented. Definitely, this became possible not only because of intensive group work, but also due to well organized travel and accommodation (I wish I could stay in Lofoten Suites Hotel one more time in my life!), wise work-life balance during the workshop (Norwegians work for life, we remember) and without any doubt perfect social program. During the conference young scientists participated in most of evening social activities, such as icebreaker parties, Troms mayor welcome reception and fantastic concert in the Arctic cathedral, mentioned in previous posts. In Svolvær we went to excursion trips every day, which was extremely valuable taking into consideration short daylight time. Travel part was really unique in the context of free time organization: students and teachers were accompanied by the band from Barcelona called KAA which gave a set of concerts and even “a lecture” during our days in Svolvær and of course on Hurtigruten.


Antonio Torres Vega, drummer of KAA – photo: Ulrike Grote

It was so hard to leave the last concert party after coming back to Tromsø, at night before most of us fly away. It was so hard to say goodbye to new friends and so sweet to meet them again in different airports on the way home. And I’m sure, rapidly growing Arctic science will give us a chance to get together more than once!

Culture and nature of Lofoten islands

By Yury Dvornikov

Fish, sea, and fjords are the keywords of the Lofoten islands and especially Svolvær, where our group disembarked on 29.01. It was very interesting to see this very small town with quite good developed infrastructure with nice hotels, restaurants, big supermarkets etc. Being a port for a daily arriving coastal steamer it seems to be very popular for tourists during summer. What kind of objects worth to be visited here? Already walking around the town and vicinities could allow you to feel the beautiful nature of Northern Norway. Besides this, there is also a cluster of museums including Lofotmuseum, Gallery Espolin, Lofotaquarium located together near the town and where one could get familiar with a traditional lifestyle of fishermen and typical representatives of the marine animal world. The observation deck on the small hill offers an excellent view of the fjord and the museum complex. In an open-air part of the aquarium, one can observe seals and otters. We were lucky to attend their lunchtime ;). The Gallery Espolin allows you to see the paintings painted by Kaare Espolin Johnson, devoted to the life of this region.

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All photos taken by Ulrike Grote

A journey of knowledge

By Ann Eileen Lennert


”I am sitting on board MS Lofoten writing the introduction of this book. I see Germans, Swedes and Americans cutting tongs of cod, going king crabs fishing and on excursions where they hang fish to dry or gutting cod. They eat cured halibut, smoked turbot and poached salmon in the buffet of the restaurant. The Hurtigruta ought to promote these pilgrim cruises, a homage to the food of the sea, our savior of all times, to us Norwegians. Because now it is the tourists who are learning the things that we ourselves are about to forget. We would have good use of a journey of knowledge along our own coasts of Norway.”

Veronica Melå, Havet, Mat, Makt og Meninger, 2015.


It was exactly such a trip we experienced at our stay in Svolvær, Lofoten, a small fishing community surrounded by majestic mountains. We were here in connection with the ARCTOS PhD course, a course educational in every sense and manner.


Here we traveled through a journey of knowledge. Local knowledge of the area was shares through stories of locals, local who are akin with the sea, the smell of the salt water, the winds blowing and the waves folding themselves around the cliffs of the shores.


This knowledge was both shared by walks along the peers and among the smell of drying fish,


-but also through art of local artist who in a unique way visualized the history, knowledge and stories of the communities scattered on the islands of Lofoten and surrounding Svolvær. With their art this unique knowledge was being preserved.


The locals had become scientists and these scientists educated us of how one through multi-disciplinarity could address topics regarding “Dynamics, resilience and change of arctic marine social and environmental systems”. Here we were joined from various places of the world, from India to Greenland, from fields of artists, glaciologists, economics, biologist, to anthropologist –among many other fields.


Here both different cultures of sciences, different cultures of heritage, different cultures of perceptions and knowledge met and together shaped ways of how to perform science and topics of concern, these of which were expressed scientifically, through Music of “Spot the POPS”, through education and not at least in an interdisciplinary manner.


I think it is no secret that discourses, perceptions and outcomes are many (as the colors of buoys marking the visualized route at sea) when regarding “Dynamics, resilience and change of arctic marine social and environmental systems”. Changes seen the future are not only caused by climate change, but through anthropogene disturbances, politics, economy and global demand on given resources.

It is important to think that changes are not only obstacles, but can be innovative, enhance creativity and an acknowledgement of these coastal communities who so much shape the history of the coast of Norway.


We learned how knowledge can be expressed in so many forms as well as understood in a diverse variation and the importance of recognizing the interrelated ways of expression.


All photos by Ann Eileen Lennert

Painting by Scott Thoe

Day 3: Concert Arctic Cathedral

By Mikhail Varentsov

Tonight we had a concert in famous Arctic cathedral, and it was amazing. Magnificent melodies of Grieg, Norwegian folk music and unbelievable soprano voice turns concert to the magic flight through the sky, through the mountains and through Scandinavian fairy-tales. When musicians played, heart became beating rapidly, and the soul moved to the world of dreams. Wonderful acoustic, clean lines of cathedral and twinkling of the candles were multiplying the impressions.

Before the concert I wanted to make photos during it, but have forgotten about my camera when the music have appeared – because of this, I don’t have any photo with concert itself and with musicians. There are only funny selfie, made before the concert, when we were relaxed after the dinner and still not impressed the music, and some photos, made after in attempt to catch wonderful atmosphere of this place.

Thanks a lot to the organizers for this concert, and to the musicians for the wonder which they made for us. This was a really strong impression, which I will never forget.

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Photos: Mikhail Varentsov

Comment by Ulrike: The soprano was Gro-Anita Gyring Kval, in case somebody is interested 🙂

Day 3: Science Communication Panel

Written by Ashley Stasko, PhD Candidate in Biology at the University of Waterloo, Canada. Interests in marine food webs and drivers behind variation in ecosystem structure.

The science portion of the Arctic Frontiers started off nicely with an early career researcher social event at Ølhallen, the oldest pub in Tromsø. Participants of both the Arctic Student Forum and the Arctic Frontiers PhD Workshop were in attendance. The social was a great venue for us to break out of our shells and network with each other. We were served a delicious dinner of local foods, and I finally had the chance to try some Norwegian beer!

The next day, there was a panel discussion on science communication at the Arctic Frontiers that I had been really interested in attending. Four panelists spoke about their diverse experiences in science communication (from large-scale film productions to Twitter), and gave advice on how early career researchers could reach out to the public to share their research. The panelists included Lawrence Hislop (a professional film-maker and science communicator from the Climate and Cryosphere Project), Magnus Svendsen Nerheim (University of Bergen and former APECS Director with extensive social media experience), Alexey Pavlov (Norwegian Polar Institute Researcher with classical media relations experience), and Sara Aparicio (APECS Portugal Researcher, who actively participates in educational programs for youth).


Photo: Ulrike Grote

In general, the speakers had interesting and useful advice to give on communicating their science. I particularly enjoyed the diverse range of media products presented by Lawrence Hilsop, who has been involved with many eye-catching and interesting science communication initiatives, such as films and print media for international climate reports. It reminded me of a close colleague of mine, who just graduated his MSc in Arctic Fish Ecology but has much grander aspirations of becoming a film maker and professional science communicator. My friend has always been a strong supporter of making science not only accessible, but visually stunning and exciting for a general audience. I admire the dedication and talent it takes to turn your research project into a photo shoot (which is a talent I most definitely lack).

But I have to admit, that while I think communicating science to the general public is a very important endeavour, as Arctic researchers in particular I believe that our biggest communication responsibility is finding a way to effectively communicate our results and data back to the northern and Indigenous communities that have a deeper vested interest in our findings. This was one topic I was very surprised to find lacking in the panel discussion. In Canada, where I conduct my own science, it is near impossible to conduct research in the Arctic without the input and approval of Inuit research advisors. Admittedly, this makes the delivery of results to northern communities a little bit easier than it may be in other pan-Arctic regions. But there is still a lot of room for improvement, and I think that science communication for Arctic researchers should automatically include the notion of reporting back to those most deeply impacted by the political, environmental, and social subjects we study. And this requires a social and societal education on the part of the researchers. The media outlets, language, and approaches that may be most effective for communicating to our own southern communities may not necessarily be the ones most effective for northern communities.

As the polar science community grows and the support system for early career scientists strengthens, I hope that more resources will become available for learning how to communicate with Indigenous and other northern communities. Science, after all, is an important Arctic resource for us, and the people of the Arctic have a right to share in this resource.

Day 3 – Side event: Russia, our neighbour in the Arctic

By Hilma Salonen

The Policy part of the conference being over and done with, there was an opportunity to hear how the views of the Science panel compared with the general message of the talks of previous days (to sum up, that ‘the Arctic is a region of peaceful cooperation’) The panelists were Dr. Bobo Lo from Chatham House, Dr. Arkady Moshes from the Finnish Institute of International Affairs, Dr. Dmitry Tulupov from the School of International Relations, St. Petersburg State University, Dr. Katarzyna Zysk, from Norwegian Defence University College and Dr. Geir Hønneland from Fridtjof Nansen Institute, with Helge Blakkisrud, from the Norwegian Institute of International Affairs, hosting the event.

AF event_photo

Photo: Hilma Salonen

From the beginning it was clear that unlike in the opening speeches of the conference, optimism would be a rare commodity during these presentations. According to Dr. Lo, Russia and the US or Europe have drifted so far apart from each other that the Russian-American relations are best described as ‘mutually assured non-cooperation’. Even though Moscow’s bullish tactics in the sphere of foreign relations have much deteriorated the country’s international position since 2012, they are likely to continue since the Russian public opinion still considers them as effective. However, for Europe cooperation with Russia remains vital in some issues, including trade, and vice versa. Therefore, Dr. Lo’s message is that Europe needs to both act more determinant regarding its own security issues and settle for small, concrete steps when cooperating in the High North, for example.


The presentation of Dr. Moshes continues logically in the same traces, asking where do Europe and Russia go from this point. Similarly, he describes the European-Russian partnership in the coming years as disintegrated and conflictual. His message is that the crisis in Ukraine and the following sanctions have actually brought upon very little change: these two players have not been on the same page for a long while, and Russia sees Europe as a characteristically weak, un-trustworthy and un-friendly companion. As a way forward, Dr. Moshes introduces the term of ‘compartmentalisation’, also suggesting that cooperation should be concentrated on small, concrete matters such as trade issues. He also calls for the EU to regain its position as a soft power.

Following these views, Dr. Tulupov presents a more concrete example of a problem stemming from the lack of cooperation, in this case from point of view of Russia. In order for Russia to ensure its energy security, it is vital for it to develop the Western part of the Russian Arctic and especially its hydrocarbon sources. Unfortunately for these goals, he states that Russia failed to do so during the ‘friendly period’ of 2003 — 2013. At the moment, Russia is still 80% dependent of orders from its Western energy customers, but not able to develop its own deposits without eg. its Norwegian partners, who have left the scene after the Ukrainian crisis.

The fourth speaker, Dr. Zysk, illustrated what is meant by Russia ‘gearing up’ in the Arctic. The year 2012 is again seen as a watershed: since then, the military build-up in the Russian Arctic has been extensive and new permanent military basis have been built eg. in Murmansk and the Arctic islands. The number of Arctic military exercises has also been increasing. Dr. Zysk puts the possible threats as viewed by Russia into three categories. The first one is regional and simply linked to the increased human activity in the region, and the need to monitor it. The second one is both global and regional and connected to possible competition over energy sources. These two possible threats present the Arctic as a possible source of conflict. The third one, for its part, presents the Arctic as not the source but the arena for conflict and is connected to the use of the nuclear deterrent. Dr. Zysk finishes by stating that despite these matters, the attempts to ‘insulate’ the Arctic region and return to the ‘business as usual’ way of thinking are still strong — however, the region is bound to be linked to various security threats in international politics.

Interestingly, the last speaker, Dr. Hønneland presents an example of Russian-Norwegian cooperation that is based on pragmatism and compromise: the case of the Norwegian-Russian Fisheries Commission. The history of this cooperation platform has, in his view, been successful and despite some criticism presented in the Russian media, is even likely to remain so. Indeed, it seems clear that in this field, cooperation has potential to be so fruitful that there are serious attempts to ‘protect’ it from political conflicts such as the Ukrainian crisis.

After the presentations, there is a pleasingly lively panel discussion and a lot of interaction with the audience. A firm message is delivered to the EU in its Russian relations, which could be summarised as follows: 1) When cooperating in trade, concentrate on trade, not geopolitics. 2) Commodities need to be de-politisised. 3) Harbour no illusions about a quick fix to the situation!

The event has been very thought-provoking and of this I thank all the participants

Day 0: Arctic Frontiers Conference Kick-off at the Fram Centre

By Serina Robinson, a U.S. Fulbright student at UiT: The Arctic University of Norway in Tromsø, interested in Arctic microbiology and biogeochemistry.

The 10th Arctic Frontiers conference began with fanfare at the Fram Centre on Sunday, January 24th. The opening night was attended by a mix of politicians, businesspersons, scientists, students, volunteers, artists, and the press, all focused on one common theme: the state of the Arctic.


Salve Dahle opening the 10th Arctic Frontiers Conference. Photo: Ulrike Grote

Salve Dahle, Chairman of the Arctic Frontiers Steering Committee, wished us a warm welcome to Tromsø. Dahle was followed by Cecilie Myrseth, Chair of the Troms County Government, who highlighted the increasing global importance of polar regions. The tone of the evening was set by Cecilie with a brave optimism about the state of the Arctic despite the unique challenges faced by its inhabitants and industries. As a young scientist, it was affirming to hear that more eyes are turning northwards than ever before and that polar research interests are increasingly relevant in a global context.

The opening ceremony continued with four presentations about recent expeditions to the Arctic. These four “snapshots” offered glimpses into research activities at the poles and set the bar high for the rest of the weeklong conference.

Speaker Sergey Katikov, presented Russian Arctic research and preservation efforts. Mr. Katikov is advisor to the President of the Russian Geographic Society, a prestigious society founded in 1845. Katikov emphasized the recent focus on conservation and education. The Russian Geographical society has several projects to protect the polar bears, walrus, and beluga whales – the most charismatic wildlife of the Arctic we know today. The society is also actively engaged in a full scale cleanup of the Russian Arctic coastline. To support education, the Russian Geographic Society sponsored several Russian students to present at the Arctic Student Forum here in Tromsø. Moreover, the Geographic society promotes education for youth on “floating universities”: Russian research vessels. I personally think the concept of a “floating university” sounds like a fun, hands-on way to learn about polar research and issues. Sign me up 🙂

Next, Jan-Gunnar Winther and Harald Steen explained the daring Norwegian Winter Research Expedition to the Arctic Ocean (N-ICE) which was completed last year. N-ICE filled a significant knowledge gap in Arctic research during winter months. To deal with winter conditions, researchers locked the vessel in an ice cap to drift for over five months. Scientists collected physical, chemical, and biological data round-the-clock to create a comprehensive picture of winter dynamics in the Arctic. The N-ICE expedition received worldwide attention, including a cover of the National Geographic magazine. I cannot even begin to imagine how much care, planning, and expertise went into accomplishing this feat!

Professor Yngve Kristoffersen, a renowned researcher from the University of Bergen, presented us with an eco-friendly alternative to icebreakers for Arctic exploration: a hovercraft. Professor Kristoffersen first described both setbacks and breakthroughs made during the development of this polar hovercraft. In 2015, Kristoffersen gave his hovercraft a trial-by-fire on an ambitious expedition to an entirely unexplored region of ice pack. This mission yielded several new discoveries including the documentation of a fish species not previously known to be present in Arctic waters. I found it most interesting that the amount of fuel required to power this hovercraft is less than 0.5% that of an icebreaker. As we look to cut our carbon emissions, Professor Kristoffersen’s efficient hovercraft sets a high standard for future research expeditions.

The last presentation was by Johanne Jerijærvi, a 14-year old from Kirkenes, Norway who is the youngest girl to have skied to the North Pole. Johanne was one of four “Nansen kids” selected by NRK for a TV-program called Oppdrag Nansen (Mission Nansen). Mission Nansen aimed at raising awareness and educating youth about climate change. Mission Nansen selected four Norwegian 13-year-olds and documented their journey on cross-country skis to the North Pole. Following their successful expedition, the four youth presented at the Paris COP 21 conference. Their plea for action was well-received by world leaders including U.N. Secretary General Ban Ki-moon. At the Arctic Frontiers opening night, Johanne’s message conveyed the awareness of a youth who has witnessed climate change at the North Pole with her own eyes.

These four presentations were varied examples of polar exploration in the spirit of Fridtjof Nansen. They served as exciting sneakpeeks to kick off the weeklong conference. Following the opening ceremony, guests mingled while viewing seals and other attractions at Polaria, the Tromsø aquarium.


Photo: Ulrike Grote

As members of the ARCTOS PhD-workshop, we are lucky to also participate in our own version of a “floating university” aboard the Hurtigruten to Lofoten and back. As a whole, Arctic Frontiers Young is paving the way to promote the interest of young people in Arctic issues. We are so thankful to be participate in the PhD workshop as part of Arctic Frontiers Young. We really look forward to the opportunities for networking and growth this workshop provides.

Day 2 – Science part

By Helena G. Lindberg, PhD Candidate in Political Science, Lund University, Sweden. Interested in politics, narratives and alternative future visions for the Arctic region. Also see:

The talk I looked forward to the most today was the keynote “Stewardship in the global Arctic: Between Private and the Global” by Philip Steinberg, Professor at the Department of Geography, Durham University. His work has been very inspirational and influential in my work, and I can recommend a look in the book “Contesting the Arctic: Politics and Imaginaries in the Circumpolar North” (Steinberg et al. 2015). I find his way of writing accessible and easy to read, also for those who normally do not read this type of academic literature.

Picture A

Photo: Helena Gonzales Lindberg


Steinberg actually started his talk with some self-promotion of the book and its six narratives/imaginaries which shape the understanding of the Arctic: Artic as a “no mans’ land”; the image of the frozen ocean; Indigenous Statehood; Resource Frontier; Transcendent Nationhood; Nature Reserve; and the image of the Arctic as a Nature Reserve. Additionally, Steinberg presented a seventh narrative that has become more prominent after the publication of the book: “Normalisation”. This is something I also have encountered, mainly among politicians in the Arctic five (Russia, USA, Canada, Norway and Greenland/Denmark), who stress the need for managing the Arctic according to rules and regulations existing everywhere else. While others argue that the Arctic is special, politicians in the Arctic five want to downplay its’ uniqueness and emphasises the Law of the Sea and the sovereignty of nation states to rule its territory. Steinberg sees stewardship as a part of this normalisation narrative.

Picture B

Photo: Helena Gonzales Lindberg


In the definition of stewardship, Steinberg identified three important elements: The empowering of authority, the steward, and things to be stewarded. While being related to management, stewardship is also about power (politics): What is the source of authority? Who picks the steward? Who picks what gets to be stewarded, and who picks the goals? Here the actors are emphasised, showing that the meaning of stewardship and its effects are not exempted from individuals’ (political) understandings, opinions and priorities. This is central also in my own work, as I think that the way we understand something entails what we think ought to be done about it. Thus, narratives matter as they shape our understanding. Perhaps, as Steinberg et al. (2015) writes in their book, imaginaries matter even more in the Arctic than other places because the main policy makers most often are located in the capitals far away from the Arctic region. Their imaginaries of what the Arctic is will affect their policies, even though it does not relate directly.

Steinberg also talked about the lack of a commonly agreed definition of where the Arctic is; even different working groups in the Arctic Council define the geographic scope of the Arctic differently, and the difficulty of defining who is an “Arctic citizens”. While not refraining from the use of the term “stewardship”, Steinberg warned that while stewardship is inclined towards management, it could also lead to domination. He made clear that future of the Arctic still rests on stewardship, but instead of the Arctic peoples being stewarded they should be empowered to be the (main) stewards.

His keynote talk did meet my expectations (it is the first time I see him speak), and I will definitely continue to read his writings (and I recommend you to do the same).

Picture C

Happy row of PhDs on the first day of Science (finally…)




Day 1: Policy

By Laurens van Gelderen, Ph.D. student at the Technical University of Denmark, interests in (green) chemistry and international climate policy

The first day of the Arctic Frontiers 2016 conference started (as usual) with the policy section of the conference. The audience was addressed by several ministers and other political leaders in the morning program, followed by talks from science and industry representatives and closed off by break-out sessions on different topics. As a Ph.D. student in the natural sciences, it was interesting to hear the typical way of political presenting during the morning session. There were a lot of good and interesting talks, but most of them suffered from the typical shallowness famous from politicians that use a lot of words to basically say nothing. There were many calls for action, new leadership and statements that the time has come for change. None of the politicians mentioned however how they would make this happen or how they would work towards such goals. I could not help but to have the slight feeling of empty promises throughout most of the morning session. It is very easy to state something needs to change or encourage others to do so. It is much harder to actually do something concrete to make a change.

This feeling did not take away that the overall tone and message of the first day was a positive one. Following the agreement at COP 21 in Paris, the presentations had a positive note that showed that while challenging, sustainable changes will likely be made for the better of our environment. The outlook of our future was in general positive. The world seems to have woken up from a slumber of inaction and is ready to act and meet the targets set at the COP 21. I was genuinely surprised by this message, as the last time I had been actively following international climate policy in 2012-2013 the political arena was rather stagnant and a solution to climate change seemed far removed from us. Thus, this willingness to act can be seen as an achievement by itself.

During the breakout sessions I joined the COP 21 revisited session in the hope to hear more about COP 21 and why it was considered such a success, even before the agreement was legally binding. Knowing that it is much easier to promise to act than to actually do so (which I have often observed in politics), I was slightly skeptical about the agreement made in Paris. The same positive message of the morning sessions was continued in the breakout session, starting with a nice presentation of the Norwegian minister of Climate and the Environment. Minister Vidar Helgesen actually gave some concrete examples of how he envisioned shifting Norway’s economic reliance from oil to ‘blue’ economic growth (e.g. fisheries), which was surprisingly direct and interesting to hear. The presentation provided a good example of how emissions can be reduced, while still allowing for economic growth and international competitiveness. Afterwards there was an interesting panel with four very knowledgeable scientists and politicians, during which I had the opportunity to ask my question about the perceived optimism of the COP 21 agreement. My question was kindly answered by all four panel participants who explained each in their own field of knowledge what the implications are of the COP 21 results. In my understanding their main arguments can be summarized into:

  • the agreement on global climate change targets has prevented upcoming issues between nations based on differences in national climate policy;
  • based on previous experience of similar agreements, there is no reason to believe that the agreement will not be signed and become legally binding in April 2016;
  • it is a unique step forward in international climate change policy that all nations agreed on a single target that, while there is still room for improvement, presents a much better image than previous business-as-usual scenarios.


All in all, it was an interesting day that presented a very new perspective on international climate policy; a positive and welcome message that the world has agreed to act and is willing to act. If the promises and calls for action are converted to actual actions, I believe there is a positive future ahead of us in terms of the climate of our planet. The prediction of some of the speakers that 2016 will be a very important year for (inter)national climate policy seems a solid prediction. It will be interesting to see if and how our leaders and industries will make the promised changes happen and how the new climate goals should be reached. Signing the COP 21 agreement in New York in April this year will be a good first indication for me that things are really going the right way. I’m therefore very curious to see how international climate policy will come along in April and what the future brings for the climate of our world.

Tromsø is waiting for you!

In only two weeks a new workshop will start and this year 23 students from 15 countries will attend. Hopefully, coming from warm countries such as Brazil, Argentina and India, Tromsø will not welcome them with the current – 15 degrees Celsius. But we do hope for such beautiful light and clear skies as we can enjoy right now with the light slowly but surely coming back.


(Photo: Susanne Kortsch)

Busy days in Svolvær

The workshop in Svolvær, Lofoten was very busy, with many talks, excursions and group work on the project proposals. On Sunday, Jan 25, we went for a very nice walk and Asle Gunneriusen would provide us with many facts about Svolvær and its history.

On Monday we went to Kabelvåg and visited the ‘folkehøyskole’ there, as well as the Lofot museum and gallery Espolin and on Tuesday we visited the coastal administration.

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Photos: Ulrike Grote

Break for the mind

After the conference ended on Friday we boarded the coastal steamer “Kong Harald” late at night to go to Svolvær which is located on the Lofoten Islands.

The next day started with more talks about research proposal writing and other very serious things. But in the afternoon we had the opportunity to give our minds a break by attending a world premier:

The Scandinavian Hawaiian Ukulele Sunrisers would give an exclusive concert on the ship!


They brought warm sunshine with them and made us clap and sing and most importantly: relax our minds.
Watch out for them and other music they do under different appearances on the Arctic Frontiers youtube channel:

(photo: Ulrike Grote)

Word cloud of abstracts

Java Printing

Participants in the Young Scientist Forum at Arctic Frontiers 2015 all submitted abstracts to the conference.  From these the most frequent words were extracted and are visualized in a word cloud (, giving a glimpse into the themes of the presentations.  Size of the words is related to the frequency of occurrence in the total corpus of abstracts.

A scientist’s perspective on the politics part of the conference

The Monday theme was focused around the State of the Arctic in 2015 in the morning, followed by talks on Climate and Energy in the afternoon. The morning session stressed the vulnerability of the Arctic to climate change, the need to raise awareness, and actions towards international cooperation that must be taken in order to reach these goals.  I found this as a stark contrast to the afternoon session on Climate and Energy where we heard from several high powered oil executives – Norwegian Statoil, China National Petroleum, as well as American owned Conoco Phillips.

I know that we need oil and fossil fuels to continue our way of life until alternative energies are more efficient and cost effective, but the tales the oil executives told, were ones of prosperity and glory.  I don’t think that tale holds when combined with the Arctic, especially if those resources do not remain untouched.  Thus, the afternoon session seemed to be in direct contrast with the morning session on the need to mitigate climate change, however this was rather inconspicuous during the speeches from the oil executives.  Perhaps I just have a biased view of fossil fuel consumption.  Today, I met with an old friend who I met while studying in Oslo, and she told me of the scary stories of Norweigan forest land being sold to foreign investment companies, such as Chinese National Petroleum which recently bought some of Lyngen, and apparently Svalbard.  This made me think how great an opportunity it would have been for the audience to be able to ask direct questions of the presenters, especially the oil executives.  Why not put a little heat on them?  I appreciate that the moderator had strong pointed questions, but often the presenters got away with not giving a direct answer, and essentially evading questions about environmental or safety concerns.

Furthermore, there has been a lot of talk about economic development of the north, but what really does this mean for conservation?  Tuesday’s session included a talk about ecological winners and losers of climate change in the Arctic which I think was one of the only talks thus far which really addressed these issues, along with Samantha Smith of the WWF-Norway.  I was a bit surprised by the relative lack of these issues presented during the policy session.  I guess they will come more with the science sessions in the next couple days, once the politicians have left.  Wednesday I also had the opportunity to attend the business session on mining in the Arctic, which was across town at the Edge Hotel.  At the morning science session, questions were welcome from the audience at the end of the talk.  Arriving at the business session, I was again surprised by the lack of open dialogue with the audience, as well as the difference of appearance, many more suits, and weighted on the male side.

In general, coming from a science background where I mostly attend conferences solely made up of scientists, I appreciate the different and varied perspective that the policy and business sessions bring.  Hearing from politicians, prime ministers, and oil executives is something I have never been exposed to at an academic conference.  Thus, I think this is a very unique experience and I feel very fortunate to be able to attend and participate in the Young Scientists Forum.  I am looking forward to seeing what the next days bring.

(text: Alia Khan; photos: Cory Matthews (upper), Katrine Brink Claassen (lower))

More young scientists present their work

Today, watch out for the following presentations!

Ilya Stepanov 10:50 Session I (The potential of the Northern Sea Rout to reduce CO2 emissions)

Evi Baxevani 10:50 Session III (The intricate economic, geopolitical and environmental equation of the Arctic)

Jon Lawrence 11:10 Session II (Vertical nitrate fluxes and large-scale Arctic primary production in a changing Arctic)


Yesterday afternoon, Cory Matthews presented his work on intrapopulation diet variation in beluga whales and Yana Korneeva talked about how climate change may affect the spread of parasitic diseases among the Russian Arctic population.
Many came to the poster session and there were a lot of nice and interesting discussions to attend. Below are pictures of some of the poster presenters.

Kaja Ostaszewska from Poland

Kaja Ostaszewska from Poland


Danya Rumore from the US (left), Yana Korneeva from Russia (2nd fr. right) and Jimena Alvarez from Argentina (right)



Alia Khan from the US



Ilya Stepanov from Russia (left) and Evi Baxevani from Greece (middle)



Barbora Padrtova from Czech Repulic (middle)



Katrine Brink Claassen from South Africa

(text and photos: Ulrike Grote)

Look North: why should we stay in the Arctic?

The Arctic Career Seminar organized by the University of Tromsø Career Service in cooperation with Arctic Frontiers took place on January 20th and was fully booked already a couple of days before the event. UiT students and young researchers from the conference gathered to find out more about career opportunities in the High North.
There were four presenters: Trude Nilsen from SpareBank 1 Nord-Norge, Nils Arne Johnsen from Rambøll – the largest Arctic consultancy company in the world, Christian Chramer from Norwegian Seafood Council and Anita Evenset from Akvaplan-niva, the research centre. Four very different career paths were united by the Arctic and illustrated perfectly how diverse the region is.

As we learnt from Trude Nilsen’s presentation, North Norway covers around 45% of the whole Norwegian territory and 46.000 companies are based there, whereas only 480.000 people inhabit this area – so, plenty of opportunities. The presenters from Rambøll and Akvaplan-niva were also talking about these opportunities paying special attention to international students.
Christian Chramer in his poetic presentation “Look North, Blue Growth” revealed some marketing secrets which were used to promote Norwegian salmon among Singaporean Chinese: now red fish is an important attribute of Chinese New Year dishes and replaced the traditionally served white Singaporean fish, as red is considered to be a lucky color in Chinese culture.  Christian advised us to be more versatile when looking for a job and to use every chance for networking, internship or gaining extra knowledge.

However, as one of the students mentioned, international professionals still face a lot of difficulties when searching for a position in Norway. “Are we doing something wrong?” – the student asked. “No, probably we are doing something wrong” – Christian replied; a truly thought-provoking end of the seminar!

(text: Anna Varfolomeeva; photos: UiT Career Centre)

YSF workshop participants are presenting

Tomorrow the science part of Arctic Frontiers will start and four participants will present their research in the afternoon.

Watch out for:

Ingrid Medby 15:20 session I (Melting homelands: A sense of Belonging in the Changing Arctic)

Camille Escudé 16:40 session I (Geopolitical issues of new Arctic Sea routes)

Sarah Fortune 16:20 session II (Diet and feeding of bowhead whales)

Hanna Lempinen 16:00 session III (Silenced, sidelined and simplified: The ‘social’ in the Arctic energy sustainability debates

The opening of the Arctic Frontiers conference

Arctic Frontiers 2015 started on Sunday evening with an armchair discussion addressing climate and energy, the keywords of this year’s conference. After some welcoming words by Salve Dahle, leader of the steering committee of Arctic Frontiers, the discussion was opened by moderator Olav Orheim, one of the world leading glaciologists and former director of the Norwegian Polar Institutes.


The discussion focused basically on the question: “To drill or not to drill” (in the Arctic) as the BarentsObserver so nicely summarized. The answer to this question ranged from a clear -No- by Nina Jensen, CEO of WWF Norway and Jens Ulltveit-Moe, CEO of Umoe who also thinks that investing into Barents Sea oil and gas exploration would turn into a financial disaster, over a more carefully approach by HSH Prince Albert II of Monaco, to a -Yes, but carefully- by Fran Ulmer, Chair of the US Arctic Research Commission and Line Miriam Sandberg, Troms county administrator for business, culture and health. Finally, Kjell Giæver, Director of Petroarctic was convinced that the world’s need of energy has to be covered (at least partly) with Arctic oil.

The armchair round ended with the beautiful performance of Norwegian soprano Berit Nordbakken Solset and pianist Fredrikke Bischoff but the evening continued at the aquarium Polaria where we could fight the cold with some delicious reindeer-lapskaus (traditional Norwegian vegetable-meet-stew). Some of us even got to enjoy a panorama movie about Svalbard and found the way to the bright awake seals and fish.

(text: Ulrike Grote; photo: Cory Matthews)

Last question: Who gets funding?

On the return trip from Svolvær to Tromsø, the YSF participants finally got the answer on the last, open question of the course: Which project gets funding from the imaginary “ARCTOS research council”? Head of the council, Jørgen Berge, presented strengths and weaknesses of each of the four proposals and announced that both “LIGHTHOUSE” and “FOUL-BARENTS” would be ranked on a shared first place. Congratulations to both of them!
However, it was a very close race. All projects were really well thought through and presented themselves convincingly, and thus we may conclude that also in the instance of the YSF “the journey is the reward” – and it was great that every single YSF participant was part of it.

So, it is just left to say thanks to everybody for sharing these great days and someday, somewhere, somehow we meet again! 🙂

 Results of proposals

(Text: Ingrid Wiedman)


Finally, we all hit the deadline and had to deliver our more or less complete 1-page project proposals to the “ARCTOS research council” committee consisting of Jørgen, Rasmus, Elina, Michael and Gloudina. Each team also got 15 minutes to present their proposal for the committee and the other groups, followed by a the 10 minutes interrogation by the committee. Though it was “only” a course, Daniel’s guard dog barking (“time our”) was highly appreciated by several participants as it set an end to the “grilling”.

The teams came up with four quite different projects…
1) LIGHTHOUSE asked the ARCTOS research for money to conduct a PhD workshop in Lofoten to link scientific questions with the needs of the society in this region
2) FOUL-BARENTS applied for funding to conduct a study on the toxic effect of antifoul in the Barents Sea and analyze a possible implementation of regulations into the Norwegian and Russian regulation system
3) FUTURE wanted to conduct a fish study in northern Norway and Russia based on echo sounding and try to find out how climate change may affect the migration of the fish and the implications to the local communities
4) TWISTER applied for funding to run a satellite based study, which should analyze the consequences of enhanced polar low occurrence in the Barents Sea and their effect on petroleum activities and shipping

Despite the different approaches, all teams did a very good job in linking the natural and social science part and the group work between the doctoral students from so many different countires worked very well. Therefore, we think the following evening program (relaxing in the Jacuzzi and bar was aboard the coastal steamer “Trollfjord”) well-deserved for everybody!

Congratulation to a very successful course and thanks so much for a great time together!

(Text: Ingrid Wiedmann, photo: Miriam Marquardt)

Deadline approaching

After working desperately with our proposals and the final presentation on Tuesday morning, the course mentors almost kicked us out of the hotel to get some fresh air and clear the heads for the last hours of working: Deadline 19:00.

Some sun and some snow was waiting for us outside and the little trip to the breakwaters gave us the possibility to see a bit of the Svolvær surroundings. A quite special experience for the many foreign PhD students were probably the fish racks (“hjell” in Norwegian) to dry both fish fillets and fish heads.

Monday evening: Music and dancing

Though Scott’s lecture on the “art of the art” was very entertaining, many of the young scientists felt a bit stiff after a lot of sitting during the last days… Therefore some music and dancing was exactly the contrast program we needed: Michael and Clare did a great job by providing the instrumental part – THANK YOU SO MUCH – but we also would like to thank all evenings’ soloists, among others Anna, Jordan, Maxime as well as the Russian and German “choir”. In addition, Clare and Jordan spontaneously invited to a Scottish dancing class – but see yourself…


Clare and Michael: The Svolvær dancehall band

Jordan’s Scottish dancing class with live band

About horsedroppings and art

Scott Thoe, a local artist, vistited us on Monday evening and introduced us to some of his art. His paintings are mainly inspired by the local surroundings, the Hurtigrute, and people/ children in the North, but he has also more “applied” projects: By using color and forms, he tries to converts “sad, concrete” standard buildings into something special…

If you are intersted to see more of Scott’s art, you can visit his Gallery 2 website here.

Besides just showing his art, Scott motivated us also to give creative solutions more space in our own work and life… and as a small example, he came up with the following picture after being asked to draw a horse:

You ask what this is? It is of course horse droppings – the horse just went away a minute ago. 🙂

(Text and pictures: Ingrid Wiedmann)

Life in the Lofoten capital

The day began productive once more: Gloudina started with a short presentation on her work in Equador ( and how this small organization manages to get funding. In the following, Elina addressed the time planning fallacy – something we all knew very well, but with a rule of thumb (estimate the time and the multiply it by 1.5) we may improve this situation in the future. Some time for group work followed, and the different proposals start to get more detailed, but there is still much to be done. To get some fresh air and the head a bit free of all the science “stuff”, we visited the LofotAkvariet  with the seals and the otters and the Gallery Espolin, where we got a short introduction to the pictures of this artist inspired by the Lofoten.

By the way: All talks will be available for download after the end of the workshop!

Enjoy some impressions yourself!

Continue the workshop on the «water»

On HurtigrutenWhile the coastal steamer “Vesterålen” slowly steams southwards, the workshop continues with a lecture by Rasmus. Jordan presentingHe tells about his own experiences with funding applications, and one of his main statements for success is to “apply for the right funding at the right time”. More student presentations, group work, discussion of approved and rejected proposals of our course mentors fill the day, interrupted by a massive amount of goo
d food and some sunny coffee breaks on deck. In Stockmarknes we use the short call to port for a visit to the Hurtigruten museum or just a little walk.
We arrived in a snowstorm in Svolvær in the evening, and after some confusion about the which way to go, Daniel managed to navigate the group safely along the 500 m long walk to the Svolvær hotel. The scheduled “evening off” turned out to be an “evening off for groupwork”, a detail the organizers forgot to mention. With some help from the bar, the struggle for the perfect proposal lasted until late in the evening.


In Svolvaer

(Text and pictures: Ingrid Wiedmann)

Brainwork on Saturday

On Saturday our official program started with a lunch at Fram Senter, before Rasmus held his lecture on transports through the Arctic, both in form of ships and data traffic. This section was followed by a lecture of Michael on innovative data presentation on posters, presentations and in publication, and another round of student (poster) presentation. This lead to very good discussions among the PhD students, almost too good as the pizza started to get cold when we finally finished. Few hours later we left Tromsø with the Coastal Steamer “Vesterålen” and headed south towards Svolvær, where we will arrive on Sunday evening. Some of the participants made a very wise decision, and went to bed, while others mingled in the bar, and had a liquid “breakfast” already at 3 a.m. in the morning.

(Text and photo: Ingrid Wiedmann)

Workshop part II

Following the quote “after the show is before the show”, we almost seamlessly switched from the end of the Arctic Frontiers conference 2013 on Friday afternoon to part II of our workshop: proposal writing and evaluation. After a introduction lecture by Jørgen Berge on the “art of proposal writing”, the participants of the YSF got divided into four groups. Until Tuesday evening each group has time to put together a strategy on how to answer the (fictitious) call for proposals by the Research Network ARCTOS (see below)… and then we will see who gets funding. Good luck and team spirit to all teams!


(Text: Ingrid Wiedmann)

Science banquet on Thursday evening

Maxime, Ingrid and Daniela enjoying their dinner

Spending the whole day listening to very interesting lectures in science or policy talks makes you hungry, but fortunately the science banquet at the RICA Ishavshotel was waiting for us as a last program point on Thursday evening. After the aperitiv, an amazing buffet and some comments of a quite funny toastmaster, we finally had time to lean back and have a relaxing conversation with old and new friends .

Only a small choice from the dessert buffet

APECS (the Associsation of Polar Early Career Scientists) also used the Science banquet to announce this years Poster Award: And the first price went to Moritz, a YSF participant! CONGRATULATIONS!

(Text: Ingrid Wiedmann)

Wednesday evening: Portuguese Fish and Music in the Arctic Cathedral

The Arctic Cathedral in Tromsø

After one first exciting day on the science part of the conference, where conclusions were drawn about the mystery of the polar cod and the fate of the Arctic spring bloom, we continued the evening at Driv, the local student house. Bacalao, a Portuguese dish made from Norwegian stockfish, was this evening’s conference dinner: Bacalao is the Portuguese word for Cod (or in smart: Gadus morhua), and the dish is normally served with potatoes in tomato sauce.
After finishing the predator – prey interaction at Driv, all Arctic Frontiers participants were invited to listen to some beautiful music at the Arctic Cathedral – one of the most famous landmark´s in Tromsø – the Arctic Cathedral. We had the pleasure to listen to some amazing musicians and singers of the now-upcoming Northern lights festival.

(Text and pictures by Miriam Marquardt)

AF program on Thursday: YSF participants stay active

Also on day 4 of the Arctic Frontiers conference, YSF participate actively to the program… so STAY TUNED!

Auditorium 3 (Marine Production)
09:00 – 10:30     Miriam will be one of the chairs of the session
10:45 – 12:05     Jordan and Daniela take over as chairs
13:05 – 14:55     Jordan and Daniela continue as chairs
14:35 Daniela gives her talk on the effects of food and light on the physiology of Calanus glacialis during different seasons in the Arctic

…and between 16:00 and 18:00 there will be the poster session with several contributions from YSF participants!

(Text: Ingrid Wiedmann)

Twitter workshop with Tom Fries (from The Arctic Institute)

Tom Fries (The Arctic Institute)

As a side event to the conference, Tom Fries from the Arctic Institute hold a 1h workshop on social networks. He focused on microblogging, 140 signs and hash keys – Twitter.
Therefore, a tweet like summery for you:

– Increasing number of twitter user: > 500 mill (Oct 2012)
– Twitter can facilitate your Arctic conversation
– How to do a good tweet? Think visually and share good, useful information
– Wanna join the party? Enjoy arcticfrontiers, ARCTOSnetwork and ArcticInstitute

(Text: Ingrid Wiedmann)

AF program tomorrow: YSF participants get active

After two days of listening to various interesting speakers, the YSF participants get active on Wednesday…

Auditorium 1 (Geopolitics in a Changing Arctic Securtity in a Global Context)
12:30 – 14:10 Katrin will be one of the chairs
15:20     Katrin talks about the Arctic security community
16:20     Stefan asks if emergency response management in the Arctic is a driver for cooperation

Auditorium 2 (Marine harvest in the Arctic)
16:40     Clare speaks about the fate of the Arctic spring bloom

Auditorium 3 (Marine Production)
13:30     Marianne talks about larval polar cod & sandlance trophodynamics in the Bering Sea
13:50     Maxime will ask for an answer to the mystery of the missing polar cod


(Text: Ingrid Wiedmann)

A special presentation: Emerging Leaders

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERATwenty one young people from industry, consulting and academia met under the Emerging Leaders program in conjunction with the Arctic Frontiers 2013 conference. The Emerging Leaders listened to lectures and presentations on governance, policy, industry, science related to the Arctic region during their 2.5-day trip between Bodo and Tromso. They were challenged to think about the future of the Arctic in 2050 and to make presentation on the topic. Fruitful brainstorming and discussions resulted in 20 min performance during the second day of the Arctic Frontiers conference. You can watch the presentation here [update October 2015: Video not available any more]. In this ironic time travel, we meet the (now old and well established) Emerging Leaders at the Arctic Today Show in the year 2050. A completely different type of presentation after 2 days with political talks…

(text: Alexey Pavlov and Daniel Vogedes)

A short summary of Arctic Frontiers – Day 1

So, here is a little summary of the opening and first day of Arctic Frontiers conference 2013.  Today was a huge learning experience for me. And I am still reeling a little from new information and the experience of a completely geopolitical perspective.

First up we had welcomes from the Rector of Tromsø University followed by Egil Olli who is President of the Norwegian Sami Parliament.  His emotional talk emphasised the importance of nature to the indigenous people who call the Arctic home. He was also to my great surprise, the ONLY speaker to mention any kind of renewable energy with a brief mention of the fact that extensive wind farms would threaten traditional reindeer grazing lands. I congratulate the organisation of the order of the speakers in having a Sami spokesperson first as it only underlined the fact that Arctic stories must always begin with the people that depend on it directly. It was Espen Barth Eide (Minister for Foreign Affairs) that followed and we learnt that the Arctic council was formed in 1996 to discuss decisions made by the IMO (International Maritime Organisation).  Interestingly, Espen noted that the only Arctic country not to join the Arctic council was the U.S.A., a point that was eloquently addressed to Mead Tredwell, the Alaskan governor, after his speech later by Hans Corell, the former Under-Secretary-General for Legal Affairs and the Legal Counsel of the United Nations. After Espen Barth Eide, the chair of the Arctic Council and Swedish foreign minister, Carl Bildt spoke and made clear that he was very much on the same page as Espen and emphasised the achievement of the Arctic council in creating a task force which meant that the eight countries in the council explicitly agreed to deal with oil spills in the Arctic. And so continued the theme of the day: Oil. Following this, Leona Aglukkaq, a Canadian Inuit from the settlement of Gjoa Haven a remote town in the heart of the Canadian Arctic at 68 °N and also the Minister of Health and the Canadian Northern Economic Agency told a fitting tale of Amundsen’s crucial training in this very settlement in 1903 which ultimately led to his success in reaching the South Pole in 1911. On a final note: Steiner Vaage. The President of ConocoPhillips tried to convince us on the gleaming success of oil and gas exploitation in the high north. He did not address renewable options or sufficiently answer the question asked concerning the plan in case of accidental spillage.

So, for today that is my summary of day 1! Tomorrow’s speakers will focus on marine production and I’m sure we will all continue to gain from this widening of perspectives on all fronts.

(text by Clare Webster)

Live Radio debate on the Norwegian Radio – Day 1


Live Radio Broadcast from the Arctic Frontiers Conference

The largest auditorium at the University of Troms was almost filled to the last seat when Salve Dahle opened the conference on Monday morning. Among the many speeches from national and international politicians, a debate round was broadcasted live on the Norwegian radio program Ekko (P2). You find the podcast (in Norwegian) as mp3 here (see “21.1.2013, Viten – Arctic Frontiers”). Moderator Torkild Jemterud succeeded well to make ministers, scientists and representatives of interest organizations speak on an understandable level, and this made it both easy to listen and interesting at the same time. Among the many aspects, they discussed, I would like to share one particular with you: At least for me it was new that China, India and Singapore applied for an observer position in the Arctic Council, and in the first moment this status may appeared slightly farfetched, especially in the case of Singapore, which is located on 1° northern latitude. However, as one of the debate participants stated: “They are all located on the »right side of the globe«. 🙂

(Text and photo: Ingrid Wiedmann)

Art meets science

After the official opening of the Arctic Frontiers conference at the Polaria, the YSF participants met Helene Sommer and Sigbjørn Bratlie at the Tromsø Center of Contemporary Art (page here in Norwegian).

These two young artists accompanied a scientific cruise to the Arctic during the last year and used this “extraordinary studio” to produce some special pieces of art. Helene put together a 26 minutes movie using both historical film material and shots from the cruise and wanted to contrast “real” Arctic impressions and the view that people have on the Arctic through media. Sigbjørn used a completely different approach: He established “The Schnork Institute for Arctic Research”, which uses “advanced hermeneutics” – a self-developed method rooting in the ancient traditions using the random fall of chicken bones on a pattern on the floor… Probably a rather special method for scientists, but who knows, perhaps it really works…? 🙂

(Text: Ingrid Wiedmann)

Arriving in a Blizzard

After a stint across Scandinavia I made it to Tromsø! Only one flight missed for me but I fear that for our Canadian contingent of young scientists the journey is proving a little longer… I’ll leave that story for them to tell!

Last night most of us met for the first time and shared some pizzas while we chatted about our Arctic specialities whether they be geopolitical, biological or somewhere in between.


Today was the city of Tromsø’s first glimpse of the sun over the horizon and it made for a beautiful sunrise and sunset – the fastest I’ve ever seen. Most of us are now working hard at last minute preparations and are excited (and a little nervous!) for the official start of the workshop tonight and the conference tomorrow.

The sun is back in Tromsø

The sun is back in Tromsø

(Text and pictures by Clare Webster, YSF 2013 participant)

A musical-ecological-linguistic description of Arctic Frontiers 2013

YSF mentor Michael Greenacre used the main words of the speakers in the scientific meeting in a slightly different way and put together a musical-ecological-linguistic description of Arctic Frontiers 2013 (you find it here on youtube). He uses correspondence analysis in the way it was originally developed in 1961 by the French mathematician and linguist, Jean-Paul Benzecri (who analysed word counts) and demonstrates the slightly different use of key words by scientists from different regions. Enjoy!

1h YSF workshop on social media – still possible to join!

On Wednesday, 23rd of January, there will be a one hour seminar on how to use social media, in particular Twitter, to make your research more visible. The seminar will be held by Tom Fries, who is also doing the podcasting from Arctic Frontiers (see previous post). It will take about one hour (starting at 12:00) and there are still places available. The seminar is open to everyone. A free registration is required, more info and a registration link here. [edit October 2015: removed link]

Arctic Frontiers goes podcast

For the first time this year, podcasts are available from the Arctic Frontiers conference (check out here): Tom Fries from the Arctic Institute interviews speakers and participants at the conference about their work and their personal Arctic hot-topic issues. Among others, you can find interviews with the YSF participants Kathrin Keil and Ingrid Wiedmann as well as YSF mentor Rasmus Bertelsen right now… and several others will be available soon.
(Text: Ingrid Wiedmann)

The “whole” world is travelling to Tromsø

In the last blog entry, this year’s YSF mentors presented themselves, and reading their background made me curious meeting them. However, it also made me thinking a lot more about the other YSF participants: From where will they soon start their travel to Tromsø?

Daniel gave me a tiny, tiny “backstage” insight and told me where you – this years’ YSF participants – are coming from. Since I assume you are similarly excited to know more about the other workshop participants, I would like to share this information with you… 🙂
Have a good travel and see you in very few days in Tromsø!

YSF participants 2013 come from 10 different countries to Tromsø

(Text: Ingrid Wiedmann)

The mentors for the 2013 workshop present themself

Here is little introduction to the mentors participating in the YSF PhD workshop this year:

Jørgen Berge (Workshop responsible):
Jørgen Berge is a professor in marine biology at University of Tromsø and adjunct professor at the University Centre in Svalbard. He was worked for more than ten years ion Arctic marine ecosystems and effects of a reduced ice cover (direct effect of the current warming of the Arctic). He has long experience as project leader on various external financed projects. Web: Jørgen Berge at ARCTOS   Jørgen Berge at UiT


Michael Greenacre:
Michael Greenacre is a Professor of Statistics in Barcelona, and has been working in various ecological projects and teaching in northern Norway for more than 20 years. He can help you with your stats and give you good advice for your research.  He is also a musician and composer, with one published CD and another presently being produced. Web:


Rasmus G. Bertelsen:
Rasmus Gjedssø Bertelsen is an international relations scholar at Aalborg University (Denmark) working on questions of security, state building, human capital, natural resources, learning and competences in the North Atlantic. His Arctic interest is based on growing up in Iceland and later studies and work in Reykjavik making this Danish political scientist deeply interested in independence politics and state building in Iceland, Faroe Islands and Greenland.

Elina Halttunen:
Profilbilde_Elina_HalttunenI work as part researcher and part educator. My research interests are in aquatic ecology and life-history theory, and through my PhD I have come to know and love Atlantic salmon and it´s spawning behaviour. As an educator I coordinate and teach on several PhD-courses on transferrable skills. I´m especially involved in the courses on communicating and popularizing science.
Web: Elina Halttunen at UiT


Gloudina Greenacre:
Gloudina_GreenacreGloudina Greenacre is a naturalist who has been involved in wildlife conservation projects in Ecuador since 2002. Starting as a wildlife veterinarian assistant, and having directed various animal rehabilitation centres, she is now mainly involved in managing a newly created NGO in the Ecuadorian Amazon. In search of income resources for the activities of the organisation, she and her team have put into practice a variety of funding models which she will be delighted to share during the conference.

Daniel Vogedes:
Daniel spends his time trying to finish a PhD in marine biology with focus on Arctic zooplankton and sea birds. He spent 10 years on Svalbard and moved south to Tromsø in 2009. Besides working on his PhD, he works part-time as secretary for ARCTOS, which puts him charge of the workshop logistics and many other administrative tasks for the network.
Web: Daniel Vogedes at ARCTOS   Daniel Vogedes at UiT

Tromsø is waiting for you!

webcam_20130110Winter holidays are over, the sun is soon back at 69°N (you may check yourself and another very good reason to finish hibernationon is approaching: Arctic Frontiers – the annual conference on the Arctic presence and future hosted by the University of Tromsø (which is by the way the northernmost university of the world). During the last years, I attended only single lectures of Arctic Frontiers and helped out as a volunteer, but this year’s conference is a rather special one for me: For the first time in my beginning scientific carrier I attend Arctic Frontiers as a regular “active” participant. In addition, I will also join the associated Young Scientist Forum (YSF), a PhD workshop on proposal writing – as the only Tromsø “local”. Therefore, my travelling is quite short :-), and in contrast to all the other YSF participants, I have no other choice than to try to sit down and wait, though I am very excited to get to know all the other YSF participants soon.
(Text: Ingrid Wiedmann)

Doomsday – canceled! YSF 2013 still counting down

Only four weeks until Arctic Frontiers and Young Scientist Forum workshop 2013! This time we have 25 participants from 10 countries, from both social and natural science. The hotels and the cabins on Hurtigruten are booked, a program is in the making and we are looking forward to exciting 10 days in Tromsø and on Lofoten. This blog will be updated by Daniel before and after the workshop and during the workshop Ingrid will be in charge of supplying news and pictures on a daily basis. Eventually it will be archived for all eternity, so forthcoming generations will see what a great time we had!
(Text: Ingrid Wiedmann)