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

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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!

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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.

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Fishing nets in Svolvær

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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!