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!

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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

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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 (www.wordle.net), 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.

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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.

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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.
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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.
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Kaja Ostaszewska from Poland

Kaja Ostaszewska from Poland

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

 

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Alia Khan from the US

 

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

 

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Barbora Padrtova from Czech Repulic (middle)

 

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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.
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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.
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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.

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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)