Back to the Arctic

Growing up in Iceland most definitely shaped the passion that I have for ecology and environmental conservation. Although growing up in the small city of Reykjavík, as a child I was always fascinated by the country side and the great wilderness that our country offers. Choosing the field of biology for my studies therefore came natural to me. I recently graduated with a Master’s degree in terrestrial ecology from the University of Iceland. When selecting the path of research that I wanted to pursue, ecology and environmental science was always top of mind. Ultimately, having the opportunity to work and do field work in the high Arctic in Svalbard made the program that I chose even more appealing. In my master studies, I investigated the responses of decomposition processes in the soil to climate warming and herbivory pressure in Arctic ecosystems, were we collected data in both high Arctic ecosystems in Svalbard as well as in more sub-Arctic ecosystems in Iceland. Although I am no expert in plant functional traits, a considerable time has gone into focusing on plant functions during my studies, since plant function and soil processes are closely interlinked. For the upcoming course in Svalbard, I am therefore extremely excited to have a closer look into plant functional traits and hope to gain further knowledge in this field that has up until now been limited. Having the opportunity to work with a group of experienced scientists in this field is to me extremely valuable and exciting, and returning to the Arctic is also a great bonus of course.

The scientific community in Longyearbyen makes up a large portion of the town’s population. I would therefore anticipate that many people here in Svalbard accept that the planet is warming and that it is largely a human caused problem and are even passionate about doing something to about it. In addition, climate warming has already started to influence the environmental conditions here in Svalbard which directly impacts life here in the Arctic and is of great concern. I therefore think that the topic of climate change is not as controversial here in Svalbard as perhaps it is in many other areas of the world.

Where I live in Iceland, environmental matters, including climate change, have started to gain increasing attention over the past few years. The public perspective in Iceland is in general that there is a need to take big actions against further global warming and that individuals generally can make an impact by for example recycling and choosing a more environmental way of living. I could be completely wrong of course and the perspectives are different from person to person, but in general, I believe that most Icelanders think about climate change as a huge problem that needs to be acknowledged.

Very much looking forward meeting you all in Svalbard.

Katrín Björnsdóttir

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