PFTC4 Blog Post 1 from Polly Bass
A. What is your background? Where are you from? What do you study? What are you most
interested in, scientifically?
My background is in plant geography and geomorphology. I study alpine plants,
substrate preferences among plants, and island biogeography in its application to isolated
plant communities. I am interested in the species assemblages of rock glaciers and learning
more about the application of functional traits and the potential for molecular ecology to
elucidate long-standing questions and mysteries of these remarkably resilient species.
B. What are your goals for the upcoming course on Svalbard? How will you know if you’ve met
My goals for the upcoming course include working with experts in the field and
learning new analyses techniques. I will know these goals have been met if the course is
completed with enthusiasm and forward thinking collaborative approaches to continue the
work in the coming years.
C. What are you most excited about, with respect to the upcoming course and trip?
I am most excited about visiting the high arctic environment and learning more about
the use of functional traits. The international community of scientists will provide a broad and
multidisciplinary perspective on the most innovative techniques available.
D. What do you anticipate people will think about climate change on Svalbard? Do you think
most people will accept that the planet is warming and that this is largely being caused by
human activities? Or will this topic be controversial?
I anticipate that people on Svalbard are aware of and concerned about climate
change. Polar latitudes are experiencing global climate change at a rate faster than the rest of
the planet. Coastal communities are also more in tune with the symptoms of climate change,
due to sea level changes and storm impacts, among other issues. It is likely that people in
Svalbard have experienced these effects; and that transportation, infrastructure, and local
food sources (animals (fish) and plants) have been impacted. Svalbard is a community with
links to mining and fossil fuel extraction. With this in mind, it is possible that some individuals
closely aligned to these industries and with a livelihood tied to these industries might be
slower to accept the data and evidence linking human activities to climate change. On the
other hand, European culture tends to be more in tune with science than cultures in many
other parts of the world.
E. What do you know about public perceptions of climate change in your home country? What, if
anything, have you experienced related to public perceptions of climate change?
In my home country, the overall perception of climate change has gone through a complicated
evolution. The perception in coastal localities is often different from the perception in more inland
locations. Coastal communities feel the impacts of increased storm surges, sea level rise, loss of
sea ice, coastal erosion, permafrost loss, and changes in subsistence food sources. Living in the
path of these perturbations makes it hard to argue with the scientific evidence indicating global
temperature increase. An overwhelming majority of scientists agree that the climate is changing
at a rate not experienced by the earth before. Isotopic signatures in the CO2 in the atmosphere
suggests that the majority of the carbon in this gas, as well as the carbon in CH4, has entered the
atmosphere since the Industrial Revolution, as a result of human activities (mainly the combustion
of fossil fuels).