From hot Summer to frozen Winter (Tucson->Svalbard)


A. What is your background? Where are you from? What do you study? What are you most interested in, scientifically?

This is YAOQI LI, a Ph.D. student from the Peking University (PKU) in Beijing, China, and currently on exchange at the University of Arizona (UofA) in Tucson, AZ, USA as a J-1 research scholar in Enquist’s lab. I majored in Ecology when I was an undergraduate student, and now research on Functional Biogeography and Macroecology as a Ph.D. student. The main aim of my doctoral studies is to explore the geographic patterns in key functional traits of Chinese woody plants and the ecological determinants of their variations. I am mostly interested in the spatial variations of leaf morphological traits, their ecological significances and their interactions with environmental factors, and hence their implications in predicting ecosystem functioning.

B. What are your goals for the upcoming course on Svalbard? How will you know if you’ve met these goals?

In all, my goals for this upcoming course on Svalbard are as following: a) obtaining an overview of trait studies by summarizing all the assigned reading papers and the lectures during the course; b) obtaining the skills of designing and operating experiments in the field; c) getting to know more young scientists in my field and sharing academic experience. After our course, I will write a review on what I have gained. Besides, I will introduce this course to members in our lab in PKU.

C. What are you most excited about, with respect to the upcoming course and trip?

Given my previous works are mainly based on online data, I am super excited to get first-hand samples and obtain more field experience from our trait course. Moreover, the academic reports through this course would provide us with precious opportunities to learn more background and get more skills in the trait field. Besides, collaboration with international colleagues (e.g. designing the experiment, discussing the results and writing drafts) will also be of great benefit to me.

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?

As for the climate change, I think people on Svalbard would figure out more evidences (i.e. the melt glacier, the loss of Arctic animals) of the climate warming because of the vulnerable environment in the Arctic Circle. More and more people accept the opinion that our planet is warming and this is mainly caused by human activities, especially the burning of fossil energy and the excess disafforestation. However, there would be more scientists realizing that the global warming should be partly caused by human-beings but might also be because of the dynamic cycle of our planet, for example, in the warming period. So this topic will continue to be academically controversial.

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, people pay more attention to the climate change, especially the extreme weather (i.e. the hot summer, the common aridity). Our government has published several laws to improve our environment, and the public awareness has also improved a lot. We have taken some actions, such as the rebuilt heating system, the heavily input in public transportation, the reduced use of disposable chopsticks and plastic bags, the increased forest planting and exploring environmental-friendly energy. Whether the global change is mainly caused by our human or not, we need to care more about our planet.

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