Excited for experience in the Arctic!

Hi! My name is Eleanor Thomson. I’m a PhD student at the University of Oxford. My PhD is on ecological remote sensing – specifically attempting to map leaf traits using drones and satellites. So far, I’ve only worked in tropical environments, so Svalbard will be an exciting change!

What are your goals for the upcoming course on Svalbard?

In Svalbard, I’m excited to apply my tropical experience to a very different environment – an environment with leaves too small to fit into our equipment and where you have to crouch down to see a plant. Despite working with drone data, I’ve never actually flown a drone before, so I’m looking forward to learning how to fly three different drones and learning how not to crash them!


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

  1. Seeing a polar bear.
  2. Experiencing ‘the Arctic’.
  3. Meeting interesting people.

What do you anticipate people will think about climate change on Svalbard?

As an arctic community, I assume the people of Svalbard will be very aware of the effects of climate change and the challenges it poses to their livelihoods. The arctic has experienced one of the highest rates of warming – changes that are clearly visible in the physical environment and in ecosystems highly sensitive to small fluctuations in temperature.

With a high proportion of researchers in the community, I assume people will agree the main cause of climate change is human-induced and this will not be a controversial issue. Svalbard is a hub of climate change related activity so it would not be a climate change sceptic’s idea of paradise.

What do you know about public perception of climate change in your home country?

My home country is the UK.

In the UK, I would say that the idea of climate change is generally accepted and most people would probably admit that it is human-induced. However, there exists a large generational divide. Whereas many young people are very active in campaigning on green issues and changing their lifestyle (I have many vegan and vegetarian friends), our parents’ generation is much less convinced. As Brexit has shown, there is a large proportion of the population that prefer to rely on information distributed by misleading newspapers and their own perception of the facts (it was cold last Tuesday, therefore CC is a myth).

Furthermore, even among those that profess to believe in CC, there exists a disconnect between their beliefs and lifestyle. While often at the forefront of CC research, Britain is not at the leading edge of climate change policy. Any CC policy that impacts too much upon a comfortable and affluent lifestyle is generally unpopular with voters. While theoretically concerned with CC, the majority of UK citizens would probably say that they cannot foresee it personally affecting them.

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