Arctic input

After being back south (never thought I’d refer to mainland Norway as being south) for almost a week it is time to reflect on the two-week adventure that was Plant Functional Trait Course 4. It has truly been a unique experience to do field work and learn about different approaches to measuring plant functional traits with different people from across the world in an arctic environment during an everlasting day.

I sat the bar low for myself when defining my goals for this course. As I had very little prior knowledge to plant functional traits and carbon flux measurements, my goals were merely to learn anything new about these topics, and I am relieved to say that I reached these goals (anything else would have been embarrassing). I also sat a social goal of getting to know the other course participants and learn about their scientific interests – another vague goal that didn’t take too much effort to achieve. Especially considering that half of that goal was achieved just by listening to the student presentations… Even so, I am happy with my learning outcome from the course, and I am sure that I will meet some of the other course participants again in the near future!

During the course, I learned several things about myself (mainly negative, unfortunately):

  1. I do not respond well to being around people for 10+ hours a day for two weeks
  2. I cannot for the life of me resist chocolate and other sweet goodness if it is put directly in front of me
  3. As a Norwegian, I am offended if someone indulges in a slice of bread with a brown cheese and salami combination (why, Mary, why?)

Public perceptions about climate change in Svalbard was quite similar to my initial expectations. Many residents thought of melting ice/glaciers and ice free fjords when thinking of climate change, and definitely see direct impacts of a warming planet. Most also agreed that these changes are caused mainly by human activities. People did not seem to struggle with the difference of the phrases “global warming” and “climate change”, as I commented on in my first blog post, but many people did however seem to have a confusion between issues of climate change and issues of general environmental issues, such as plastic pollution and littering. This was surprising to me, but it just goes to show that enlightenment on climate change is still very much necessary. I did not get the sense that climate change is a controversial topic at Svalbard, but there will always be some exceptions, of course. I do think that residents of Svalbard are more aware of climate change than many mainland Norwegians, and maybe have stronger feelings about it as they experience many of the changes very strongly.

Surveying people on Svalbard went better than I expected it to do. Sometimes Norwegians can be unapproachable and reluctant to spend time talking to strangers, but even so we got many replies to our survey. This can of course be due to the fact that there are also many non-Norwegian residents, and we also got surveys from tourists. Never the less, I had only positive experiences from the Norwegians that agreed to fill out the survey, and even got a survey filled out by a smiling Norwegian we stopped on the street! I guess I should have a little bit more faith in my fellow compatriots.

Mosaic art from one of the buildings at Pyramiden

Cheers with whisky on the (arctic) rocks

Silene uralensis ssp. arctica


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