i. What were your goals for the course in Svalbard? To what extent did you realize these goals? Please give specific examples if possible.
My goals for the course in Svalbard were to learn how to collect functional trait related data and to build a more thorough understanding of how arctic environments function. I feel satisfied with what I am able to take away from the course, having learned to use the LiCor machines to measure temperature responses, as well as getting to do my time on the trait wheel (learning how to measure and collect trait data while consuming too much chocolate). Beyond the science carried out in our shipping container, every experience during the two weeks on Svalbard entailed learning more about the Arctic ecosystem we were in. From the striking lack of vegetation, to the aggressively natured Arctic terns, to watching cliffs crumble in the distance.
ii. What did you learn about yourself during this course?
Taking part in the course made me more aware of certain things about myself. For one, I really enjoy working as part of a team. I am also eager to seek out new challenges and solve problems.
iii. What did you learn about public perceptions of climate change in Svalbard? Do most people accept that the planet is warming, and that this is largely being caused by human activities? Or was this topic controversial? How does this compare to public perceptions of climate change in your home country?
Public perceptions of climate change in Svalbard didn’t deviate too much from my expectations. People are aware of a warming planet, and generally agree with it’s anthropogenic source, and I think this is fairly similar to the current perceptions in BC. It was also interesting to note people’s awareness of plastics. If anything, it shows a very successful campaign against plastic pollution, and perhaps there is an opportunity to link arms with that regarding climate change education and mitigation by shedding light on some of the more direct sources of climate change.
iv. What was your experience with surveying people in Svalbard? Do you feel that you collected valuable information? What went well? What would you do differently next time? If possible, tell us about a specific interaction that you found interesting.
Running a survey of the local people in Svalbard feels like an odd concept for a town of two thousand, whose demography is bound not to fall into our usual categories. However I do believe the data we collected will be useful, perhaps in the context of contrasting it to other populations’ opinions and as a means of highlighting areas of concern in public outreach on climate change education. The survey did at times felt like an uncomfortable imposition. I had two fairly striking encounters, having been told by someone that they were “most definitely not interested” in the survey and the another recounting how every student group that visits UNIS comes around with surveys. I know that not everyone will want to participate but considering the apparent grievances, I wonder if there may be a more mutually beneficial way to gather this kind of data.