Hi, I’m Leire, I’m from Spain and I’m studying biology at the University of the Basque Country. Given that this year I was finishing my bachelor degree, it seemed appropriate to start looking at my future and possible career opportunities. I have always had a deep interest on matters like climate change, as well as its consequences on ecosystems. I studied subjects like Botany, Ecology and Plant Ecophysiology during my university degree and this internship was the right opportunity to put the knowledge I already acquired during my degree into practice.
I worked in the Department of Biological Science at the University of Bergen, where I took part in different projects of the Ecological and Environmental Change Research Group.
The first two weeks of my internship I was with Linn Cecilie Krüger and other students working for FunCaB project. We wanted to investigate the role of Functional group (graminoids, forbs and bryophytes) interactions in mediating climate change impacts on the Carbon dynamics and Biodiversity of alpine ecosystems. For that, we went to different mountains around the fjords, see amazing landscapes, snow and of course, did fully factorial removal experiments to assess the contributions of, and interactions between the different functional groups of primary producers.
After those two weeks of removals, I did one week in the lab, where we could all rest after the hard weeks in the field and work in other projects such as INCLINE. In aim of this project is to study indirect climate change impacts on mountain plant communities. For that, it was removed everything expect the two alpine species we are interested in (Sibbalbia procumbers and Veronica alpine), as a means to see how neighbors of these two species affect them. Our work was to sort the biomass taken from mountains into functional groups (in this case, graminoids, fords, bryophytes, ferns, woody plants, lichen and litter), with a view to be weighed after. We also had time to weigh some seeds of these two species from different populations along a precipitation gradient, which were grown to test how they would be affected by droughts during vulnerable germination stage.
Then, I went again to the mountains for the THREE-D project for another 2 weeks, the first one with Aud Helen Halbritter and Vigdis Vandvik and the second one also with Aud and Silje Andrea Hjortland Östman. For this project, parallel experiments are run in Norway and in China in alpine ecosystems, where an alpine plant community is exposed to warmer climate (transplant to lower elevation), increased nitrogen deposition (N addition) and different grazing levels, which are three of the most critical global change drivers. Our duty in the mountains was to do a vegetation analysis, to fertilize the biomass with nitrogen and to cut different functional groups and species.
This week It´s my last week here (sadly). I´m in the lab again, drying and weighing the biomass we took during the last two weeks for the THREE-D project.
My role in the research team in terms of tasks and responsibilities was just being one more in the team, try my best and participate as much as possible, since I needed to do the same as other team members.
This internship has completely accomplished my goals. With the opportunity of working abroad, even if it is for a few months, I improved my language and communication skills, as well as learn how laboratories work in other countries. Bergen has been a welcoming and appropriate place for international students such as myself.
The COVID10 pandemic altered my plans (but for better) since I was firstly going to Germany, also for an internship in an Ecological research team, but It was cancelled and they gave me the chance to take this one in Norway. I didn’t doubt it and of course, it was worth it.