New opportunities for research co-operation at IIES workshop

The University of Eastern Finland is one of the 17 international university partners taking part in the International Institute of Environmental Sciences (IIES), initiated in 2015 at Trent University, Canada, where the 1st Annual IIES Scientific Workshop was held. The vision of the institute is to become a global leader in the development of research and policy for the management of environmental issues having international dimensions, and it brings together world class research scientists and policy analysts from institutions from around the globe to work collaboratively, sharing expertise, facilities and research programs. The 2nd annual scientific workshop of IIES was held at the University of Eastern Finland, in Kuopio, August 21-24. Altogether 74 scientists from seven different countries took part on this workshop, each one presenting scientific work, new methods or ideas to the international audience of environmental scientists.

Participants of 2nd IIES workshop in Kuopio.
Participants of the 2nd IIES workshop in Kuopio.

Our research group of aquatic ecotoxicology attended the workshop with four top-quality researchers and three oral presentations about relevant ongoing research questions and projects: effects of metal mining on fresh water ecosystems, bioaccumulation of PCBs in fresh water mussels and fish, and sediment amendments and remediation of aquatic systems. The actual workshop days consisted of oral presentations in an auditorium, and poster presentations during the coffee and lunch breaks. Altogether 32 oral presentations were heard, added with 14 poster presentations at the poster corner.

Dr. Jarkko Akkanen presenting the use of sediment amendments in remediation of aquatic systems.
Dr. Jarkko Akkanen presenting the use of sediment amendments in remediation of aquatic systems.

Scientific meetings, conferences and workshops are not only about pure research, but also include lots of networking, different cultural and social activities where students meet senior scientists, European meets Asian and American, and academia meets policy makers. The days in scientific meetings can sometimes be very long, no matter how interesting they are. Social activities and get-togethers make an important part of every scientific meeting, and this workshop was not an exception to this. Before the first actual workshop day, the participants of the workshop got together in a dinner hall of the hotel to get to know each other and share ideas and experiences. Some had been in Finland several times before, but many were here for the first time in their life. Some had travelled for a whole day and night from a distant country, while the others came from a city nearby taking just a-2-hour-long bus ride to arrive. On the second evening of the workshop the city of Kuopio arranged a reception at the city hall for the workshop audience – good food, quality wine and good company, what else can you except from a night like this? The third day’s evening culminated in a 3-course dinner at the Puijo Tower Restaurant, where we could see the beautiful sunset over the Finnish lake scenery and the city of Kuopio at the other side. We also got to visit the Puijo Tower FMI/UEF/ICOS measurement station at the top floor of the tower.

It is easy to smile, when your presentation is over! Kaisa Figueiredo in Puijo Tower
It is easy to smile, when your presentation is over! Kaisa Figueiredo in Puijo Tower

The 4th day was for the last presentations and general discussion about the future plans for IIES. During the meeting we also had a possibility to visit UEF/ILMARI aerosol physics, chemistry and toxicology research unit and UEF/Savonia University of applied sciences water laboratory at Kuopio Science Park. Long days, hard work, but also fruitful discussions and new contacts for future research.

Those who are interested can read more about IIES here:

http://www.uef.fi/en/web/iies-workshop-kuopio/iies

http://trentu.ca/iies/

The 3rd Annual IIES Scientific Workshop will be held in China in August 2017, hopefully with a growing number of participants and research topics on environmental sciences.

 

Text by: Kaisa Figueiredo

Photos by: Yu Zhang/Timo Kumlin, Kaisa Figueiredo, Kristiina Väänänen

Here we go again – Many steps to an experiment on black worms

After a year as a teacher I came back to research in aquatic ecotoxicology. I’ll test a method to analyze fullerene nanoparticles in separated tissue fractions of black worms. Simply, I’ll expose the worms to fullerenes, collect organisms, fractionate their tissues, and then measure fullerene concentrations in each tissue fraction. But starting a new experiment requires a plenty of preparations in the lab before actual test can be started. Here I tell what is going on during the first two weeks.

I would need a test sediment treated with fullerenes. For the test sediment, I would need fullerenes suspended to water to be added to a natural sediment from Lake Höytiäinen. Luckily, we already had the sediment in our lab… if we didn’t have, I would have to wait for winter to go to the field and collect it through ice… I would also need my test species, black worms, synchronized to similar physiological condition.

Sediment sampling. Pictures by Kristiina Väänänen and Jarkko Akkanen
Sediment sampling during winter time.

As a very first job, I prepared artificial freshwater, which means a lab-made model of fresh water corresponding “average Finnish freshwater” with its hardness. Then, I used that water to suspend fullerenes. Making fullerene suspension takes time: fullerene powder must be vigorously mixed with water for two weeks before it can be used in the experiment. This mixing process must be done because fullerenes are not soluble in water, but they turn to water-stabile form via water flows and mixing. And when thinking about fullerenes’ fate in natural waters, they can enter to the environment e.g. in waste waters. Thus, water suspension is their first step to bottom sediments. Read more about fullerenes’ environmental fate here: http://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/10.1002/etc.2175/full

Fullerene suspension, picture by Kukka Pakarinen
Fullerene suspension.

Black worms are sediment-dwelling benthic worms. They have important ecological roles in aquatic ecosystems as a food source for fish and as decomposers of sediment material. They can be exposed to fullerenes via wasted sediments. In this experiment I’ll need size-synchronized worms, as some other researchers in our group. That’s why we organized “a worm cutting day” to synchronize more than thousand worms. It means that four of us sat a day in the culture room picking worms from their aquariums to petri dishes, and then separating their head parts and tail parts by a surgeon knife: the head parts grow new tails and tail parts grow new heads. How to identify which part is which? Color of the head is a bit black and thicker whereas the tail is red and thinner. Then, we’ll wait for couple of weeks to let the worms create these new parts. Finally, we’ll get test worms with same size and condition. Dividing to heads and tails is also a normal way to reproduce for the black worms. Read more about fullerene-exposed black worms here: http://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0269749111003848

Worm cutting day
Worm cutting day
Head part, tail part and cutting
Head part, tail part and cutting

While fullerene suspension and the worms are underway, I can do some other preparations. Sediment dry weight must be known to adjust volume of fullerene suspension. Preparations for the dry weight could be favorite job for kids: wet sediment is homogenized with a perforated piston before samples are placed to weighing jars and dried.

Mixing and weighing the sediments
Mixing and weighing the sediments

Next week it’s time to measure fullerene concentration in the suspension, add fullerenes to sediment and let them stay to equilibrate before the experiment.

Text by Kukka Pakarinen

Pictures by Jarkko Akkanen, Kristiina Väänänen, Kukka Pakarinen, and Risto Pöhö

Towards a greener Greenland?

Altogether 28 students and 12 teachers & assistants challenged this topic among others in Greenland and Iceland in July, 2016. Arctic Summer School, concerning effects of climate change on arctic ecosystems and societies, was organized by ABS (Nordic Master’s Degree Programme in Atmosphere-Biosphere Studies), and I was lucky to participate on this course together with four other students from the University of Eastern Finland.

Our group consisted of students from five countries and 13 nationalities: all natural scientists from different fields, and all interested and motivated to learn more about climate change. The principal aim of this course was to enhance students’ understanding of research-society linkages and to increase their capabilities to communicate research findings to different stakeholders. The aim of this period was also to widen the perspective of students within natural science by presenting changes of the cryosphere in the Arctic, research on this topic and its effects on the local societies. In other words, the students in natural science were introduced also to social science methodology. Highly interesting and relevant, I would say!

A PhD student from UEF at the backyard of the university campus in Nuuk, Greenland.
A PhD student from UEF at the backyard of the university campus in Nuuk, Greenland.

The setup of the course was interesting: five days in Greenland and seven days in Iceland, long days and hard work. The students were divided into small groups with each one dealing with different data sets in Iceland and making interviews with different organizations in Nuuk, Greenland. The students conducted small projects interviewing local communities, working with data obtained from Arctic and sub-Arctic research stations, visit measurement sites, and learn specific research methodologies in both social and natural sciences. My group contributed to the social aspects by visiting the Inuit Circumpolar Council in Nuuk and revising data on carbon dioxide fluxes in Icelandic and Finnish forest ecosystems, on a comparative approach. Other institutions visited by the groups were the national oil company Nunaoil, Greenlandic labour Union (SIK), National museum of Greenland, Ministry of fisheries, hunting and agriculture, and local fishermen – all providing very different aspects and insights into the changing climate and its possible opportunities, threats and impacts in general. The results from the interviews were presented and discussed in a short seminar and many of the thoughts can be read in climate change teaching in Greenland blog (link available at the end of this post).

Scenery from our daily walk from Nuuk downtown to the University of Greenland.
Scenery from our daily walk from Nuuk downtown to the University of Greenland.

The change due to global warming in the Arctic is more profound than in other areas. The impacts can be both positive and negative, and they are already visible in many different ways throughout the nature, culture and society itself. For Greenlandic people, especially for the indigenous Inuit that live on hunting and fishing, the warming climate has set up new problems and challenges in their daily life. Fishermen also find difficulties in seal hunting because of thinning of the ice – whether it is too thin for going on a sledge or by foot, or still too thick to go by boat. Polar bears are facing the same problem and approach villages, therefore causing danger to the people living there. On the other hand, the warming climate will also give new possibilities pointed out by the locals. Fisheries benefit from climate change through growing fish stocks. Warming climate also makes it easier to introduce new forms of agriculture, new crops and new types of cattle into the Greenlandic landscape, although along with the melting ice and growing water flow from the glaciers, summer droughts have appeared making agriculture initiatives more difficult. Nevertheless, the change will lead to changes in living conditions: for example changes in wildlife will have direct consequences to hunting, and changes in sea ice cover will have effects on fisheries.

Early morning in Kobbefjord field measurement station close to Nuuk, Greenland.
Early morning in Kobbefjord field measurement station close to Nuuk, Greenland.

The most important factor in dealing with a greener Arctic for the society will be the adaptation to a changed environment. Greenlanders are used to dealing with the nature and its unpredictable change. Thus they see climate change as a natural variation of their environment, not only as a new threat, where they will adapt in any case and probably faster than in the other parts of the world.

A “groupie” in excursion to a field measurement station in Hveragerði, Iceland. Picture by Bjarni D. Sigurdsson.
A “groupie” in excursion to a field measurement station in Hveragerði, Iceland. Picture by Bjarni D. Sigurdsson.

The course was be held in Nuuk and Reykjavík between 3 and 14 of July, 2016, and it was a joint activity of University of Helsinki, ICOS ERIC, Agricultural University of Iceland, University of Aarhus, Lund University, Estonian University of Life Sciences, University of Eastern Finland, University of Greenland, and Greenland Climate Research Centre.

As outcome of the course, the students prepared blog posts that can be read here:

http://blogs.helsinki.fi/climategreenland/

More interesting links to the topic:

http://www.atm.helsinki.fi/ABS/courses/2016arctic/

https://twitter.com/hashtag/ArcticCourse?src=hash

http://nuuk-basic.dk/

Text and pictures by: Kaisa Figueiredo