Avainsana-arkisto: PhD

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

 

Hands-on research with Chironomus riparius

Sitting in the lab in front of a sewing machine was not exactly what I imagined of doing when I started my PhD in the group of aquatic ecotoxicology. However, sewing two hundred miniature mosquito nets was required before I finished my thesis.

Inna and Greta sewing mosquito nets. Photo by Inna Nybom
Inna and Greta sewing mosquito nets. Photo by Inna Nybom

My PhD relates to activated carbon, porous carbon material, which has been studied as a new remediation method for contaminated water ecosystems. Due to its wide surface area, activated carbon can bind numerous contaminants efficiently and lock them in the bottom sediments in a way that they are now longer available for organisms living in the area. Reduced bioavailability of the contaminants for benthic organisms reduces also their transport in the food chain and in time this can reduce the contaminant load to humans from fish consumption. However, both old and new remediation methods, where something is removed or added to the natural ecosystem, can disturb the balance in the field, at least temporarily. Therefore, in this study also direct adverse effects of activated carbon to the benthic organisms were followed.

In our resent work the effects of activated carbon were studied on midge Chironomus riparius. Chironomus riparius is a nonbiting midge, with a four-stage life cycle: egg, larva, pupa and adult midge. Larvae is living in the sediment, and they were grown in activated carbon containing contaminated sediment. After few weeks the larvae develops to flying adult stage, and this is where the mosquito nets come in handy. In order to follow the effects of different exposures to the adult stages, 180 small beakers were sorted on the table and covered with individual mosquito nets, food was provided three times a week and all beakers were monitored daily. All the effort payed off when we finally got the results! We observed that adding activated carbon to the sediment reduces the contamination level not only in the larvae stages but also in the flying adult stages exposed during the larvae stage. We know that the aquatic insects going through metamorphosis can transport the contaminants buried in the bottom sediments to the terrestrial food webs, and our result indicates that adding activated carbon to the sediment may reduce this transport of contaminants! Amongst this we discovered many other cool things, which are published in details in Environmental Science and Technology (2016, 50[10] 5252–5260, DOI: 10.1021/acs.est.6b00991). Check it out, if you are interested in finding out more!

A life cycle of Chironomus riparius
A life cycle of Chironomus riparius. Photo by Inna Nybom

I had a great time working in the croup of aquatic ecotoxicology, but now new adventures are ahead. My PhD project came to an end on December last year when I defended my thesis. The most I am going to miss all the great people I got to work with. A great group of excellent scientist with a catching enthusiasm, innovative to come up with the ideas of 200 miniature mosquito nets, and crazy enough to actually sew them with you!