Association of Polar Early Career Scientists
 

APECS was again a partner of the Arctic Frontiers 2016 conference in Tromsø, Norway from 24 – 29 January 2016 with the theme "Industry and Environment" and contributed to the Arctic Frontiers Young with a number of activities:

  • Science Communication Panel on 26 January
  • Arctic Frontiers "Science for Schools" (26 / 28 January)
  • Arctic Frontiers "Science for Politics" (27 January)
  • Arctic Frontiers Early Career Poster Awards (28 January)

Communicating Science Panel during Arctic Frontiers 2016

Lawrence Hislop and Sara Aparcio and Magnus Nerheim and Guerlis Fungman and Alexey Pavlov Photo by Nikolaus Gkika copyOn Wednesday 27 January 2016, APECS, in cooperation with the High North Academy (HNA), arranged a panel discussion dedicated to science communication during the Arctic Frontiers conference at the UiT The Arctic University of Norway.

The four speakers – all science communication advocates, shared their experiences and insights on communicating science from a broad and wide range of perspectives. Lawrence Hislop (CliC), having a large experience on image (video, photograph, etc) highlighted the importance of captivating the interest of the public through good and appealing aesthetics besides ensuring great content of information. The bits that he managed to show from his vast work proved his point of view. On the other hand, Magnus Svendsen Nerheim (University of Bergen), surely made it clear the importance of knowing your... “stuff”! – in an easy going and highly persuasive statement of the importance of having an “elevator pitch” clear and ready to be shared under ordinary life circumstances. Magnus emphasized by giving a fair example: himself!

The hot topic of the ongoing power of social media was brought into topic by Alexey Pavlov (Norwegian Polar Institute) who shared great tricks and tips to reach the general public through several types of social media and how to grow, ensure and enhance a well-established social account. He also surprised the participants with the brand new social media app Periscope, which has a promising future for sharing science online. Finally, Sara Aparício (APECS Portugal), shared her journey on communicating science to younger audiences: the challenges that come with early listeners and how to overcome them with methods and strategies to keep the audience engaged. She also reinforced her view of science communication as a duty towards future generations and how her method “PEA” (playing-engaging-adapting) actually helps on general public communication – regardless of age or backgrounds.

The session was followed with a very exciting discussion between the panel and the public regarding experiences in communicating science and new tools. One of the main topics focussed on the challenges faced by scientists on keeping up with their work and feeding the always-hungry social media along the way. A very tricky balance of time consumption and work productivity!

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Discussing the future of the Arctic with Norwegian young politicians

YoungPoliticians2The Arctic is changing rapidly due to human-induced global warming. While (us) researchers have known that for the last three decades, no significant progress has been made globally to prevent further warming of the climate in general and the Arctic, in particular. Partly, this is due to the lack of knowledge of decision makers and the public. Climate change misinformation is partially caused by a deficient information transfer from researchers to society, and especially to the younger generations who are still open-minded and eager to change the world.

To improve the situation, this year, a special event for young politicians was organized by APECS during the Arctic Frontiers Conference in Tromsø, Norway. This conference has been a top venue for Arctic politics in the past years and therefore provided the perfect framework for a science-politics exchange. The “Young Politicians” are a group of enthusiastic high school kids from Northern Norway, who are interested in improving the communities in which they live through politics. During this one-day event, they learned about climate change and its impacts from the global to the local scale.

Mar Fernández-Méndez and Alexey Pavlov from the Norwegian Polar Institute and active members of APECS, got a chance to take part in this side event to give two lectures to the young politicians about climate change in the Arctic. Alexey gave an overview of the latest scientific findings regarding global climate change and the rapidly changing Arctic region, thus, setting up the stage for Mar who led a discussion with the kids about possible solutions to mitigate the worse consequences of global warming in the Arctic. The kids were incredibly engaged and keen to discuss all options to prevent temperature rises in the Arctic. They understood quickly that whatever happens in the Arctic, does not stay in the Arctic and will affect northern Norway as well as other parts of the planet. The discussion was very interactive and covered possible solutions form the local to the global scale. Even some controversial topics such as oil production in Norway, reducing meat consumption, and the use of geoengineering approaches to sequester carbon were addressed. It was definitely a thought-provoking discussion that triggered some new thoughts in the young politicians’ minds.

The experience was nice both for us, the researchers and the kids. We improved our communication skills by explaining our science to a non-scientific audience. We were delighted to confirm that the new generations of politicians are willing to make their decisions based on available knowledge and they have learned some things that will be useful for their future careers as politicians dealing with the Arctic. This gives us hope for a future in which creative solutions and efficient political agreements will manage to reduce human-caused climate change. Doing science, investigating the causes of and effects of climate change is not enough if society does not understand the implications of the scientific conclusions. We therefore encourage every researcher to engage in this kind of outreach activities so that we (researchers) can, step by step, educate future generations and thus provide them with the necessary tools to change the world to a better place.

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Hands-on experiences during the Science for Schools event at Arctic Frontiers

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This year our Science for schools event was slightly different to previous editions. The Arctic Frontiers conference takes place every year in Tromsø, setting the perfect scene for polar outreach. During two days, 130 kids from the 10th class (13-14 years old) of four different local schools attended the Science for Schools event organized by UiT The Arctic University of Norway, Polaria, the Fram Centre, the Science Centre of Northern Norway and APECS. These kids live here, in the Arctic, in the main city of northern Norway, so they are familiar with snow and ice. However, most of them have never been out on a research vessel in the Arctic Ocean, on top of a glacier or diving below sea-ice. Therefore, listening to the first hand experiences of polar research scientists that have been there was extremely interesting for them.

Researchers from different nationalities living in Tromsø and abroad shared their experiences with the kids and were happy to answer all their curious questions. The kids were surprised to discover during Anja Rösel’s talk that the average thickness of current Arctic sea-ice is around 1-2 meters. You could see concern in their faces when Magnus Svendsen Nerheim talked about micro plastics pollution in the ocean. Their eyes opened very wide when Christine Dybwad showed them all the beautiful creatures that thrive in icy waters. Some of them were even brave enough to stand up and try the survival suits that polar researchers use when working on sea-ice and to help Anja and Polona Itkin drilling fake sea-ice. All in all the kids learned a lot of new things about polar science and their interest in pursuing a science related career hopefully increased.

Indeed, after the talks and hands-on experiences, it was the kids turn to impress us by presenting the posters, which they had been working on for the last month. In a way, it was their first mini-poster session at a scientific conference, and we have to say that the level of the posters was amazingly good. Not to mention their impressive level of English (not their native language). Some of us acted as judges, evaluating the posters and asking the kids questions about the topic they had chosen to present. While doing this we also learned a lot about topics such as ocean acidification, plastic pollution in the Arctic, the possibilities of nuclear energy as a carbon-free energy source, the problems of whaling and fish farming or the effects of climate change in the Tromsø area. The kids had done their research well and all together, they covered a wide variety of scientific issues.

Although it was a hard decision, we chose three second prizes and one overall winner. The winning poster (Lotion in the Arctic Ocean) could have perfectly been hanging at a regular scientific conference, but I have rarely seen professional scientists so enthusiastic and well-prepared as the six girls that presented this poster. There is definitely a lesson to be learned for all of us, researchers: We shouldn’t loose our childish curiosity and our teenager excitement when presenting our work to others.

We want to thank all the speakers: Magnus Svendsen Nerheim, Ruth Vingerhagen, Calvin Shackleton, Anja Rösel, Polona Itkin, Alexey Pavlov, Mar Fernández Méndez, Sara Aparicio and Christine Dybwad for contributing to a successful Science for Schools event.

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The Arctic Frontiers Poster Awards 2016

The poster session for the Arctic Frontiers conference was held on Thursday afternoon. Posters were divided into three different themes: Arctic Stewardship, Environmental Footprints and Technology Needs. The poster hall was filled with lively discussions but some posters were getting more detailed attention and these were the 40 posters being presented by early career scientists. A team of judges evaluated the posters and then had a long discussion in order to decide the winners. It was not an easy decision due to the high quality of all the posters but in the end we decided on an overall winner and three runner-ups. The awards were presented at the Science Conference dinner at the Scandic Ishavshotel by Mar Fernández Méndez, Ruth Vingerhagen, Gerlis Fugmann and Jenny Baeseman.

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Congratulations to:

Overall winner:

Daria Gritsenko – Ukraine and the Arctic – Apples and Oranges?.

Runner-up:

Melissa Brandner - Environmental Impact Assessment: It’s in the DNA!

Peter Leoplold - After 1000 years of absence... – The worlds northernmost blue mussels (Mytilus sp.) population is once again thriving during the time of a rapidly changing Arctic.

Ilya Stepanov - The Northern Sea Route Development: Economic and Political Implications

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