Association of Polar Early Career Scientists
 

During the annual Arctic Frontiers 2017 conference in Tromsø (Norway), APECS and the Nordnorsk Vitensenter Tromsø (Science Centre of Northern Norway) organized a unique event for schools to learn about Arctic science. Over the course of three days, 13-18 year old students from a number of schools attended diverse presentations by early career scientists from all over the world.

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Photo: The Nordnorsk Vitensenter at the University of Tromsø was the place chosen for the Science for Schools event (Photo by Sara Aparício). On the right, from top to bottom some of this year’s early career presenting scientists: Dennis Fink, Karley Campbell, Jennifer King and Peter Leopold (Photos by Mar Fernández-Méndez).

This year, students also presented posters of their independent research projects that they had been working on for months leading up to the event. This was a highlight of the Science for Schools event as despite their young age, many of the students had created very high quality posters. Their level of understanding of complex problems such as pollution of the ocean by chemicals and plastics, the potential impacts of climate warming on the country’s fishing industry, and ecosystem response to environmental change was impressive. Furthermore, students associated these concerns with their lifestyles and often had ideas about potential avenues for positive change and this gave us all hope that there is a brighter future ahead.

Here are some of the impressions of the early career scientists that participated in this outreach event.

  • Karley Campbell (PhD candidate on sea ice biology at the University of Manitoba, Canada): “It was an opportunity to share my love of science, teach students about important topics such as climate change and engage with youth who live in the North. It was refreshing to see creativity applied to common scientific ideas in student posters through catchy titles, innovative research projects and interesting poster designs.
  • Alexey Pavlov (Postdoc on ocean optics at the Norwegian Polar Institute): “I am glad to see that education of youth is one of the priorities at the Arctic Frontiers conference. I am always happy to share my knowledge and experience with school kids, it’s always fun and rewarding. I have done it for the past two years, and will do it again in the future.
  • Jennifer King (Postdoc on sea ice physics at the Norwegian Polar Institute): “It’s always a pleasure to get out of the office and share our science with different audiences. I was blown away by how engaged the students were with the topic and how much effort they had put into their preparations for it.
  • Ioanna Merkouriadi (Postdoc on snow physics at the Norwegian Polar Institute): “I was definitely impressed by the students’ engagement and their overall level, in both science and English language skills. I also very much enjoyed interacting with them and I would definitely do this again in the future.
  • Hanna Kauko (PhD candidate on sea ice bio-optics at the Norwegian Polar Institute): “It was great to be involved and get to interact with school youth – I was impressed about the quality of the posters, and happy about their interest for polar environmental issues.
  • Sara Aparício (Trainee on earth observation data analyst at the European Space Agency): “I have been part of the Arctic Frontiers’ Science for School event for three years now, and each year I never fail to get even more impressed. This year was the most difficult to find the winning poster. Overall, the content and poster structure had a great level of quality, and I must say that I found the themes quite interesting. The students showed interest on their research, and you could tell during the poster presentation, that they had conducted further research to deepen their knowledge on the topic. In addition, their English is amazing and a good asset for their future, in case they pursue a scientific career. Hats off also for their teachers who are also behind the great success of Science for Schools.
  • Dennis Fink (CEO of the science communication company Mediomix): “The Arctic Frontiers 2017 conference was the first time that I joined a "Science for Schools" project and that I had the opportunity to share my passion of science communications with school kids of different age. When I presented my work on marine bacteria they got really interested in the topic and engaged with me. But what really impressed me were the conversations I had with the kids during their poster presentations. All of them managed to prepare not only comprehensive posters but they were also able to stand in front of it and share what they've learned with the audience. Many of them showed real passion, some even more than I've seen from "real" scientists when they present their work on conferences. I had many good conversations and also learned myself things I didn't know before (e.g. about the tourism on Svalbard). It was a great event and I hope that those kids will keep their passion for science and one day, become scientists themselves.

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Photo: Upper two photos show the students presenting their posters to the early career judges (Photos by Mar Fernández-Méndez). The lower photo shows the poster award presentation (Photo by Dennis Fink).

This year’s overall poster winner titled An Ocean of Problems from the science class of Kongsbakken School, discussed an experiment that they had performed about the effects of ocean acidification on mussels. The judges agree that the highlight of this poster, in addition to the clear layout and informative text, was the enthusiastic discussion about why their experiment hadn’t worked. This level of critical thinking is impressive and represents good training for those choosing to become scientists in the future! We can now be sure that at least they have acquired skills in communication and the utilization of the scientific method that will help them in whichever career path they choose. We look forward to next years challenges.

See you next year!
Mar Fernández-Méndez and the APECS-Arctic Frontiers team

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