"Dispatches from Europe" Blog Contest

Are you planning on traveleling to the European Union this summer? Submit a post to be featured on our Across the Pond blog and win prizes!

Environment and Society in a Changing Arctic Blogs

The third Environment and Society in a Changing Arctic class traveled to the Arctic Circle in summer 2014. Check out their blog entries from this summer!

Ringing the Bells at the Banner of Peace

Landscape Architecture Doctoral candidate Caroline Wisler reflects on her travels to Bulgaria.

Zach Grotovsky's Summer 2013: 14 Cities, 15 Weeks, One Long Adventure

University of Illinois graduate student in Germanic Literatures and Languages Zach Grotovsky documents his travels throughout Eastern Europe in the summer of 2013.

Polar Bears

The Environment and Society in a Changing Arctic class spotted polar bears in Norway!

Peaceful Opposition in Izmir

MAEUS student Levi Armlovich describes his experiences with the protests in Izmir, Turkey.

Sunday, August 7, 2016

Environment and Society in a Changing Arctic Field Notes: July 4th by Enrico Lucca and Ellie McGrew

This article and the images originally appeared on KTH's Environment and Society in a Changing Arctic blog.

There you can read about the Arctic course taking place in the summer of 2016! The participating students from KTH Royal Institute of Technology together with the students of University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign are writing about their experiences throughout the course.

July 4th by Enrico Lucca and Ellie McGrew


This morning we woke up and went to the town of Malmberget which can be seen across the valley from our cabins. Malmberget originally began as a classic mining shanty town and is still built around the mining industry. Tragically now it is being destroyed by the mine itself. This town of a couple thousand began to develop a large sinkhole in the 1960s and LKAB has bought part of the town and homes in the affected areas.

The entire town will no longer exist within the next 20 years. We walked around a neighborhood close to the deformation zone where it was incredibly run down. Mixed among the remaining homes were the ghostly remains of walls and gardens outlining the areas of houses that have already been removed. Looking through the fence you could see the giant hole a block or two away where the ground is collapsing. It was impossible not to wonder when it would expand and consume the land that you were currently walking on. Afterwards we headed over to the old sports hall where there was an exhibit showing Malmberget’s history. The display housed different pictures from community events such as dances, concerts, and pageants and also old class photos from the 1960s and 1970s of the local school. These images depicted Malmbergert in happier times before its slow destruction. In the gym was a large photo display of houses throughout the town from different years and old mining photos. A large model of the town helped display the layout of Malmberget. Finally we went to a historical recreation of the original shanty town where people were selling goods from the old buildings and homes. The shanty town is one of the few things in Malmberget that will be preserved and moved.

After lunch, an hour and a half drive led us to the UNESCO World Heritage Site “Laponian Area”. At the Naturum Laponia Visitor Centre, a guide showed us the exhibit and explained why a 9400 km^2 large area in North Sweden was designed as a World Heritage Site in 1996.

Laponian area is one of the 32 World Heritage Sites whose selection was based on the combination of unique natural and cultural values. This site contains exceptional natural beauty and it has been occupied by the Sami people for over 2000 years since the transhumance of reindeer herding. However, the exploitation of natural resources, which started in the early 20th century in Norbotten County, has posed several obstacles to the reindeer herding and to other activities which are impressed in the culture and in the history of the Sami communities living in the area. One of the most severe obstacles is represented by the numerous dams and their connected infrastructures, i.e. power lines and roads, which are used to regulate the water level in the Lule River for the production of electric power. 25% of the Swedish hydropower comes from the Lule River which was originally a basin composed of 7 lakes and alpine streams and is now transformed into a huge lake.

On the way back to our cabins we had to slow down and stop many times in order to herd lots of reindeer off of the road.
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Saturday, August 6, 2016

Environment and Society in a Changing Arctic Field Notes: July 3rd by Brittany Hancock-Brown and Mark Patterson

This article and the images originally appeared on KTH's Environment and Society in a Changing Arctic blog.

There you can read about the Arctic course taking place in the summer of 2016! The participating students from KTH Royal Institute of Technology together with the students of University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign are writing about their experiences throughout the course.

July 3rd by Brittany Hancock-Brown and Mark Patterson
Today was the day we hiked down from Tarfala Research Station. When we got up, there was a lot of wind and rain and therefore very cold and not a promising start. We all gathered and packed our things and went down to the dining hall for breakfast. Instead of Adam making breakfast, we found Pia in the kitchen baking wonderful smelling bread. Along with the usual oatmeal, we had a great breakfast before we headed out. We headed out and the rain had stopped falling as hard—So that was good! We had to take our time coming down from the station because of the wet conditions in the weather. While waiting for the group to catch up at the first bridge, there was a Bohemian Rhapsody jam session. We also noticed that there was much less snow on the mountains than there was when we had walked up only days before. The water levels, consequentially, were much higher in the rivers and creeks that we crossed. By the time we reached the valley, the clouds had cleared up and the weather became ideal—cool, gentle breeze, and a lot of sun. Overall the hike back was much smoother than the trip up. We stopped at the Sami Restaurant and I had a reindeer burger. It was delicious!

After we reached the end of the King’s Trail, we waited for the bus to arrive. To our delight, the bus was massive, posh, and we had it all to ourselves! We switched vehicles at the airport, which was preceded by a challenging game of Frisbee with high winds. The new vehicles were private vans which we are renting for the remainder of the trip. We drove to get dinner and some of us chose to eat at Frasses and others ate at a pizza place. We then went to Coop to get food for the next few days. It took longer than expected since we had to coordinate meals with our new roommates and because some of us still have trouble reading food labels and navigating foreign stores. Then we started our hour and a half journey to our cabins. In our van, we passed the time by playing “guess the Disney song” game which involved Martin playing random Disney songs on Spotify and having us try to identify which movie it came from as quickly as possible. When we finally arrived at our cabins, we were delighted to see how wonderful our living spaces are. We have comfy beds, private bathrooms, full kitchens, a TV, wifi, and even a sauna! Perhaps the best thing of them all is the perfect view from our kitchen windows of the midnight sun.
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Monday, July 11, 2016

Environment and Society in a Changing Arctic Field Notes: July 2nd by Saloni Sheth and Laura Schultz

This article and the images originally appeared on KTH's Environment and Society in a Changing Arctic blog. 

There you can read about the Arctic course taking place in the summer of 2016! The participating students from KTH Royal Institute of Technology together with the students of University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign are writing about their experiences throughout the course.


July 2nd by Saloni Sheth and Laura Schultz

Today, we did not struggle. At least, we didn’t struggle as much as we did on Sunday, the day of our canceled flight and carrying too much luggage. After a nice morning consisting of the normal breakfast at 7:30, we had a break until 10, when we went with Pia, one of the station’s research assistants who is also the station’s flower expert. We had a field excursion to the nearby vegetation monitoring area. Here, we identified ten different species of Arctic flora in various stages of blooming. Studying and identifying plants based on their physical attributes is called phenology.

Pia then told us all about how the blooming of several of the species has varied over the past few years, most likely due to how the climate in the area is shifting. In addition, she explained to us that the reindeer that roam the valley like to eat more than just lichen, as many people imagine they eat. During the winter, lichen is pretty much the only vegetation remaining available to them, so that is what they settle for. However, when more plants and greenery are in bloom, the reindeer are happy to eat that instead. We found this particularly interesting because we too had thought that reindeer mainly subsisted on lichen year round.

Pretty much this whole time that we were out, it was quite cool and rainy, so we were happy to head back to the station for lunch. However, the fog that had enveloped the valley did allow for some very nice pictures.

After the fog lifted and we had a nice lunch of fish and potatoes, we met back in the classroom for two final lectures here at Tarfala. The first was given by Ninis about the REXSAC project that she and Dag have recently established. The second was from Mark about public history and Arctic tourism, which we paid careful attention to since our research topic is the impacts of tourism in the Arctic. To wrap it up, we had a really interesting discussion about the day’s reading about a Sámi man named Nils Sarri who was integral in establishing tourism in the Kebnekaise area in the early 20th century.

When the lectures concluded, the rest of our night consisted of dinner and plenty of free time in order to prepare for our departure in the morning. It feels like our time at Tarfala has flown by, and we have learned so much from our field trips. We will be sad to be going, but are excited for the next chapter of our Arctic adventure in Gällivare.
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Sunday, July 10, 2016

Environment and Society in a Changing Arctic Field Notes: July 1st by Evan London and Kasja Lundgren

This article and the images originally appeared on KTH's Environment and Society in a Changing Arctic blog. 

There you can read about the Arctic course taking place in the summer of 2016! The participating students from KTH Royal Institute of Technology together with the students of University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign are writing about their experiences throughout the course.

July 1st by Evan London and Kajsa Lundgren

Our second day in Tarfala valley began with our long awaited lecture on the cryosphere (consisting of ecosystems with year round frozen water including glaciers, ice sheets, and permafrost ecology), presented by Ninis Rosqvist. We began by discussing what should be included when designating the Arctic region. The Arctic has many overlapping definitions what the cutoff for the Arctic region? Should it strictly be considered regions above the Arctic Circle, excluding southern Greenland and almost all of Iceland? Or perhaps the area of the map above above the 60th parallell, including the cities just north of Stockholm? Or even defined by more natural boundaries such as the tree line and the Arctic Ocean’s convergence zone? There’s no easy answer, but all of these potential definitions are important to consider especially when determining which actors should be able to dictate the outcomes within our planet’s northernmost regions.

After getting a better idea of the icy regions we were considering as ”Arctic”, we started to look at how the polar region has been fluctuating in temperature over time. The human recorded weather data date back to the 1700’s, although records from this era need interpretation due to the differences in measuring practices between our present and the past. Filling in the rest of the long term record requires more scientific inquiry and data collection. The methods include some truly ingenious techniques such as biochemically analyzing trees preserved within peat bogs and even looking at the formation patterns of stalagmites and stalactites within deep caves. With our ability to look at the temperature pattern of the last 10,000 years, we can see that the overall trend has been one of polar cooling, however looking at the last century of the graph is a whole different story. We couldn’t help but think of Al Gore’s film An Inconvenient Truth where similar graphs were shown, and yet even with all this public attention for the past 10 years, it still seems like not enough is being done to mitigate anthropogenic climate change.

To lighten our spirits after contemplating the drastic changes to the polar climate, we began preparing for our hike on Storglaciären. Our kit provided by TRS included: an ice pick-axe, a harness and crampons. With our equipment stowed in our packs, we set forth to the tounge of the glacier ascending on the moraine. Before stepping on the glacier we had our lunch and had good look at the processes in the paraglacial area (the new land revealed by the receding glacier). We could now very clearly see the old 1910 extent of the glacial ice and the moraine of broken up bedrock that the glacier carries with it through the natural motion of ice melt and gravity pulling the mass down the valley floor.

Now acquainted with the periphery of the glacier, we proceeded to ascend to the Automatic Weather Station near the very top. From this vantage point within a bowl of mountain rock we could see across the valley we hiked through the day before last (29/06/16) along with the upper reaches of Kebnekaise, truly a sublime vista!

But what then to make of this Arctic sublimity? To answer this question we needed to return to the lecture hall at Tarfala for Mark Safstrom’s lecture on H.C. Andersen’s The Snow Queen and the Arctic narratives of 19th century romanticism. This romantic period found expression in a desire to make progress through regress, to make a return to our primordial natural state. The lure of the untamed icy expanse for those seeking fame and adventure inspired a multitude of expeditions to both the Arctic and Antarctic regions, some of which ended fatally, but all became part of the larger narrative that the polar regions of the Earth were only meant for those who could muster their masculine might to proclaim themselves masters of the ice. It’s funny to think what these early male explorers would think of our group with our strong women majority who have clambered the icy slopes just as spryly as they did.

After the day’s activities, we’ll have no trouble sleeping, preparing ourselves for what tomorrow brings~
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