"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.

Tuesday, October 14, 2014

Prishtina's Two Towers

by Chris Jackson

A recently converted pedestrian promenade, Mother Teresa Boulevard is at the center of the Kosovar capitol of Prishtina.  It’s the site of summer festivals, musical performances, and nightly throngs of pedestrians.  Named for Blessed Teresa of Calcutta, born Anjeza Gonxhe Bojaxhiu in nearby Skopje, the boulevard is lined at street level with cafes, nightlife, and shops, and apartments above.  While much of the architecture is historic, including some eerie reminders of the communist regime, modern structures are beginning to appear.  The all glass German Banka Ekonomike stands beside the restored Swiss Diamond Hotel, and at the other end the Albanian fast food joint Kolonat stands beneath an oversized sign and the chain’s McDonald’s-esque emblem.  However the real conflict of the historical and the modern is in Prishtina’s two towers, at either end of Mother Teresa.

At the north end, standing tall over the statues of Albanian hero Skanderbeg and Kosovar leader Ibrahim Rugova, is the blue glass beacon of modernity that is the government building of Kosovo.  It towers over older government installations, and today houses the 120-member national assembly, as well as the office of the Prime Minister, Mr. Hashim Thaci, and his cabinet of 22 ministers.  Despite its prominence, the massive modern structure is not a beacon of liberal democracy in the modernizing post-war Kosovo.  It houses a government under constant scrutiny, the members of which have and continue to stand trial for corruption and war crimes.  A government so cracked and divided along party affiliations and wartime allegiances that it currently sits in limbo, unable to form following June snap elections.

And the tower’s foot sits a reminder of the war more overt and sobering than the guerilla politicians still guiding the country 15 years on.  A video screen displays the faces and biographical information of those still missing from the Milosevic government’s ethnic cleansing campaign of the 1990s.

To the north, where Mother Teresa Boulevard dissipates into four lanes of traffic, opposite the Kalashnikov-wielding statue of Kosovo Liberation Army martyr Zahir Pajaziti, stands the Grand Hotel Prishtina.  Today, only operating a couple of the thirteen floors of guestrooms, the skin-colored concrete block of a tower stands as a monument to all of Kosovo’s troubles: the communist past, the war, and the current economic plight.

Built during the golden years of Kosovo autonomy (following the 1974 constitutional reform and being wiped out by the anti-bureaucratic revolution of 1989), the Grand Hotel Prishtina was a hotspot during the communist years.  It played host to visiting dignitaries and businessmen as well as all sorts of engagements in its many ballrooms.  Though it remained largely unscathed throughout out the minimal fighting in Prishtina and NATO bombing campaign in 1998-99, the Grand Hotel was home to the infamously brutal instruments of ethnic cleansing, the paramilitary force known as Arkan’s Tigers.  Today, the Grand Hotel, like many of the larger industries in Kosovo is locked in a legal battle over privatization.  With only a couple functioning floors of unflattering guestrooms, a new though usually vacant bar in the lobby, and an overgrown back terrace, the Grand Hotel Prishtina, now stands as a monument to corruption and failed privatization in post-war Kosovo.

Pink Tanks and Rotten Cakes: A Research Trip to Prague

by Jenelle Davis
The Pink Tank in the Military Technical Museum Lešany, 2014
Photo Credit: Jenelle Davis

This past summer I spent a month in Prague conducting research for the chapter of my dissertation in art history that investigates the life of a memorial in the Czech Republic post-1945 to the present. I arrived to the beautiful city armed with a small but formidable list of email addresses and phone numbers of local curators, artists and art historians from which, I hoped, I could conjure a few meetings and forge some new connections. What resulted from my efforts went wildly beyond my expectations. The trip proved immensely successful, even if some of the information I garnered was not at all what I expected.

My overarching aim was to meet David Černý, a contemporary Czech artist (or trouble maker depending who you’re talking to) whose action against a monument (or act of vandalism, also depending on who your speaking to) is the focus of a substantial part of my research. In 1991, Černý and a group of fellow art students covered the Monument to Soviet Tank Crews, a tank on a raised platform, with pink paint as an act of rebellion against the lasting Soviet legacy in Czechoslovakia and the failure of the new democratic government to convene a public discussion about the monument’s fate after the Velvet Revolution. My more realistic aspirations for the trip was to be in Prague by May 8 to see the commemorations for Victory Day at the former site of the memorial and to visit the Pink Tank where it now lives in a military museum outside of Prague (and yes, it is still Pink!).

The remnants of the “pink tank cake” and other original materials
brought over to the artist’s studio in a shopping cart. 2014
Photo Credit: Jenelle Davis
Incredibly, one morning I woke up to find an email in my inbox from Černý himself instructing me to call him so that we can find a time to meet! Apparently the curators at his art space, the Meet Factory, appreciated my determination and candor and prodded Černý to get in contact with me. We ended up hitting it off and I was invited back to visit his studio and go through an enormous amount of invaluable original materials including police reports, articles, letters, postcards and even a (rotting) cake made in the shape of the tank! It was astounding, and quite fun for both of us as Černý mentioned he hadn’t even thought about these materials for years.

The story of the tank, and my interest in it, doesn’t end with the initial act; there’s a fascinating continuation to it. On July 1, 2011, on the twentieth anniversary of the Warsaw Treaty’s demise, the pink tank returned to Prague on a palette, floating down the Vltava River. Its return was made at the behest of a ‘anti-totalitarianism’ organization, OPONA. The media portrayed this return of the tank as being quite a seminal event, and so I’ve been presenting this event as such in my written work. But what I found out during meetings with a few local artists surprised me. Not only was the public blasé about the return of the tank (and ambivalent about Černý for that matter) but I also realized that both Černý and OPONA were being bankrolled by the right-leaning political party TOP09. Not that this was a secret, per se, but the insight about the way contemporary politics were mirroring and also rejecting soviet era policies as relayed to me by locals puts a really interesting spin on this project that I wasn’t able to garner through secondhand sources. This problematizes the quaint, easy ending I envisioned to for this chapter and I couldn’t be happier with the opportunity to follow the trajectory this presents.

This trip was supported by a European Union Center Graduate Student Research Travel Grant and a travel stipend from the Program in Jewish Culture and Society, without which, this trip would not have been possible. I am sincerely grateful for the funding!

Monday, September 8, 2014

A Taste of Greece

by Christy Panganiban

Even before entering college I was familiar with the concept of studying abroad. However, the idea of living in a completely foreign country while balancing school and adjusting to a new environment with new rules seemed quite intimidating.  Admittedly, I had some of the same qualms during my sophomore year in college while researching the study abroad programs offered by the University of Illinois. When I first came across the “4 Week ‘Renewable Energy Concepts’” program, I had two immediate concerns: culture barriers and the question, “is it worth it?” The topic of study, however, pushed me to consider this program since being a student studying civil and environmental engineering with the interest in sustainability, it was exactly the topic I wanted to dedicate a summer learning about.

Before traveling to Greece, I had little experience living in a foreign country; I had also heard of the critical state of Greece’s economy and had been tirelessly warned by my mother of all the risks accompanying a trip to a foreign land. With these dangers in mind, I was surprised to realize how safe I felt at all times. During the first day we arrived in Greece, the street signs initially made me uneasy. After a couple days, I found that there was almost always an English translation posted or announced. Fortunately, free Wi-Fi access was very common in public places; if I ever needed a map or quick translation, it only took a moment to pull up an app on my phone. Lucky for me, every Greek I interacted with also spoke English, especially the younger people who are taught how to speak English in school. Thus, if I was ever unsure of where I was, I never had a problem asking a local Greek for assistance. Regardless of age, I found Greeks to be very friendly people who have fun practicing their English and welcoming tourists to their country. Though the culture barriers seemed daunting at first, it only took a matter of a couple days to adjust to the new environment.

For the majority of the four weeks, myself and two other students lived together in a three bedroom apartment in a neighborhood of Athens called Neos Kosmos. Within a 7 minute walk from the apartment was the metro station, small grocery stores, bakeries, and gyro shops. Some nights we cooked our meals in the kitchen of our apartment, but many times we ate out, unable to turn down authentic Greek food, including meaty gyros sold for only 1-2 euros. With Professor Zahos, we also ventured to four islands of Greece (Hydra, Poros, Aegina, and Crete) and to different sites all over the mainland. Since these trips had been arranged prior, we had the privilege of taking in as much of the breathtaking, rich-in-history country as we could in just four short weeks. We visited historical locations and toured ancient sites including Mycenae, Olympia, Delphi, and Meteora.  The three of us were also given the opportunity to spend our “free” weekend exploring Santorini on our own, where we rode donkeys, visited a volcano, swam in the hot springs, and enjoyed every beach on the island riding ATVs. I cannot stress how incredibly beautiful both the mainland and islands are, but I can say with full certainty that I will be returning.

The experience was completely worth it; it seems silly that I even questioned its value. The lectures by graduate students and professors at the Agricultural University of Athens (AUA) on renewable energy concepts, current/upcoming technology, and the program called HOMER were not only relevant to my previous studies but opened my eyes to the current state of our planet. The trip to the University of Thessaly in Volos, the tour of the Center for Renewable Energy Sources, and the various technical field trips throughout the month gave me a well-rounded understanding of renewable energy sources. Through this experience, we learned how to utilize HOMER to design an optimized microgrid system for our assigned Greek islands using real-world, current data.

Without a single shred of doubt, this trip was worth all the time, energy, money, and planning it took. Besides gaining 2 credit hours, I acquired memories, knowledge, experience, and a new perspective that will remain treasured for all time.

This article is one in a series of blog entries written by University of Illinois students who were selected to travel to Greece to participate in a four-week Renewable Energy Concepts Study and Cultural Tour, provided by theInternational Programs in Engineering Office of the College of Engineering. Tour participants embarked on technical field trips, cultural excursions, and collaborated with students from the Agricultural University of Athens and the University of Thessaly in Volos to research and apply renewable energy concepts to real-world technical and societal questions . This program is partially supported by the European Union Center through a European Union Center of Excellence grant. It is planned to repeat the program in summer 2015.

Christy Panganiban is studying civil and environmental engineering and will be graduating in May 2016.

Thursday, September 4, 2014

A Month Spent All Around Greece

by Neil Mulvey

Throughout college, the idea of studying abroad always appealed to me. However, with tough course loads every semester and the pressure of graduating on time, I never gave study abroad much of a viable chance. When I decided to push my graduation date one semester back, it provided the opportunity to take advantage of the extra time. My first thought was to explore study abroad options to continue to gain credit, but more importantly to fulfill my want to travel and explore a different part of the world.

While searching through the available summer study abroad options, I could not believe my luck in finding an option to travel to Greece for a month and study the relevant topic of renewable energy. Since I was young, I have been intrigued by the ancient world the Greeks inhabited along with their mythologies. A chance to go to the lands where these stories took place and to the sites where historical events occurred was one I could not pass up.

Upon arrival to Athens, Greece, I knew I would not be disappointed with my decision to join the program. After a night that featured our first Greek meal of the trip in the Syntagma district, we enjoyed a personal tour of the Parthenon. This was just the beginning to a trip including many historical sites throughout Greece including Corinth, Mycenae, Olympia, Delphi, Meteora, and Knossos. The history is well documented and every site visited was kept in great condition which provided a very enjoyable experience.

The historical sites were not the only places that provided extraordinary experiences. Greece is known for their many beautiful islands and we had the pleasure of visiting multiple. In just one day, we took a cruise to three unique islands. The boat ride allowed great views of the Aegean Sea and passing islands which was amazing all it its self. As a group, we decided to take a weekend visit to Santorini, which is known as one of the more popular tourist islands. Crete, the most southern and largest Greek island, provided multiple experiences. Crete is where the Knossos ruins are along with the Samaria Gorge, which we spent six hours hiking through one day. Greece offers an abundance of both historical sites and natural beauty.

One of the greatest pleasures of the trip involved our experiences with the Agricultural University of Athens. The PhD candidates and professors were always extremely helpful and knowledgeable while working on our projects. They also provided relevant and interesting lectures on their courses of study. It was particularly interesting to learn about multiple renewable energy sources and machinery and their particular application to Greece and Europe. Our AUA friends also gladly took it upon themselves to introduce and immerse us into the Greek culture.

To me, studying abroad was so much more than an opportunity to gain knowledge in renewable energy. It was a chance for me to see firsthand history-book worthy sites and learn about life in a different part of the world. It is important to me to have a better understanding of what is going on not only in America, but everywhere. Living outside of the normal comfort zone for any period of time is a powerful experience that everyone should take advantage of.

This article is one in a series of blog entries written by University of Illinois students who were selected to travel to Greece to participate in a four-week Renewable Energy Concepts Study and Cultural Tour, provided by theInternational Programs in Engineering Office of the College of Engineering. Tour participants embarked on technical field trips, cultural excursions, and collaborated with students from the Agricultural University of Athens and the University of Thessaly in Volos to research and apply renewable energy concepts to real-world technical and societal questions . This program is partially supported by the European Union Center through a European Union Center of Excellence grant. It is planned to repeat the program in summer 2015.

Neil Mulvey is a senior graduating in December 2014 with a Bachelors of Science in mechanical engineering and science at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. His interests include swimming, hiking, and anything else outside. 

Friday, July 25, 2014

Tuesday July 2nd

This blog was originally posted on the Environment and Society in a Changing Arctic Blog on July 6, 2014.

by Sam Morrow and Lauren Krone

So sad to say this is our last blog, it has been an incredible trip! It seems like we just moved into our dorms at KTH, and now we are spending our last day in the Arctic!  This past month has just disappeared.

As our final day in the course, this was our last opportunity to discuss what our final papers will cover.  Today we focused on the topics we found interesting from the course from both an environmental aspect and a social aspect.  We chose to look at how mining and the moving of Kiruna affect the environment and reindeer husbandry.  Moreover, we will also look at how those consequences affect the Sami reindeer herders.  We are extremely excited to use what we have learned in lectures and our experiences from the trip to help us write our papers.  Since we were able to study many different perspectives on the move, we are able to tackle the paper from many different angles.

Each group was split up for the morning to give us time to organize our thoughts and resources into a clean presentation of our papers.  After lunch we re-grouped and had a chance to listen to the other groups presentations.  We were very impressed with the diversity other groups picked! They ranged from the reintroduction of wolves to the affect mining may have on the albedo of glaciers!  During each group’s presentation everyone else took notes and had the opportunity to ask questions. It was interesting to hear feedback from our peers on our proposals and to be able to aid the others in their quest for success! We had a short break before having individual meetings with the professors about our topics!

During the break a few of us went to a store where crafts and items made by Sami people were sold.  Lauren bought some cozy slippers and Sam bought a beautiful silver ring! It was a good way to take some of the culture home with us.  Later the entire group went out for a last dinner together :( it was delicious and such a pleasant way to wrap up our trip.  I think we speak for all the students by saying how amazing of an experience this entire course has been! We have learned so much about society and the environment in a changing Arctic.  We are truly grateful for our professors and everyone who has helped us learn about the changing Arctic. The Arctic is a vastly dynamic place, both from a natural science and a social science perspective.  It  has been an eye-opening experience and one none of us will ever forget.


Wednesday, July 23, 2014

30th of June

This blog was originally posted on the Environment and Society in a Changing Arctic Blog on July 3, 2014.

by Kate Tyndall and Jinhui Wang

Akka will have a special place in our hearts!
Another early morning saw our ragtag group packing up from our home in Tarfala, saying goodbye to our new friends (Akka got a particularly long goodbye) and hitting the trail. The good weather and promise of a downhill start lulled many of us into a false sense of confidence. If you’ve never done a 14 mile (24 kilometer) hike, let me tell you: it’s not easy, especially when you’ve hiked about 30 miles in the last 4 days.

We started off at a leisurely pace, reluctant to leave the beautiful mountains. The ice-cold streams offered abundant fresh water, and our cracker sandwiches melted in our backpacks into tasty grilled cheeses. Once out of the valley, our trek turned from a leisurely stroll to a life-or-death flight.

Sam took desperate measures
to avoid the mosquito hordes.
It started slowly – a buzz here, a bite there, a bug in someone’s eye – but soon the mosquito hordes surrounded us, insatiable in their quest for hiker blood. Stopping for even a moment meant certain discomfort. The only way to avoid these vicious predators was to walk quickly, in single file. We took turns at the front, pushing through the swarms for a while until someone else took over the lead.

The grueling pace and constant threat of bites wore away at us. By the time we were finished, we all felt ready for a nap and a new pair of feet. We grabbed our gear from the helicopter crew and made our way to Nikkaluokta.

Nikkaluokta is a very small town, part of a Sami village. Hikers come here to eat, camp, and prepare for the trail. We had hoped to meet some Sami people there, but as the spring season requires the reindeer herders to gather their animals to mark the calves, they had all left. We ate dinner in the tiny village’s café. The meal of potatoes, salad, and reindeer stew was delicious after our long trek (for those who are curious, reindeer tastes a lot like lamb).

Kyle makes himself at home in a Sami earth lodge
After dinner, we struggled for a while to find our cabins. You’d think that a town of 50 people would make it difficult to get lost, but somehow we managed. We finally found our quaint cabins and turned in for an early bedtime. The cabins looked like a trip back to the 1950s, with old-fashioned ovens, hand-painted flowers on the cabinets, and surprisingly comfortable bunk beds. We fell asleep watching the first Hobbit movie, and not even the incessant buzzing of mosquitos could wake us.


1st of July

This blog was originally posted on the Environment and Society in a Changing Arctic Blog on July 3, 2014.

by Tyler Kamp and Vadim Velichkin

The day started early in Nikkaluokta with breakfast at 8am.  Our place of stay was far from the food center and everyone was still recovering from the hike yesterday.  Breakfast consisted of toast with cheeses and meats and oatmeal. After breakfast we met to discuss the rest of the day.  Since the Sami had all left there was no one to interview for.  The teachers decided to have us look around the village for little clues about the Sami.  We started with the chapel.  It was interesting in that it showed traditional Christian church things mixed with traditional Sami things.  We found some of the house they stayed at as well, they were modern looking houses.

The bus back to Kiruna was at 1230 so we had to go back and pack everything up. It was again a long
walk back carrying all our luggage.  The bus went to the airport in Kiruna first to drop off Jonathan then dropped us off at the hostel.  We only had a short time before we were supposed to walk to the Sami culture museum and we did not have time for lunch.  The Sami culture museum was interesting in that we finally had some perspective from the Sami’s viewpoint.  We were done there at around 330 where we were free to go with a discussion on the topic the following day.  We were starving and decided to eat the the “Arctic Thai” food place.  It was very good and provided lots of food.

We returned to the hostel and unloaded our stuff a bit.  We relaxed for a while before heading to the sauna for what could be the last time in the north of Sweden.

Friday, July 18, 2014

29th of June

This blog was originally posted on the Environment and Society in a Changing Arctic Blog on July 3, 2014.

by Otto Rimfors and Erica Sheeran

Perhaps what made Tarfala feel like a paradise was not the majestic mountains that shielded the valley on all sides, nor the pulsing river that thrashed its way over misplaced rocks, nor the snow, vibrantly white against the muddy and lime coloured ground. Rather, the smiling flowers that peeked from behind the rocks and through the crevasses were the things that completely pulled the picture together. They were the bunches of life that kept things going; the hint of summer in an Arctic threshold.

On our last day in Tarfala, instead of focusing on the glacial landforms and the wonderment of the scraggly snow-crested peaks, we set out to look at the little peaks of happiness known as Arctic flowers. Before this, however, we learned a bit about the formation of the mountains surrounding the valley; in Alison Anders lecture beforehand, she explained that the rocks of the mountains were created during the Caledonians, wherein Greenland and the Scandinavian Peninsula collided and pulled apart several times. This resulted, of course, in layers of rock formation which include quartzite, mylenite, and amphibolites, which contain garnet stones.

There must be fairies around here somewhere…
Of course, trudging over these layers of rock (the tiredness had begun to set in) we soon found ourselves at a small place where a stream trickled out from a giant rock into a mossy pad of an assortment of greens, yellows, and speckles of a variety of various other colours. The elevation was noted at 1,020 meters. Upon further investigation, the pad was found to be squishy and spongy, composed mostly of mosses and small green shrubs with soft leaves (reminiscent of the ‘lambs’ ears’ garden plant), interspaced with plenty of rocks. The flowers just outside of the stream were plentiful, though not all were identified, as Swedish and Latin together is pretty much an indestructible beast.

The Arctic Willows with their fluffy softness.
We ventured a little further down to an area around some exposed bedrock (noted by Alison due to its same slope as the rest of the valley and its contents as a rock) and, naturally, found some more flowers, although these were much smaller than the initial ones clustered around saturated ground from earlier. Little delicate mossljungs and teensy ferns decorated the area. Naturally, the little fairy flowers varied in size and shape as we moved up and down elevations, but in any case, I felt several times as if the myths of fae were true, based solely on the teensy nature of these flowers.

In any case, the day was spent examining the different elevations and habitats of these plants with the accompaniment of reindeer and a cute little lemming. We ended our excursion climbing a so-called “rock glacier”, whose formation and legitimacy is disputed, returning to our stations after a day of frolicking research.

Last night in Tarfala and of course we had to go to the lake. I had heard rumors that it was possible to jump on the rocks in the riverbed all the way up there. It turned out to be a modified truth, but also a really exciting adventure.

The group started off together, trying to find a way across to the middle of the river beds where there was some “solid” ground. It was a labyrinth, with ice cold water running in between and over the rocks. Some were slippery, some were not. Some were wackily, some were not. Some were too far away to jump, some were not. Some of us gave up, some did not.

And we who didn’t, we didn’t get wet. But there were some critical and hysterical moments.

Jumping on the rocks
When finally managing to get over to the middle part of the riverbed we realized that it wasn’t possible to walk further upstream on the rocks, not without getting wet at least. We threw big heavy rocks into the water, creating our own path, stabilizing it by holding hands while one of us reached out with his foot to put it in place.

At some point the urge of eating ice cream just took over and all the white ice around was too tempting.

Natural ice cream

We found a beautiful partly ice covered lake on the isfallglaciären-side of the moraine on the far side of the river from the research station.

Small ice lake

Then we were finally standing on the shore of the lake far up in the Tarfala valley. It was almost fully covered with snow and ice and we doubted if we could even cross the river on the way back.

Large ice lake

We didn’t really believe that we could have pulled off the same stunt as on the way there. We could see the STF-hut through the binoculars.. In distance.


Unfortunately we didn’t have skis. But using two old gray pieces of wood, to increase our area in order to not fall through the snow and into the underlying river, we managed to get across, one slow meter at a time.

Crossing snow
Lucky for us, we got back safely.


Wednesday, July 16, 2014

28th of June

This blog was originally posted on the Environment and Society in a Changing Arctic Blog on July 3, 2014.

by Alexandar Vujadinovic and Kyle Morrison

This day we went up the glacier Storglaciären, for which the Tarfala Research Station has the world’s longest continuous record of glacial mass balance data.

There were also some researchers with us, partially to guide us and show a safe path, but also to collect data. Before going up the glacier, our course instructors made sure that everyone had their harnesses on – this would make rescue much easier in case anyone of us fell through a glacial crevasse. The glacier was covered with a thick layer of snow, and some parts were quite exhausting to climb. During the ascent, we were constantly reminded of the dangers associated with glaciers, and that one always should be careful despite the fact that they might look safe. We stopped at the site of an automated weather station to have lunch and relax, although the team of scientists that were with us continued further.

A helicopter circled around us and the mountain Kebnekaise – we later found out that it carried another team of researchers to Tarfala, and that they had decided to take a detour so they could get a good overview of the area that they were going to stay at.

Monday, July 14, 2014

27th of June

This blog was originally posted on the Environment and Society in a Changing Arctic Blog on July 3, 2014.

by Lauren Krone and Samantha Morrow

Today was our first full day at Tarfala! After a restful morning and a leisurely breakfast, we hiked along the river and then up onto a lateral moraine. Moraines are piles of rock and debris that were once carried or moved by a glacier, and end up in piles, which reveal the glaciers shape and path at one point in time. We learned that lateral moraines are formed along the sides of a glacier, as compared to terminal moraines that form at the end of a glacier.

The first thing we did on the moraine was to measure the lichen that had grown on the rocks. Lichen are a symbiosis of algae and fungus. The alga does the photosynthesis, while the fungus collects nutrients from the rocks. Since photosynthesis requires sunlight, lichen can only start to grow once the glacier retreats. This allows us to date the age of the moraine by looking at the size in diameter of the lichen. Such a process is called lichen dating. Lichen growth curves are created by looking at how big lichen are on surfaces where the age is known, such as abandoned mines or old forests. These curves are then applied to the lichen on the moraines, at an average rate of 0.4mm per year.

We split up into groups, and measured different areas of the moraine. This included the inside, top, and
outside of the moraine. We found that the top of the moraine was roughly 200 years old, while the inside of the moraine was only exposed about 100 years ago.

In addition to dating the moraine, we discussed possible problems with using lichen to find the age of the moraine. First, there is difficulty in finding perfectly circular lichen, making the diameter a difficult thing to measure correctly. The uneven growth patterns are due to uneven mineral distribution in the rocks along with micro-topography of the rocks. Moreover, there is a possibility that new landslides or rock falls may cover a moraine, or cause rocks to flip or expose new surfaces. This may make a moraine look younger than it really is, because younger lichen will have colonized the newly exposed rock.

After we were finished working with the lichen on the moraine, a group went on an optional hike up the opposite side of the valley. This gave us a view of the glacier Storglaciaren which we will get to go out on tomorrow! Can’t wait!

Friday, July 11, 2014

Hike to the Tarfala station, Thursday, June 26th

This blog was originally posted on the Environment and Society in a Changing Arctic Blog on July 2, 2014.

by Tyler Kamp and Vadim Velichkin

We woke up at seven, ate our breakfast and went to Nikkaluokta, where we arrived at nine o’clock. At Nikkaluokta we spent some time organizing our luggage and finally we were on the trail at half past nine. The gods smiled upon us that day so we had the perfect weather.

The trail that we chose to walk is a part of the Swedish King’s trail (Kungsleden). The major part of the trail went through a valley, with forest growing on both sides of it. The slopes were gentle so this part of the trail was not very physically demanding. On the way there were a lot of interesting things to observe, both natural and artificial. We crossed several moors and mountain rivers. After approximately one and a half hours of walking we have come to a lake where we saw a traditional Sami winter hut. Also, we saw two reindeers that we followed for a short time. The view was spectacular with the mountains standing like timeless giants. Whenever we felt tired we stopped and enjoyed the nature around us. On the way we also came across a meditation stone. At about twenty past three we reached the Tarfala valley and we knew that the hardest part was yet to come. There were tears, a lot of whining and some blood, which basically was Hanna cutting her hand.

At some point we had to cross the snow. We noticed the U-shape of the valley, which hints that the valley has been covered with ice before. Also, we were vigilant to the change in vegetation. Once in the valley we could no longer see any trees. Instead we saw low vegetation in form of lichens, moss, grass and flowers.

Eventually we arrived to the Tarfala station at half past five. We got to know the staff, who received us with open arms and a hot dinner. Since the environment at Tarfala station was new to us one of the scientists held a presentation about the safety rules, after which we were shown to our rooms. Finally we ended our day by enjoying the hot steam in the sauna and watching the Sun disappear behind the mountain tops.

Wednesday, July 9, 2014

Kiruna Day 3

This blog was originally posted on the Environment and Society in a Changing Arctic Blog on June 27, 2014.

by Kate Tyndell and Jinhui Wang

June 25 – LKAB’s Kiruna Mine, Interview with Göran Cars, and Hjalmar Lundbohm Museum

This morning we woke up bright and early for a tour of LKAB’s Kiruna Mine. The mine is located in Kirunavaara, which means “Ptarmigan Mountain” in Sami. This mine is the largest underground iron mine in the world, and relies on an ore body 4 kilometers wide and 80 meters thick. No one knows how deep the ore body goes, but it extends far under the town of Kiruna – causing problems for the residents and for LKAB.

LKAB touts itself as a “green” mining company. During our brief tour of their underground visitor center, the tour guide and video supplements emphasized the sustainability of their mining practices. From their front-end loaders powered by 1000 watts of hydroelectric power, to their 15,000 horsepower trains that generate their own electricity as they charge down Sweden’s mountains to the sea, LKAB’s practices seem to be focused on green energy. A closer look, however, reveals that cost-effectiveness and productivity are the true reasons behind their greenness. The trains cost next to nothing to operate, and if the front-end loaders didn’t run on electricity, diesel fumes would make the work environment unhealthy.

Whatever their motives, the mine tour was fascinating and fun. We learned about their unique mine,
their plans to move Kiruna, and the sheer amount of planning involved with efficiently moving 2% of the world’s annual iron ore production. At the end of the tour, we were given a sample of the concentrated magnetite pellets that make the mine – and the town of Kiruna – possible. Some of us stocked up on pellets, hoping to score on the worldwide iron market. But when we learned that the pellets were worth only 1 SEK per kilo, we were left with nothing but dashed hopes and some heavy souvenirs.

After the mine, we ate lunch, explored, and went to city hall to learn about Kiruna’s planned move.

“Architecture isn’t primarily about buildings. It concerns people and their needs. And from their wishes and dreams, architecture grows.” A presentation about moving kiruna city was given by the project manager, Göran Cars, who is a professor in Urban Planning at KTH and works together with a development group from the Kiruna Municipality. According to his presentation, the present city center has to be moved due to the mining activity. When first start digging the mine it was on the surface and they started digging underground in 1960s. The ore body is sliding 60 degrees angle under the city so they have to move the city and some of the buildings to someplace where is safe. If the mine is closed down, 2/3 of the population in Kiruna will be directly or indirectly affected. Kiruna is about 20000 km2 and has 23000 inhabitants. The moving project will cost about 25 billion SEK and it is carried out by LKAB. The taxpayers in Kiruna should not be affected.

Because the tourism industry is now booming in Kiruna, the new city needs to be more attractive. The new city center will become the symbol of Kiruna and has the most beautiful buildings in Sweden according to Cars. The construction was started last September. According to Cars, one of the reasons that the moving plan is successful is because the political parties in Kiruna agree on it.

There are still many issues at stake: stakeholders with conflicting interesting, mutual interdependence between stakeholders (politicians, residents, business, real estate owners, LKAB, County administration Board, the Swedish Transport Administration, Investors, Developers). The municipality is still working on making agreement between the stakeholders. Then what are residents’ expectations of future Kiruna? According to the survey, residents want to have a shopping center where can shop both sides of the street; a city square where has meeting places and hotels; a modern theater which can be used for holding conference and showing movies. The project is now under rush and the city hall will be the first building to be affected.

The day wrapped up with a visit at Hjalmar Lundbohm’s former home, which is now a museum. Inside, we learned a lot about the history of Kiruna, which began as a wild, ragged mining town. Hjalmar Lundbohm, LKAB’s first manager, turned the town into a model community by supporting schools, churches, and the arts. In addition, Lundbohm banned hard liquor but this didn’t stop him from enjoying cognac and cigars in his lounge!

Monday, July 7, 2014

Aitik Mine in Gällivare

This blog was originally posted on the Environment and Society in a Changing Arctic Blog on June 27, 2014.

by Otto Rimfors and Erica Sheeran

The industrial age hasn’t left us; rather, it, in a strange parody of nature, evolves in its own way. This
morning, we visited the Aitik mine in Gällivare, about an hour and a half outside of Kiruna. The car ride there was full of nature and Nordic-ness (which are very much in the same vein of thought, if not synonyms): trees, natural streams, and Björk, among other things. Yet, upon arriving to Aitik, the shift from natural to man-made was striking: trees became crushed gravel and grassy planes became a sleek building that required hospital-esque plastic booties over hiking boots as not to damage a painstakingly clean floor. The mine hadn’t been seen in person, but postcards and informational flyers hinted at what was to come. (And, as a bonus, there was free coffee and candy.)

Tonka truck up close. Otto for scale.
After donning rubber boots, smocks, hard-hats, and reflective gear at the initial station, the complete shift to an industrial mindset kicked in. Factories are big around small-town USA, and the feelings of getting ready to see the mining facilities felt just like preparation for touring an American factory. Our first stop was a look into the new pit, which is 3 x 3 x1 km. The gaping hole had turquoise water at the bottom, which our guide noted as being attributed to the large amounts of copper. She later explained that in the concentration of copper in the water from the mine is limited by 40 kg a year. Overall, the environment was dirty and dismal, contrasted only with the beautiful forests and sloping hills outside of the mine.

From a distance, the vehicles doing the work looked like child’s toys: big Tonka dump-trucks and little Hot-Wheels pick-up trucks. However, we got the chance to play on one of those “Tonka trucks” at the next stop (the machine repairs) and they were far from miniscule. They are massive, with just the tires dwarfing a person. The view from up on the driver’s ‘deck’ showed many blind spots and an impressive height. We learned that these vehicles are hard workers: they usually take out 40 tonnes of material per truck and can be in operation for more than 10,000 hours. As mine production has gotten bigger, the trucks have gotten bigger in an almost ridiculous parody of nature.

The reconstruction of the shanty-town.
Alias: I thought I was in a horror movie.
Finally, we stopped at the refining part of Aitik, where in another humorous parody of nature, the lawn was dwarfed by a decorative lake with plastic ducks and swans. The tailing pond beside the refining plant was about the size of Södermalm; as mine production grows, so does the pond. Inside another sleek building, we learned about the history of Aitik, starting with chalcopyrite being found at the sight in the 1930’s. As of right now, production stands at over 38 million tonnes/year; the equipment and processes continue to evolve to get the most out of the copper mined: our guide explained that they can mine 0.2% copper and have 25% copper by the end of the refining process and are efficient enough to use 92% of all copper mined. Our final stop before taking a break in a very modern lunch room was one of the refining rooms. Feeling like a Dwarf of Erebor, I watched modern machines froth and bubble up liquid metals in a large scale-refining process.

In terms of production, Aitik is scheduled to increase its production of copper by means of continuing to dig in their new pit. Aside from copper, Aitik also pulls up silver and gold. To potentially increase profits, they are looking at refining methods that would pull out gold. Additionally, they are looking for ways to lessen the copper in the water; their strategy for landscape recovery includes a good bit of water. In any case, Aitik’s people were friendly, the buildings spotless, and, like any good business, are looking for any ways to continue to up production, even if it means going bigger.

As a bridge into the afternoon, the Malmberget mine was inaccessible, but museums around it were of interest. The two visited—the Mining Museum and a reconstruction of Malmberget’s original shanty town, had conflicting stories. The Mining Museum was essentially promoting LKAB. It was a good resource; however, for a brief history of industry through a company’s point of view. The reconstructed shanty-town, on the other hand, was a narrative of what Malmberget was initially, which seemed to be a mixture of poor, hardworking, and, in this reconstruction, super creepy.

Parts of the lift that during one period
carried ore out of the Malmberget mine.
Some mines slowly devour their surroundings, trees, flowers, landscapes, even towns might disappear
bit by bit into a seemingly never ending pit. For a sudden and unaware visitor, this process might be difficult to spot. The birds sing as usual and the greenery is as green as ever.

But unexpected and often ill-tended fences, roads that end as if they pass through an invisible portal and strange signs with WARNING in capital letters could reveal an enormous hole just on the other side of the tree line. You might not be able to see it, but it is there. If you would sleep over you might feel the midnight rumbling hiccup from deep below. If you would stay for decades and be able to fly across the landscape it would be obvious. The pit is growing and not stopping for anything. Like a force of nature but of the needs or greed of humankind.

Old structures from previous mining eras act as post-apocalyptic playgrounds, standing tall and trying to resist corrosion, reaching through the grass and flowers that eventually will take over with time. They patiently wait and willingly share their memories with us who are fascinated by what was.

When looking at an active open pit mine up close, if it’s large enough, it’s difficult to understand how this landscape could ever be restored, is that even the intention? What does “restore” mean? What time perspective do we have?

We live fast, our lives are filled with technology that makes everything work faster, easier. We cannot watch old movies. They are normally to slow. We fall asleep in lectures. We get anxious when we don’t have anything to do. It’s difficult to understand the time it will take for a landscape to recover (not being restored). Nature needs time to reclaim an area. The natural succession where bare rock eventually becomes forest could take hundreds of years. Are we prepared to wait?

We try to help by planting trees, bringing in soil, spreading seeds. But maybe nature does this job better than we do. Maybe we should just make sure that none of the pollutants that were once stuck in the rock, are released into the environment.

And maybe we should get rid of the fences. Nature doesn’t like fences, and neither do visitors.

Wednesday, July 2, 2014

Day 1 in Kiruna

This blog was originally posted on the Environment and Society in a Changing Arctic Blog on June 25, 2014.

by Alexandar Vujadinovic and Kyle Morrison

The day began with a lecture by Åsa Persson, leader of the Mining Inspectorate (Bergsstaten), a
governmental agency responsible for decisions concerning permits for exploration and mining. It was very interesting to hear her presentation of the decision-making behind the mining operations in the northern territories of Sweden. In the presentation, she gave an overview on how different companies apply for exploration permits, how the Mining Inspectorate tries to evaluate the capability of the interested party to actually perform development in the area, and the other steps that are necessary when attempting to establish a mine. Mining and exploration activities need to comply with environmental regulations, and applicants may be rejected if they are obviously incapable of conforming to the regulations, or have a record of violating rules. We learned about controversies that may arise in this business regarding the decisions made by the Mining Inspectorate. The only areas that are protected from mining are state-owned national parks and city areas that are defined for a specific usage in the municipality area plans.

We also got a more detailed insight in Kiruna’s status as a mining town, and why a significant amount of people actually are supportive of the upcoming move of the town, even if it means that their homes will be demolished, and that they’ll have to be relocated to new ones. Studies have shown that parts of Kiruna will collapse into the ground as mining activities goes deeper into the ground, which ultimately led to the decision to relocate the inhabitants and companies. The mining activities are the main sources of income for the town, and many are aware of the fact that it’s a very remote community with relatively limited opportunities to support its existence at the current state, should the mining be stopped.

The group had prepared a set of questions before the meeting and a lot of them revolved around the
area’s status as native Sami lands. One of the questions asked was if Åsa Persson’s opinion on the aspects that make Sweden different from other countries that traditionally are associated with colonialism. It was apparently hard to find a good answer, but one noticeable difference was the fact that the Sami weren’t associated with a lower socio-economic status, as native populations in some other states in many cases do. Another question was whether there were any people from the Sami communities in the Mining Inspectorate. The answer was that there were none. Negotiations are usually held with Sami people that are affected by mining activities, but none from the community are part of the Mining Inspectorate’s authority to make final decisions on resource extraction.

In the afternoon our field work task was to explore the mining landscape at the mountain Luossavaara – one of the main mining areas at Kiruna, nowadays closed. We studied the area – and the way the Kiruna municipality narrates it – by hiking up the Midnight sun trail (Midnattssolstigen). The trail was about 4.5 kilometers. At the top we were asked to document the sights of the landscape and how we believed humans had overall changed the landscape. The landscape at first glance looks untouched but when taking a closer look one can see many differences that have been affected by mankind. In the distance there were many electrical wires and also open-pit mines that had been refilled with water and made into lakes. There were also a large and flat plateau which was clearly not natural to the landscape. Another interesting point to bring up was that even the trail and the signs that surrounded us were changes to the landscape that had been implemented to this area. The largest and most apparent of all the changes to the landscape was of course the iron mine that had created an unnatural canyon near this trail.

Some important questions to consider when viewing these changes are who and what are they going to affect? Will they have effects on the reindeer herding activities of the Sami? Or perhaps will they have an effect of the balance of the ecosystem and the health of the inhabitants? These all serve as reminders of how mankind has changed and will continue to change the Arctic.

Photographs by Alexandar Vujadinovic

Monday, June 30, 2014

Week 2

This blog was originally posted on the Environment and Society in a Changing Arctic Blog on June 25, 2014.

by Lauren Krone and Samantha Morrow

During week two we focused on land-formation and changes due to glacial movement and climate change in the Arctic regions. In the beginning of the week we discussed how climate change is affecting the arctic region more than other parts of the world. This is due in large part to energy transfers in both ocean and atmospheric currents. Pole ward heat transport occurs as extra energy from the tropics is exported to the poles, creating larger increases in temperature at the poles. Specifically, the Arctic is heating faster due to local feedback effects of albedo when the ice melts, and the Arctic has greater amplitudes in the rosby waves in the atmosphere.

Later in the week we looked at glacial dynamics and movement. Over time, as snow falls and layers on itself, it changes in shape and density. Snow begins as feathery and delicate flakes. As it settles and packs it changes to more hardened grain-shaped textures. It also continuously melts and refreezes. This increases density, changing from 200 kg/m3 to 840 kg/m3 over the course of about 120 years. In addition, as the ice increases in density air gets trapped in the glacier. This has recently been used to analyze the atmosphere’s composition over time.

There are three main types of glacial movement, depending on different characteristics of the glacier.
Internal deformation, or creep, occurs when the glacier is frozen to the bedrock, and this movement dominates for cold-based glaciers. Glaciers can also move by sliding across the bed, or basil sliding, within warm-based glaciers. The final type of movement is deformation or flow of underlying sediment sliding across till, which also occurs for warm-based glaciers. Furthermore, different parts of the glacier move at different velocities. The center of a glacier moves much faster than the edges due to less friction. The glacier can also be divided in to two parts. The top half is know as the accumulation zone, where snow and ice increase from snowfall, wind-drift, and avalanching. The bottom half is know as the ablation zone, where ice leaves the glacial system due to melting, calving, and sublimation. In the middle of these two zones is the ideal place to take ice cores for examining the atmosphere, because snow falls straight down at that spot, as opposed to curving away from the initial point.

At the end of the week we looked at how glaciers affected Stockholm in particular. The esker in the glacier covering Stockholm created hills, which used to be the bed of a river. As Stockholm was built, part of the esker was flattened and the material was used for building. In addition, water moves easily through the esker, and as it moves it is cleaned. This was convenient, because wells at the top of the esker would produce clean water, providing the city with a reliable resource. Another affect of the glacier on Stockholm’s landscape is the constant land-rise of the city, creating the appearance of sea levels falling. This is due to glacial isostatic rebound, occurring at about 3 mm per year. We were able to observe these effects in person. We visited King Carl IX’s fishing house from the late 1600s. While it used to be on the edge of the water, we had to walk several meters to reach today’s edge, providing us with a clear representation of the land being created from the isostatic rebound. We finished the week by discussing different periglacial processes and landforms, which we hope to see in the Arctic!

Friday, June 27, 2014

Week 1

This blog was originally posted on the Environment and Society in a Changing Arctic Blog on June 25, 2014.

by Tyler Kamp and Vadim Velichkin

The first week of the course took place at KTH and the focus was on societal changes in the Arctic. We

followed a number of lectures focusing on the following topics:

The Arctic Region

Traditional Sami House
There is not a single way of defining the Arctic region. Different methods are used when it comes to defining what the Arctic is. These can be geographical, e.g. defining the Arctic as a region north of the Arctic Circle, climatological, e.g. the Arctic is then defined as an area north of a 10°C July isotherm, biological, e.g. tree line can be used to define the Arctic region (the Arctic starts where the trees are not capable of growing) and political, e.g. The Arctic Monitoring and Assessment Program (AMAP). No matter which definition is used the Arctic remains a large part of the Earth’s surface with an area of approx. 40 million square kilometers. There are 8 states that have their territories in the Arctic: Russia, USA, Canada, Denmark, Norway, Iceland, Sweden and Finland. As of now there are 4 million people living in the Arctic, 10 % of which are indigenous people.

Governance in a Changing Arctic

Governance is part of the social structure that organizes society.  it is a collective effort of society to define and achieve social goals as a navigation device for addressing social challenges.  As institutions, there are jointly agrees norms, roles and procedures that guide behavior and expectations of each other.  Goals of governance include designating a homeland for indigenous people, opening lands of discovery and military arenas, and to create an environmental linchpin.  The Arctic Council is one such governing body aimed for these goals.  It is a soft law body consisting of 8 states with stake in the Arctic  including United States, Russia, Norway, Iceland, Sweden, Denmark, Canada, Finland. There is also UNCLOS which governs the law in Arctic waters.  Some factors that go into governing a changing Arctic include managing natural resources, ensuring ecosystem services, and guiding adaptation and transformation.

The Front Part of the Nordic
Museum in Stockholm
Sweden in the Arctic

Sweden has had a long history in the Arctic dating back to the 13th century.  The motives were to gain power through expansion and add taxation, increasing income.  Later the Arctic became an important location for the lucrative whaling business, and after that it became important for resources, scientific research and military defense.  Most of Sweden's income is still coming from lumber and mining from the northern part.  From the 18th century there has been increased curiosity in the science and natural phenomena, and has continued since then.  During the 19th century there was a large amount of scientific expeditions to the Arctic.

Sami in Sapmi

The Sapmi region is a transnational region spanning 4 countries – Sweden, Norway, Finland, and Russia. Sapmi makes up 35% of Sweden’s land area.  Contrary to popular believe only 10% of the Sami make a living in Reindeer husbandry, and they are focused in Sami Villages.  Most Sami live modern ordinary lives.  The colonization of the Sapmi by the Swedish state began in the 12th century.  But there was relatively little interest in the North, instead concentrating east.  Beginning in the 13th century, the government looked north because of motives previously stated.

Study Visits

We visited the Nordic culture museum and the Skansen museum to look at the representation of the Sami today. An interesting fact is that in the museums that we have visited there hasn’t been much information about Sami people. The Nordic museum tried to show how the Sami culture evolves with the modern culture and they are not just Reindeer herder nomads.  The Skansen museum showed only the old Sami huts and a brief poster explaining the Sami are not all reindeer herders as well.

Thursday, May 1, 2014

Dispatches from Europe: Study Abroad Blog Contest

Studying abroad in Europe this summer? Submit a post about your summer abroad for publication on our Across the Pond Blog, and be in the running to win our “Dispatches from Europe” Blog Contest! Winners will receive monetary prizes!

How to submit

Blog submissions must be emailed to eucenter@illinois.edu. Please submit a Word document and at least one image sent as a separate attachment. See our EUC blog guidelines for further instructions, and previous years' study abroad student blog submissions for inspiration.

Winners will Receive:
1st Place - $50 gift card (IU Bookstore)
2nd Place - $35 gift card (IU Bookstore)
3rd Place - $20 gift card (IU Bookstore)
Submission deadline: 4:00pm, September 15, 2014.

Good luck and happy travels!