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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