Learning about the Arctic...IN THE ARCTIC

2015 ASP Field School – Nuuk, Greenland

Submitted by John Iacozza

In 2015, the Arctic Science Partnership (a collaboration between the University of Manitoba, Aarhus University and Greenland Institute of Natural Resources) began a series of six field schools in Nuuk Greenland as part of a new education initiative. This initiative was led by the three education leads – Drs. Lise Lotte Sørensen (Aarhus University), Dorte Søgaard (Greenland Institute of Natural Resources) and John Iacozza (University of Manitoba). The goal is to offer these field schools every year in the Greenland, allowing students to learn about the Arctic in the Arctic.

During Reading Week (February 13-20) this year, 21 national and international graduate students, including students from the University of Manitoba, Aarhus University and other institutions converged onto Nuuk to learn about various aspects of snow covered sea ice. These students were from various disciplines, including glaciology, biology, physics and modelling. The multidisciplinary nature of the students not only enhanced the academic learning, but also led to interactions with student that might not be available through traditional conferences or workshops. The goal of this course was two-fold: the first and most obvious one was to provide students with a multi-disciplinary scientific understanding of snow covered sea ice, with the second to provide an opportunity to physically explore the Arctic marine system. Dr. John Iacozza and Dr. Lars-Chresten Lund-Hansen (Aarhus University) lead the lectures which focused on the geophysics of snow and sea ice, optical properties of sea ice and the biological habitat relationships. Ms. Ann Eileen Lennert (a PhD student in Greenland) gave a lecture that provided students some insight into the social aspects of this feature on the past and present societies in Greenland. A critical component of the field school was hand-on experiential learning, with students actually going onto the sea ice around Nuuk and sampling both snow and sea ice. This was the first time a number of students had actually been on sea ice and provided them a unique opportunity to get their hands dirty…or wet and cold in this case! This part of the course was led by Dr. Nicolas-Xavier Geilfus (Aarhus University) and Dr. Dorte Søgaard.

It was not all work however. The Greenland Institute of Natural Resources hosted a reception for the students and mentors. This reception allowed students to interact with researchers at the Institute, as well as trying local foods including muktuk (skin and blubber of a whale), seal, and dried cod. In addition to the social aspect of the reception, a presentation on local Greenlandic foods was provided by Ms. Natuk Lund Olsen, a PhD student. This presentation provided students with some background on the importance of local foods to Greenlandic people, as well as the spatial differences in what is considered ‘local’ food.

This field school could not have happened without the logistic and financial support from the Greenland Institute of Natural Resources, Clayton H. Riddell Faculty of Earth, Environment and Resources, Department of Environment and Geography and ASP.

Overall, based on the reaction and evaluation by students, we can say that the first field school in Nuuk was a huge success, almost as large as the Greenland ice sheet itself! We provided students with some scientific and experiential understanding of snow-covered sea ice, while fostering and promoting long-term collaborations between future Arctic researchers! We hope that these collaborations will enhance not only the student experience but also providing new insights into the issues that are currently and will face the Arctic region in the future.

For more information on these field schools, as well as future courses, please go to the ASP website (asp-net.org).

Fig 1: Lecture. Credit: John Iacozza.


Fig 2: Group work. Credit: John Iacozza.


Fig3 : Ice cores. Credit: Nix-Xavier Geilfus.


Fig 4: Snow pit. Credit: Nix-Xavier Geilfus.