Sleepless in Hyytiälä – part 2

More about the station: A Forest lab, a Sauna and a Lake

The grounds boasts an impressive lab within a forest within a lab. Yes, the facility actually has its own forest in which it lets scientists perform a variety of experiments in an authentic, in-home forestry lab. It includes wooden bridges to walk on so that you don’t damage the lower vegetation, and huge installations that we bravely climbed up to see the forest-lab from above.


The trees are numbered, and special trash cans serve as leaf-traps, while other glass containers assess gas composition on and near the soil. Additional lab equipment measures the air quality, among other parameters. Lovely, large wooden huts, used in Israel and other countries as vacation homes, serve here as a data-analysis station, completing the strange but wonderful lab-forest combination. It is definitely an interesting and unique experience. I can’t even imagine how excited a natural scientist would be to see this place, but even as a social scientist, I could still appreciate how amazing an endeavor this is, and how useful an environment this could be for scientists.

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Other Station Facilities

A small confession: perhaps it was the summer atmosphere, but for me, Hyytiälä station was simultaneously a very serious research facility and a recreational resort. Looking out the window from where I’m writing this blog entry, I can see the lake and the trees. I also know that a bit to the right there is the boathouse with three rowboats you can take out to lake. Beside the boathouse is the big sauna, for groups, and further on there is a smaller sauna, and they both have small docks and ladders, inviting you to go for a swim in the lake.

Back to the sauna. I read that it is estimated that there at two million saunas in Finland, which means that there is one sauna for every 2.7 Fins or so.  As an intrigued foreigner, I probably asked our host too many questions about the customs involving sauna, but at least it was worth it: I thoroughly enjoyed my sauna-lake experience and felt very brave jumping in the freezing lake (twice!). I later learned this was considered a normal temperature for locals, who often go into icy waters in autumn and even winter. It was really a good way to take a break from everything and just enjoy nature and the surroundings without thinking about work at all (with the added bonus of doing the “local thing”). We also took the boat out one day, which was another treat, and had a picnic dinner by the lake after a hard day’s work on another day. So I would say that the station enabled us to insert some much needed recreation in between the (many) hours of work we put in each day.


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