Traveling from coastal England, southern France and central Finland, the three of us met on a rainy day at Kiruna airport. From there, we drove west together to Abikso, a wonderful place to be based for our initial INTERACT stay. The location we arrived at was just perfect: set smack on the Törneträsk Lake tucked up in a tiny village of barely a few hundred people in the northwestern corner of Sweden by the Norwegian border. It gave us access to a diverse research environment including both human influenced and wild landscapes. Every morning we were met with Bergmanesque landscapes over breakfast: a forested path down to a sprawling fjord with snow-capped mountain peaks in the distance. For example:
The Abisko Research Station itself, where we were based, was also an excellent spot to meet other researchers – people working on a really diverse range of projects, from the mating habits of frogs to the role of the changing Arctic climate on moss growth. Every day at 10am, staff and researchers would get together for Swedish fika, eagerly sharing stories and ideas over coffee. Over just ten days, we made friends from the US, Denmark, Sweden, the UK and the Netherlands. And being there gave us access to contemporary and historical books, journals, newspapers and various other literature particular to the area:
The contacts we made at the Abisko Research Station made it possible for us to think more about how we could develop our methods in an interdisciplinary and applied way in a dynamic landscape. It allowed us to challenge our thinking by meeting new groups of people, forcing us to communicate our work to research disciplines that we would not normally come into contact with.
From the getgo, we were met with very enthusiastic responses. Nearly everyone we spoke to about our project’s aim – to include humans in the process of making maps – was at once very interested in the idea and asked how they could get involved. We chalk this up in part to our own enthusiasm and energy (which admittedly might have been so high at times as to be infectious) but also to the fact that this is a new idea for public engagement that has the real possibility of getting off the ground and for developing broader interest for (both inside and outside the academy). In the next blog post, we’ll give a bit of background information about our project and how we’ve sought to bring it together with other research into an Arctic space.