Season’s Greetings

It’s the final week before Christmas, and things are starting to slow down after a busy autumn. Most of the time in November was spent in handling the TA application and evaluation process, and updating the budget for the INTERACT TA supported field work in 2019.

Moving further in the stages of the TA application and selection process, the INTERACT TA Selection Panel met week ago in Poland. As a result of their intensive work on the evaluations and in -depth discussions on every single one of the nearly 120 TA/RA applications, the TA recommendations have now been made. The recommendations are forwarded to the stations, who will make the final decisions on the projects that will be granted access to conduct research at their premises. The decisions will be announced to the applicants by mid-February, and the successful projects can start preparing to the field work after that.

Now it’s time to start the much-needed holidays, and return back to the office in early January to continue the work in 2019!

Happy Holidays!




INTERACT: Future steps forward

INTERACT’s funding of our proof-of-concept methodology project gave us the opportunity to collect several batches of linked quantitative and qualitative data, which we will analyse during the rest of the summer.  This will allow us to refine our conceptual model of this integrated mapping process and explore how it could be applied an environmental planning setting.

Over the next months, we will be computing our analyses, writing up our results and preparing several research council funding applications in order to carry our research forward. Given that our INTERACT proof of concept work has already begun bearing fruit – in terms of interest from local populations, the national press and several senior interdisciplinary scholars – our aim is to turn this into a longer pilot project that would enable us to take this methodology into several other national park spaces in the Arctic. Along with those funding initiatives, we also aim to apply for further INTERACT funding to be able to link up with an Arctic research station near the White Sea, allowing us to take our participatory mapping walks into the Russian Arctic. There are several sites in Russia’s northern wilds that we are interested in testing out our methodology in, enabling us to access a different population with different histories and relationships to outdoor spaces. There are bound to be challenges – linguistic, cultural, logistical – but we are convinced that the Russian Arctic would be a useful and relevant field site for our work, in addition to being a fascinating place to carry out research.

A bit of background on WILDSENS

In order for states, municipalities, communities and individuals to be able to effectively manage dynamic, wild landscapes in a changing world, we need to rethink our policies of conservation and development at many different levels. In particular, one of the greatest challenges to effective management has been the task of effectively and inclusively incorporating the diverse – and at times conflicting – values and needs of land users in local communities. Models of management known as “multi-criterion” are good at integrating empirical ecological, economic and agricultural data. Meanwhile, participatory research methods have gained popularity because they allow for accessing the attitudes and ecological knowledge of local community members. But few initiatives seek to integrate the two – in part because quantitative researchers (and their data) rarely sit alongside one another, and in part because it’s just plain difficult.

What we have sought to do in our INTERACT-funded research is to develop a new comprehensive way to do participatory mapping that succeeds not just in capturing stakeholders’ perceptions of, knowledge about and attitudes towards wild landscapes, but in enabling integration of that information with other existing forms of data relevant to land mapping. Our hope is that coming up with new research methods to this end will offer new and more comprehensive insights into the impact of environmental change on local communities. By better capturing and using local knowledge, we can help support sustainable strategies for managing dynamic wild landscapes in the future, around the planet.

So-called walking methods (or mobile methods) has been gaining in popularity in recent years, particularly among scholars who want to better understand people’s experience of and relationship with landscapes. Topics such as cultural land values are rich with qualitative complexity and cannot easily be measured, assessed or understood through surveys or quantitative data points. These kinds of mobile methods can inform landscape conservation efforts, particularly for the management of protected areas. What we have proposed – combining mixed methods approaches that map spatial data and qualitative information onto how humans understand place – can advance understanding of the complex interactions between society, environment and place in modern conservation approaches. Our main initiatives are twofold: 1) to integrate acoustic methods that link subjective, experiential human data with empirical ecological data; and 2) to introduce into participatory mapping work a comprehensive participatory ethnographic component that brings stakeholders into the research process as knowledge co-creators (as opposed to merely subjects or interviewees). This way, instead of being uni-directional, information is actually exchanged between researcher and researchee.

Our INTERACT project is intended to develop and apply a new methodology for work on multi-sensory participatory mapping that integrates various human knowledge of and attitudes towards dynamic wild landscapes. Most work in environmental cartography typically relies on tools from human and physical geography, such as PPGIS. We wanted to find a way to integrate quantitative participatory mapping methods with qualitative ecological, anthropological and phenomenological data. Our hope is that we could synthesise such diverse data so as to develop a replicable, multidisciplinary framework for capturing a full range of information relevant to creating maps of the natural world. While most maps these days are created top-down with, for example, satellite information and multiple quantitative data points, few maps pay any substantive attention to how the users of maps (e.g. humans) actually perceive, feel about or experience the world. We all believe that such information is important and relevant for cartographic scholarship that is comprehensive, inclusive and ethical. Our hope is that doing such multi-sensory research and coming up with innovative research methods that cut across disciplines and types of data will help with public and private management of wild spaces – and species.

What’s next for us on the INTERACT project? Have a read in our next blog post…

Summer season wrap-up

Here in Finland winter is approaching fast, and we already got the first snow last week. It melted away fast, but from the quickly darkening days and dropping temperatures it’s easy to tell the winter is just around the corner. This also means that the summer field season is coming to an end for this year, and most of our TA User Groups from last summer have already submitted their project reports. Also, the TA/RA project descriptions  are now available on-line for you to see.

The season is also wrapping up here at Arctic Research Blogs. For the summer, we had eight different but equally fantastic blogs by our TA Users that I would like to highlight to you now. Take a look at their blogs if you have not done that already!

Yael Teff-Seker took us on a virtual walk and shared her experiences at Hyytiälä Forest Research Station in Finland and ECN CAIRNGORMS in Scotland in blog “Walking and Talking in the Sub-Arctic: assessing cultural ecosystem services in Western Finland and Cairngorms”.

Photo by Yael Teff-Seker from the blog “Walking and Talking in the Sub-Arctic: assessing cultural ecosystem services in Western Finland and Cairngorms”











Outi Meinander’s blog Black & Snowy Stories of Three Islands (BLACK) introduced the followers to the tales and excitement from the fieldwork in Faroes, Iceland and Scotland, on aerosols in snow and ice, and more!

Alice Eldridge, Jonathan Carruthers-Jones, and Roger Norum were blogging from Abisko Scintific Research Station in Sweden, and sharing their adventures in the north in “WILDSENS: Mapping the Wild”.

The blog Rough Ice by Joshua Chambers, Tom Smith and Mark Smith visiting Station Hintereis in Austria, was packed not only with cutting-edge science, but also with super entertaining humor and sense of adventure!

Photo by Team GLARE from the blog “Rough Ice”.


Jonas Lembrechts continued his popular blog Plant Invasions in the Subarctic Mountainsfrom Abisko. More stories, pictures and information on all the adventures of this scientist and talented photographer are also available at

Kathryn Adamson -one of our TA Ambassadors– and Timothy Lane continued the story of their arctic science in the blog SEDIGAP – Investigating sediment and meltwater dynamics in an area of Arctic permafrost  by including their experiences from the Villum Research Station in Greenland.

Another of our TA Ambassadors, Allan Buras, continued blogging from the previous field season by sharing the stories and excitement of his fieldwork at Arctic Station in Greenland. Allan’s adventures can be followed in the blog Beyondtreeline.

Photo by Allan Buras from the blog “Beyond treeline”.










The blog by Willem van der Bilt “Glacier-climate fingerprints in the subarctic Atlantic” highlighted the team’s TA visit to Rif Field Station to study the sediments of a glacier-fed lake Skeiðsvatn in northwest Iceland to reveal some of the mechanisms behind the climate change in the North Atlantic area.

Thanks to all our fantastic bloggers for taking us with you on the adventure to the Arctic! More blogs will open up again next spring for the field season 2019. This blog by the TA Administration continues until them, the next time with a report from one of the major Arctic events –the Arctic Circle Assembly in Iceland!



Two birds with one stone

After a hectic week of logistical challenges, all-day drives across Iceland and a whole lot of lake coring, finally some time to reflect and report on a succesful field trip. In fact, the first for many of us where we managed to accomplish more than originally planned…

Lost in transit

Our trip did not start off on a promising start – upon arrival in Reykavik, we were greeted by howling winds and horizontal rain: typical Iceland weather, but nothing a bunch of seasoned Arctic geologists couldn`t handle. The real challenge was getting our equipment released by customs: some paperwork got lost in transit. Thankfully, things got sorted at the 11th hour so that we could make the most of our time in the field.

Slice of paradise

Wasting no time, we quickly made our way to our fabulous field site, Skeiðvatn: a small lake that looks like a bright blue eye because of the distinct color of the rock flour that is washed in from the up-stream glacier (see our previous blog). We already expected a little slice of paradise, but reality exceed our expectations. Weather conditions had improved dramatically since our arrival: small glaciers with a fresh dusting of snow were reflected in the mirror flat waters, while the surrounding vegetation turned into an autumn blaze of orange-red to scarlet shades. There are worse places to do research.

20180902_105459Skeiðvatn – really really really ridiculously good looking

Kitchen ladder

Needless to say, everybody could not wait to get going the next (bright blue) day. Thankfully, one of the local farmers could be persuaded to transport our field equipment (boats, board engines and a metal coring platform) up to the lake, saving us time (and back problems). A quick boat trip revealed that most of Skeiðvatn is hardly deeper than a regular bath tub. This created additional challenges for extracting the lake`s sediments (our goal), as this involves drilling in a 5m long PVC tube. But nothing a team of scientists can`t solve: we decided to strap a kitchen ladder onto our coring raft to add a bit of height. There are more enjoyable things in life than slamming a 30 kg weight onto a plastic pipe from 2.5 m high, but it got the job done (on day 1). We managed to wrestle no less than 4 m of valuable sediments from depths of Skeiðvatn (without disturbing the monster living there, according to local lore). Which left us time to accomplish more field goals, originally scheduled for another trip (hence the two bird metaphor in the title).

20180903_112614Going up – Science meets home improvement


Next, we drove to our wonderfully comfortable INTERACT field station (Rif), to cut, label, sample and pack our previous sediment cores. We anticipated to use lab space for this dirty (muddy!) work, but the persistently fine weather allowed us to work (and tan) outside. We were spoiled even more as the lovely Kaupfélagið cafe prepared breakfast, lunch and dinner for us during our stay. A fanstastic ending to a succesful field trip.

20180907_141125Packing equipment – a sediment core sandwich 


Snow and the Faroes – Preparing for field work in March in FINI (62°N)

Catching the Arctic summer

This post first appeared on

When summer treats you kindly in the Arctic, there is no better place to be. Summers are short up in the north, however, so you’ll need to be lucky to catch them.

The midnight sky in northern Sweden, end of July

We were very lucky this year, and were offered countless beautiful summer days up in the north. Some of the most memorable ones were offered when surveying our field sites on mount Nuolja, close to Abisko, which we got to experience in the best possible light.

The author, enjoying an evening on mount Nuolja after a long day of satisfactory fieldwork

Such an opportunity for summer weather needs to be taken with both hands, so we decided to spend the night on the mountain, greatly reducing the time effort needed to hike up and down.

Pyrola minor, one of the countless botanical beauties this summer brought

That decision resulted in two unforgettable fieldwork days, in which we managed to get so many plots done, while still enjoying one of the most crucial reasons why we were there in the first place: the Swedish mountains are just so beautiful!

The trail to the top of mount Nuolja, one of the stars of this summer’s fieldwork

When I am writing this, September is already in full swing again, bringing another great fieldwork season to an end. The outdoor life is mostly behind us, and lab and computer work is again on the horizon. But with fieldwork days like these in our memories, how can I lack the necessary energy to tackle that?

An alpine meadow (with a.o. Taraxacum officinale, Bistorta vivipare, Anthoxanthum odoratum and a leaf of Trollius europaeus) in the evening sun

SoilTemp: towards a global map and database of soil temperature and climate

Short: we are looking for soil temperature data from the Arctic and all over the world for inclusion in our global database. This post was published first on

Many questions in ecology revolve around climate: what climatic requirements do organisms have, how do they survive in extreme climatic conditions, and – increasingly relevant – how do they deal with the rapid changes in climate we are experiencing?

Despite climate thus being a crucial component of today’s ecological research, we are still very much limited in the climatic data we have to our disposal to actually answer these questions, especially at the global scale. Most of the data we do have comes from weather stations (or interpolations based on those): coarse-grained data measured at two meter above the ground.

SoilTemp - soil temperature and climate
Climate and temperatures are and have always been a crucial factor in ecological research

For many organisms, however, these free-air climatic averages are far from relevant: many species operate at much smaller spatial or temporal scales, for example. Free-air temperature and climate patterns also differ significantly from what happens at the soil surface, or a few centimeters below it. For many organisms in the soil and close to the surface (soil micro-organisms, ground beetles, herbs, forbs, mosses or tree seedlings, for example) there is thus a large mismatch between the climatic data we have, and the climate they actually experience.

Soil temperature forest understory
For forest understory species, free-air temperature is meaningless, as temperatures at the forest floor will differ several degrees from what happens above the forest canopy

However, while the quality and resolution of free-air and surface temperature data at the global scale is rapidly improving thanks to elaborated networks of weather stations and satellite data, the availability of soil temperature datasets is still largely limited. That is the rationale behind our launch of SoilTemp, a global effort to develop a database of soil temperature data and build global maps of soil climate that answer to the pressing needs of modern ecologists.

For alpine species, temperatures close to the surface are what matters, especially in winter, when they can hide from the frost under a protective snow cover

Yet for such a global effort, we will need your help! If you feel one or more of the following statements apply to you, please e-mail jonas.lembrechts [at] for more information:

1) You have georeferenced soil temperature data (0 till 10 cm below the surface) for a period of at least 1 year with maximum a 4-hour interval, and would like it to be part of this open access global database/map.
2) You have associated species (plants or other taxa) composition or trait data from the same location.
3) You know other possible partners with interesting soil temperature datasets, or working on similar topics, who might be interested in collaborating.
4) You are interested to be involved in this project in any other way.
Small and cheap temperature loggers (like these iButtons) have recently made such a global-scale endeavour as ‘SoilTemp’ possible

Overview of WILDSENS in the context of Abisko

Our project WILDSENS is based on the simple idea that maps used in environmental decision making can be better and more representative if they could take into consideration the ideas, perceptions and emotions of the actors who use them, namely: people. Traditionally maps of landscape such as those of wilderness are made almost exclusively based on remote sensed satellite data and expert opinion. Including people in this mapping process and other higher resolution local in situ data (human perception and ecoacoustics) gives these maps a richer picture of these complex and dynamic landscapes

As a result, we spent a good amount of our time concentrating  on recruiting participants. We also completed habitat surveys along our walking transact and recorded the soundscape over a period of ten days. Convincing people to come out with us for a day in Abisko National Park was no small task: the walks were fairly moderate in ability level, but we were still banking on people being generous enough to give up a day of their time for the benefit of our research project. We had a Facebook group page and had plastered the towns with information sheets about our project and invitations to join. But the most productive way of getting people to join us was simply to ask them in person: seasonal workers in a shop, bartenders at a lodge, tourists visiting Sweden for a few days, etc. We even managed to get four people working in the Kiruna municipality planning office to come out with us. Local institutions, such as the Abisko Mountain Lodge and the Swedish Tourist Organisation, were extremely open to getting our message out and with helping us find possible participants. This is one great thing about carrying out research in a small community: people are often very friendly to newcomers and everybody knows everybody, so it was quite easy to feel like we belonged in some way – even after just a few days.

We designed the walks to follow a gradient from more built-up to less built-up, in order to assess people’s perceptions and affective responses to a range of types of wild landscapes (this is, in part, what the “dynamic” in our project’s title refers to). So we began our guided walks in the parking lot of the welcome centre of the Swedish Tourist Organisation and then moved along one of the less touristed marked paths southwest into Abisko National Park. Every 45 minutes or so we would pause with our participants to carry out short interviews, asking them about their sensory perception of the spaces we were in: what they heard, saw, felt, and how being there affected their sense of emotional intensity. This last question encouraged participants to reflect on the role that natural spaces play in individual welfare and well-being, something that is an emerging topic of research across environmental and social scientists. In addition, we were interested in meta-ethnographic aspects of the participatory work we were doing. In other words, we wanted to know how participation in our project – being made to think about their relationship to natural spaces and having to discuss with ourselves and others their perceptions and emotions – changed how people felt about the role of wild spaces in their lives after they had returned to their everyday lives.

During our stay in Abisko, we also were able to come into contact with SVT Swedish Television/Radio, who became interested in our project enough to come film a television news piece on us for their daily newscast. One of their reporters joined us for a morning and carried out interviews with us and some of our participants. The news piece was aired on the SVT Oddasat programme in late June. We hope that the story told will help us encourage members of the Sámi community to participate in our project when we go back up to Abisko, perhaps this winter.

In our next post, we’ll give a bit of contextual background for how this project came about and what we’re hoping to do with it.

Hinterim updates

Team GLARE is now back, safe and sound in Leeds, sans dodgy field facial hair. From the comfort of an office where crampons are not required, the terrain is less hard on the knees and afternoon convective thunderstorms are less frequent, we can reflect on some hard – but successful – work.IMG_20180815_161433.jpg

After their brief Hintermission at the Hochjoch Hospice, Josh and Tom returned to the ice for another 11 days in the field. In a Herculean effort, hiking a 35 km round-trip, our colleagues from Innsbruck (and morale officer, Mika the dog) resupplied us with some much-needed potatoes and pumpernickel, and petrol for the generator they had also carried up. The generator was used to recharge the batteries for a dGPS base station, essential for precisely georeferencing our surveys, so the care-package was most welcome!


In their remaining time, Josh and Tom surveyed and re-surveyed, then surveyed some more, reaching a grand total of 69 surveys of 16 plots on different surfaces, with most plots surveyed four or five times each. In addition, four surveys were completed of the area around the stationary mast, which logged (nearly) continuously for the duration of the campaign, while the mobile mast was moved from its starting point to three subsequent sites for three or four days at a time, with a survey undertaken at each site. We managed to squeeze in a brief Hinterlude, taking a day off to ignore all of the sites and put our feet up. We even scraped together a cheese-board, bringing a Hinter-sophistication to the hut.IMG_20180809_113019.jpg

Importantly, the wind towers remained vertical and were able to provide a near-continuous set of observations of wind speed, direction, air temperature and relative humidity for the whole 15 days. Upon leaving, the reigns were handed over to the Innsbruck team who will tend their instruments and ours for another week or so, extending the dataset even further. Not only will the towers eventually provide us with some distributed z0 values for Hintereisferner, but they will also be used in studies of katabatic (glacier) winds by the Innsbruck team. These localised, density driven winds reach a maximum speed relatively near to the surface, exhibiting a logarithmic velocity profile from this maximum height to z0, where the speed is zero. As you can see in the clip below, the cup anemometer on the top of the mast is spinning a lot faster than the lowermost – an encouraging sign for our data!

Animated GIF

While it will take a little time to process the microtopographic surveys and find out exactly how quickly the ice surface is changing, the glacier was definitely not afraid of showing a little dynamism while we were there, and the surface evolution was pronounced. This before and after shot shows a rock pedestal (the boulder is ~2 m along its longest axis) on the day the plot was first surveyed, and then again just three days later.

P8021372.JPG P8050538.JPG

This made for some interesting terrain to survey and traverse, as rills and channels become more exaggerated, crevasses widened and snow plugs disappeared. By the time we left, we noticed huge differences in the nature of the surface compared to when we arrived. We’re looking forward to processing some of the data to try and quantify the changes we observed, and finding out what this means for the evolution of z0 across the glacier and through the melt season – we will provide updates with some initial, hopefully hinteresting, results in the coming weeks.