Making maps with people

Where do maps of the wild come from? How are they made? Who gets to decide what goes into them? And when maps are used by policy makers and other people in government to decide on whether, say, a wind farm should go here, or a species should be reintroduced there, or a national park centre should be situated over there, do these maps tell the whole story? Do they make it clear what most people who use these spaces think about the area and what or how they feel about particular wild spaces?


Our research project (“Sensing Wild Spaces: Integrated Participatory Mapping for Understanding Community Relationships to Dynamic Mountain Landscapes” – or WILDSENS if you’re a fan of acronyms) 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.


We are a group of three researchers from different disciplines (geography, anthropology and acoustic ecology) and different backgrounds (English, Scottish and American) who came together around a shared interest to think about (and perhaps do something about) the ways that maps are used to understand and make wild spaces. And our hope is that we might come up with some new methods to improve future research on and implementation of conservation processes and moves to protect the planet’s ecological systems.


In our next blog post, we’ll write a bit about our trip to our first INTERACT research station – in Northern Sweden – some of the people we met and our initial foray out into to a National Park for some good ole participatory mapping work.


About us #2: our Finnish-Icelandic-Czech-Swedish personal BIO

About us #2 will tell you more about us four, it will be about our personal bio (while About us #1 was the bio of the Black blog).

Summer is here!

Our Finnish-Icelandic-Czech-Swedish BLACK team is very much looking forward to the season 2018-2019 field work in Faroes, Iceland, and Scotland!  Let us introduce you our team, i.e., Outi, Pavla, Laura and Jonas. We all have previous Arctic and cold climate field work experience, and we were briefly introduced in “About Interact Bloggers” .


We are the 4 members of the BLACK project, EU-Interact H2020.  Also we  are:

  • NCoE CRAICC Fellows (Outi, Pavla and Jonas),
  • members of FMI Climate Research Programme (Outi, Laura and Jonas)
  • members of FMI Antarctic Ozone and UV research (Laura and Outi),
  • organizers of the EGU-2018 session on “Atmosphere – Cryosphere interaction with focus on transport, deposition and effects of dust, black carbon, and other aerosols” (Pavla and Outi),
  • members of FMI Aerosols in snow WG (Jonas and Outi),
  • members of EU COST Action in Dust (focus on middle and low latitudes dust, e.g., including Saharan dust) and EU COST Action on SNOW (Action coordinated by FMI Finland) (Pavla and Outi),
  • and much more.

OUR PERSONAL BIO (Outi, Pavla, Laura and Jonas)

OUTI MEINANDER, PhD, blogging from Stations FINI Faroes, SUDURNES Iceland, and ECN CAIRNGORM Scotland UK:

The capital city of Finland, Helsinki, is where I was born, and where I graduated from high school, and from the University, too. But now I live in Espoo, in one of the southern main districts of the city of Espoo, close to the Aalto University, and I work at the Finnish Meteorological Institute (FMI), Climate Research Programme, Atmospheric Composition Research Unit, Atmospheric Aerosols Group, Aerosols in snow WG, in Helsinki, Finland.

Helsinki, Finland

My previous cool (cold) field work includes Finland and Arctic, in Sodankylä (beyond the Arctic Circle) and in Iceland, and at high altitudes in Sonnblickbasis, Austria, and I have also instrumentation for many years at Marambio Base, Antarctica, as well as had onboard the Swedish icebreaker Oden. Atmospheric radiation and effects of black carbon and Icelandic dust on snow albedo and melt, is the field of science I have most recently specialized in. From the new places to visit, Faroe Islands and Scotland will be totally new experiences for me.

My closest connection to Scotland so far is our Shetland sheepdog (Shetland belongs to Scotland).

Our Shetland Sheep dog Minttu waiting for some action to start.

On the other hand, cold climate work at high altitudes and latitudes, has to get balance from some warmer climate action, like flamenco as a hobby! My other interests include, e.g., making mosaic, meaning decorative simple recycling art works from small pieces of broken ceramics and tiles, colored glass, seashells and stones, and other recycled materials, on old chairs, tables and smaller recycled items, and also on small rocks.  Reading is also one of my favorite pastimes (I have read all the Harry Potter books in Finnish, tried one in English but found it very demanding…), and also dog walking, nature and culture walks, as well as slow cycling, and different types of other sports, just for fun.

Self-made candies on a  mosaic tray made from recycled material.

And now I wonder what Pavla, Laura, and Jonas want to tell about themselves… from this forward it will be their free word input (and I take absolutely no responsibility)… Wishing you a great summer!

PAVLA DAGSSON-WALDHAUSEROVA,  PhD, aerosol scientist from the Agricultural University of Iceland, Reykjavik:

Black deserts of Iceland

Black are the deserts and beaches in Iceland and black is the volcanic ash emitted in recent eruptions in Iceland. Sometimes our glaciers and snow are also black because volcanic dust or ash are distributed over the surfaces. Indeed, Iceland is a perfect outside laboratory to study atmosphere-cryosphere interactions. My most favourite time is up there in the black desert or chasing dust plumes and dust devils with my aerosol instruments.

Our dog Skuggi participated the ADMI2013 campaign – Aerosol Dust Measurements in Iceland 2013,  the first ever aerosol measurements campaign on dust source in Iceland.  By the way – Skuggi means shadow in Icelandic.

Sometimes we send meteorological balloons with the instrument, sometimes we collect dirty snow, but it is mostly the cameras, which bravely monitor the desert surfaces for us. Iceland is not the only High Latitude Dust (HLD) source of my interest. Our instrument travelled also to Antarctic Peninsula to capture strong dust event from local materials as well as material transported from Patagonia. It is also excited to take trip and provide measurements from Svalbard and hopefully also other HLD sources.

I am originally from the Czech Republic where we love to swim in ponds, kayak, and cross-country ski, but Iceland has become my second home since 2008 and I like to try to do my Czech hobbies here as well.

Dust is blowing everywhere…

LAURA THÖLIX, Doctoral candidate at FMI, Climate System Research, specializes in stratospheric modelling and ozone, which controls UV irradiance reaching the ground, and has experience of fieldwork in the Arctic Sodankylä and Utsjoki, Finland

(more to appear after summer holidays…)

JONAS SVENSSON, PhD, FMI Helsinki, Aerosols in snow WG, will also be contributing to filter analysis at the FMI Aerosol Laboratory Facility.

(more to appear after summer holidays…)


The BLACK team will be conducting fieldwork on and around the EU H2020 INTERACT stations of Faroe Islands Nature Investigation FINI, Iceland’s Sudurnes Science and Learning Center, and UK Environmental Change Network’s ECN Cairngorms, Scotland, in season 2018-2019. The BLACK blog url is

Sleepless in Hyytiälä – Part 3

Logistics and Planning

I thought long and hard about what I would want to read if I were reading a research blog. One thing would be to learn about how it felt to be a scientist in another country, and see how the writer dealt with all the difficulties and uncertainties that came with that, alongside the more positive new experiences he or she had. I would also want information that I could use to make my own scientific visits better, both personally and professionally.

In terms of logistics, my research stay at the station was made very comfortable and efficient due to three main reasons: good planning, staff assistance and station amenities. I really recommend having a few skype calls, alongside emails, with the station manager and her or his staff to make sure you know more about what the station can offer. Also, try to lock down whatever you can in advance. We also had a very organized shared file (using google docs), so we were able to write down all of of our contact information, plans, follow up suggestions etc. So what were the most important things for me that the station offered, apart from a comfy place to live?

At Hyytiälä Forestry Research Station


Recruiting participants: Without a doubt, the most important part in terms of logistic support was the help we got from Terhi and Jaana with recruitment of participants for our study – “walking-focusing” interviews with people about their nature experiences. (More on our research methodology in the next post). Terhi also went out to two different yet equally suitable parks in the area and took pictures, about 5 weeks before we arrived, and that’s how we decided on the trail together.

We used everything we could think of to find people to participate: Facebook helped a lot, as did a short piece about the study in the local newspaper, and the Park itself was nice enough to publish our call for participants on the Park’s Facebook page. A few participants were employed at the station, as well as a few students and researchers who happened to be attending a summer forestry training at the Park.

I am happy to say that each and every one of these recruitment techniques worked, yielding more than 30 participants in six days – and 30 was our target number. Altogether, pre-planning was done well and the station had a vital role in it. I should also add that in addition to performing the Finnish-language interviews for non-English speakers, Terhi helped with all the Finnish translation of our call for participants. Both  allowed us to work with participants who felt more comfortable communicating in Finnish.

Transportation: The station also provided us with a large car, which we could use to take people with us to Seitseminen Park on weekends and evenings (they needed the cars for the course students during the day). This can be a valuable resource for some researchers, and it definitely was for us. However, note that only University or station employees are allowed to drive the car, so in this case, Terhi also had to drive us whenever we had more than 2-3 participants per trip.

Food: Following the tradition of great British literature, I’ll also talk about food, as part of the experience of being at the station. Because, while food may seem like something superficial you shouldn’t care about too much, it really does to a lot to influence how you feel and even how you work – especially if you are working as physically intensively as we were. So we received our meals (3 + afternoon coffee), which were quite healthy and included vegetarian, vegan and gluten-free options. If you know you’ll miss a meal, the kitchen can reserve one for you in a special kitchen, and you can heat it up there. We also had a fridge, a microwave and a stove in our little kitchen upstairs, so we were able to make a couple of meals and snacks there when we wished with some food we bought at the supermarket, which was about 20-30 minutes away.

Take into consideration that without a car, it is very difficult to do any kind of shopping, food or other, as the station is relatively secluded (20+ minute drive to anywhere with food). Making sandwiches for the rest of your day at breakfast is also fine. You can also take coffee and tea from the station, which was good for us, as we wanted to make our participants feel comfortable, with coffee-time at the end of each walk as a nice way to end things for everyone involved.

Now that you know more about the preparations and logistics, as well as what the station can offer, next time I’ll write about the actual work that we did, about our research and some preliminary insights.



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.

20180618_111733 (1)

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.


About us #1: BIO of the BLACK blog



Welcome to the BLACK-blog! This is the story behind the blog.

We’re Arctic researchers. We have explored, and have instruments to measure, in the Arctic and Antarctic, as well as in cold climate high-altitude places, and we have published our research results and defended our Thesis, we have given talks and organized meetings, but this will be our first time to blog our Arctic field work.

And we want to help you feel like an explorer, too.

If you’d love to experience the nature of Faroe Islands, as well as Iceland and Scotland, and stories behind,  from a researcher point of view, you will discover it here, in this blog of “Black & Snowy Stories of Three Islands by Outi Meinander”. You will also experience the planning and conducting research, and the science questions related to the work on snow and the climatically significant dark particles of black carbon, organic carbon and volcanic dust. The stations we will visit, will include Faroe Islands Nature Investigation FINI, Iceland’s Sudurnes Science and Learning Center, and UK Environmental Change Network’s ECN Cairngorms, Scotland.

This Arctic Research Blog got started thanks to the EU-Interact H2020 project, where the project proposal on “Black Carbon in snow and water (BLACK)” got accepted, and thereafter this blog was a natural follow-up.

This blog is about us sharing our experiences with you! You can follow the “Black & Snowy Stories of Three Islands” by either picking your favorite topic only, or you can read the stories in the order they are being posted – both will work just fine!

The BLACK-site’s url is:

The posts so far include:

  • Welcome to join the Black and Snowy Stories from Faroe, Iceland and Scotland (June 26, 2018)  (and prior to this first post, an INTERACT introduction page of “About INTERACT bloggers”)
  • Here’s why and how we plan to find BLACK particles (June 27, 2018)
  • About us #1: BIO of the BLACK blog (July 4, 2018)
  • About us #2: our personal BIO (to appear next)

If there’s anything  you’d like to hear from us or if you have a question, please feel free to comment, and leave a reply. We hope you’ll find yourself coming here again and again to taste the black and snowy stories of three islands for your inspiration.

Sleepless in Hyytiälä, Finland

Desert, Dunes, Forests

Sand. I take off my shoes and there’s still some sand falling out of them. It comes from the Dutch Island of Texel, where – just a short week ago – I walked with people and interviewed them about their experience of nature in the dunes. A few months earlier, it was the Israeli Negev Desert. Thirty walking interviews in each country: Israel, Netherlands and now Finland. The Scottish Cairngorms (another Interact and LTER site) will be our fourth and last point, at least in 2018, as we aim for 120 total participants.

Now I’m within the forests and lakes of Western Finland, at Hyytiälä forestry research station, and I still have sand in my shoes from the Dune nature reserve that stretches across the kilometers between the Wadden Sea and the North Sea. There’s something exciting but also challenging about these shifts: three countries, three very different landscapes and four languages (Hebrew, English, Dutch and now Finnish) in one week. My mind tries to somehow take it all in. Luckily, I had my post-doc advisor, Prof. Daniel Orenstein, with me, which always makes everything better, and we both had a lot of help from Jaana Bäck and Terhi Rasilo with our preparations, way before we even got to Finland.


Wooden Path at Seitseminen Park


Sleepless in Hyytiälä – Our first Day/Night at the Station

We arrived at the Hyytiälä forestry research station on Thursday evening, the 14th of June, 2018. I informed Terhi, our contact at the station, that we wanted to see the trail we would walk with people the next day (and every day thereafter for a week). So, after dinner, we packed our backpacks and headed to the forest.

It was a very nice hour’s drive, one that would become very familiar to us in the next few days. And so, we began the actual (2.5 hour) walk itself in Seitseminen park at 21:30, with full daylight, thanks to the Finnish summer sun. Arctic researchers are probably used to this, but for me it was a first. Quite early on, we realized that despite the late hour, we were definitely not alone: swarms of mosquitoes decided that we were their (late) dinner. Although we all suffered a bit, Daniel was definitely their favorite, and continued to be so throughout our stay. Terhi didn’t seem to mind, and we all adopted a “just keep moving” approach. However, since our interview protocol, which we tested on each other, required that we stop for a minute at some point, this became an unbearable challenge in these infested surroundings – although discomfort and pain can also be considered an important ecosystem (dis)service! But more on our research goals later. We learned that this late evening hour was the peak time for mosquitos, so, luckily, we fared better on other trips, which were conducted earlier in the day. Apart from that little distraction, the park itself was beautiful: it had tall woods and bogs, wooden bridges that gave the feeling of a natural playground, and the old growth forest that we particularly enjoyed – a practically non-existent sight where we live, back in the Israeli Carmel mountains.

After a quick stop at the lake (where some participants enjoyed a swim in the upcoming days), we ended our walk at midnight. I will at least give it to the mosquitos that they never left a mark, so our suffering at least had an end. And so, around 1am, we returned to our comfortable rooms at the station, and I had my first of several semi-sleepless nights, thanks to the never-ending sunshine and the fact that 4am Finland sun is like 8am Israel sun. I couldn’t help but remember the Dutch church bells that rang every 30 minutes (day and night) during my first few nights in the Netherlands. However, unlike Dutch church bells, I did not really get used to the Finnish sun. Nevertheless, the sun did give me lots of energy, which would really come in handy in the next few days.


In my next post, I will elaborate more about the station itself, the facilities and support we received, and later on, I’ll write more about our methodology and our successes.


Prof. Daniel Orenstein and me at the Hyytiälä Forestry Research Station



Daniel and Terhi Walking in the Woods, at Hyytiälä






Here’s why and how we plan to find BLACK particles

Snow that appears white-to-eye can actually contain tiny black particles in amounts that can be important to climate change. This we have learned from our work on aerosols in snow and ice.  We have found that small  amounts of such particles can induce snow and ice melt, but we have also shown that very large amounts can prevent snow and ice from melting.

This is how it works in smaller amounts: When light-absorbing aerosols, including soot (black carbon, BC), ash, wind-blown dust, and the so called brown-carbon fraction of organic carbon (OC), deposit on snow and ice, they reduce surface reflectivity (albedo) and induce melt of darker surface, which again lowers the albedo and increases melt via a feedback mechanism.  Albedo feedback is one of the mechanisms causing Arctic amplification (AA). Meaning stronger climate change in the polar regions. Pithan and Mauritsen (2014) say in their Nature paper that surface albedo feedback is the second main contributor to AA, right after increased downwelling longwave radiation.

Our BLACK project (2018-2019) focuses on Arctic climate change and investigates BC, OC and dust in the cryosphere and natural water, and drinking water of the three EU H2020 INTERACT stations visited. The collected snow, ice and water samples will be filtered during the visits and we will analyze the filters in the laboratory at my home institute FMI, Finland.

BLACK team will be conducting fieldwork on and around the stations of Faroe Islands Nature Investigation FINI, Iceland’s Sudurnes Science and Learning Center, and UK Environmental Change Network’s ECN Cairngorms, Scotland, in season 2018-2019. ‘Three islands’ thus refers to Streymoy (Strømø) of the Faroes, Iceland, and Great Britain.

BLACK aims at filling geographical gaps in the current BC data collection concerning cold climate regions at high altitudes and high Arctic latitudes, and fulfilling some of the Finland’s chairmanship program goals for the Arctic Council 2017-2019.  BLACK contributes also to an ongoing Academy of Finland NABCEA–consortium project of “Novel Assessment of Black Carbon in the Eurasian Arctic, From Historical Concentrations and Sources to Future Climate Impacts (2016 – 2020)” (

Where the Poles met

Last two weeks have been super intensive. The reason is the Polar2018 meeting, a gathering of both Arctic and Antarctic research communities that brought together more than two thousand people to Davos in Switzerland. And of course INTERACT was there, too!

For me the highlight of the week was the INTERACT TA User Community Meeting that took place as a side meeting of the Open Science Conference on Wednesday last week. We had close to forty participants, including many of our TA Users and INTERACT Station representatives. The programme consisted of research highlights, station presentations and we also took the opportunity to introduce the INTERACT Virtual Access and related possibilities for research via open access to station databases and monitoring data.

Photo by Kirsi Latola.

The best of all for me was the opportunity to meet our TA Users, with whom I have so often exchanged e-mails and met over webinars and telecons, but never met face-to-face. It was such a delight to finally meet them and hear them present their research conducted with support by INTERACT Transnational Access.

Photo by Kirsi Latola.

As always, it was a pleasure to meet the station managers to learn about some recent developments in the station facilities and also to hear their experiences on the collaboration with the TA User Groups. The positive atmosphere, networking and exchange of ideas was heartfelt and I am already looking forward to the next TA User Community in 2019!


In addition to the TA User Community meeting, my week was filled with meetings of different scientific organizations, where I am either representing my home institution such as the European Polar Board, or where INTERACT is involved such as GEO Cold Regions Initiative and SAON Committee on Observations and Networks. All these meetings were also really interesting and productive, and great progress was made towards several goals approaching in the near future! And of course the magnificent views in Davos, which I had a possibility to admire during my morning runs before the congress programme kicked-off for the day!

Photo by Hannele Savela.

Returning back to office on Monday I felt somewhat exhausted, but at the same time very content. Now things are going to calm down a bit for July, before speeding up again in August as we approach the UArctic Congress 2018 that will take place here on the first week of September. As a member of the organizing committee, I look forward to welcome many of my arctic colleagues to Oulu then!

Until the next time,



Welcome to join the Black and Snowy Stories from Faroe, Iceland and Scotland

Tomorrow I’ll be starting to blog at Arctic Research Blogs, a blog site of INTERACT, an EU H2020 project, along with other scientists conducting research related field work on a wide variety of topics, but all related to the Arctic and northern environment, in season 2018/2019.

Welcome to follow the blog “Black & Snowy Stories of Three Islands (BLACK)” and join the tales and excitements of our field season 2018/2019 in Faroe, Iceland and Scotland, on searching for the “as BLACK as it can get” aerosols in snow and ice, and more!

The url will be:



It’s finally spring!

And what a spring! It’s been unusually warm for the past couple weeks here in Finland, and we already now have leaves on the trees by mid-May! It’s not only the spring weather that has been busy here, but we’ve also had an extremely hectic times here at the TA Coordination office, as you can see from the following.

The summery photo is not from Finland or any Arctic place, but from Puglia area in southern Italy, where we recently had the INTERACT Daily Management Group meeting -it was really beautiful there, too, even though the north is still the closest to my heart!

The new TA User Groups were selected in March, and we will have 47 TA/RA User Groups working at the INTERACT stations in the summer 2018 and autumn/winter 2018-2019 field seasons. We’ve already hosted a webinar to the User Groups to instruct with practical matters related to TA and RA, and to welcome them to the several TA User Community activities that we are arranging around the year.


Recently, we also launched our INTERACT TA Ambassadors, whom you can meet at various congresses and meetings during the year to chat about TA and related opportunities. Learn more about the TA Ambassadors from the dedicated webpages!

The new season of INTERACT Arctic Research Blogs is about to start within the next couple weeks, when the first TA User Groups start their work at the stations. We already have many bloggers recruited for the summer, both seasoned bloggers from the previous field seasons and complete newcomers. Looking forward to follow the adventures of the scientists in their Arctic fieldwork!

The next TA User Community meeting will take place during the gathering of both Arctic and Antarctic scientists -the Polar 2018 meeting in Davos, Switzerland. The meeting will be about different modalities of TA, including Remote and Virtual Access and related opportunities for research. The meeting will take place on Wed 20th June at 12:30-14:00 in Room A Wisshorn and it’s open for all congress participants. Come to meet us, if you are attending the Polar 2018!

Until the next time,