Beginning of a new era

The second phase of INTERACT started in Iceland with our kick-off meeting in the end of January. The participants were plenty and it was wonderful to greet many of the old INTERACT friends and to welcome many new ones, now that the size of the consortium has doubled in comparison to our previous funding period.    wp_20170125_003

Iceland was an ideal place for the meeting due to its location half-way between North-America and Eurasia. Despite the long days at the meeting, we also got to see a bit of this magnificent island during a half-day excursion around the Reykjanes peninsula. We also got a change to learn more about our host institution, the Sudurnes Science and Learning Centre that offers excellent facilities for research in ornithology and marine biology.

wp_20170126_004Another activity that has started with the new funding period is of course transnational access. Our TA call that was open at the end of last year attracted a record number of applications that are now being evaluated by the TA Selection Board. The access decisions are out by the first week of March, and after that we are ready to kick-off the field season of 2017 –hopefully also with many new arctic research blogs.

We also have some brand new activities starting up in March and in April… more about those in the next blog posting!

Until the next time,


The second phase of INTERACT


It has been ages since I wrote here last time, but now I am glad to say that we are back: the second phase of INTERACT received funding from EU H2020 and we are back at many levels and with several different activities. More about those later on.

In this post, I wanted to highlight that we have now again opened for the super-popular Transnational Access call. The call is open until 18th December, and it is for projects taking place between March 2017 and April 2018, so it includes both summer season and the winter season after that. This time, 43 terrestrial research stations located in the arctic, northern alpine and forest areas in Europe, Russia and North-America offer Transnational Access. The sites represent a variety of glacier, mountain, tundra, boreal forest, peatland and freshwater ecosystems, providing opportunities for researchers from natural sciences to human dimension.

The access available to the stations in the call includes two modalities -physical access and remote access.The traditional physical Transnational Access means, that the scientists can go and conduct their study at the station free of charge, including the use of station facilities, and travel and logistic costs related to the study. What a fantastic opportunity! The Remote Access means that the researcher does not visit the station by himself, but instead the station staff helps in conducting the study according to the research plan. In the current call, it’s possible to apply both physical and remote access, and some stations offer both.

We hope for many good and scientifically high-quality applications for access from scientists around the world. To find out more about the call visit the TA Call webpages, learn more about the station facilities and register to the on-line application system.

Seize the opportunity and apply for INTERACT Transnational Access to conduct studies at the coolest places on the Earth!

More next time,



Positive progress

Despite of the dark and gloomy weather here at Oulu (as always this time of the year), the past weeks have been very positive with several nice occasions.

Firstly, in mid-October we travelled to the Arctic Circle assembly in Reykjavik, Iceland. There, our joint effort of the past year-and-a-half, a highly illustrated popular science book INTERACT Stories of Arctic Science, was published and 300 copies of the book were distributed to the participants of the assembly. What a great event, and I am so happy and proud of the book which illustrates the fantastic work conducted by the scientists with support from INTERACT Transnational Access during the past years!

Secondly, last week we went to Poland to attend the Annual Consortium Meeting. The event was held at the most beautiful place at Jablonna Palace, a carefully renovated building from the 18th century, which nowadays serves as a congress centre of the Polish Academy of Sciences. The surrounding park was just as astonishing as the palace itself, with big majestic trees in variety of autumn colors. It was the most inspiring place to have a meeting, and we left invigorated and eager to continue working for the future of INTERACT.

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The rest of the year looks rather busy. We’ll start preparing a new application to Horizon2020, and in addition continue collaboration in organizing some major science events that will take place next year –the first one will be the Fulbright Arctic Symposium on February 11th 2016 here at Oulu. But more about those later on!

Until the next time!

Endless (summer) rain

This summer it has not felt bad to sit in the office behind the computer and work. More so, I have felt sympathy towards the people who are supposed to enjoy their summer holidays because that has been really difficult this “summer”. First of all, because it has been so cold. Secondly, because it has been so rainy that it makes being outdoors if not impossible, at least very unpleasant. And did I mention miserable already?

To fully understand this desperation, one must know something about the relationship between the Finnish people and summer. We endure the long, dark, cold winter by anticipating the summer. Short but light and (supposedly) warm summer. The summer for Finnish people is usually packed with high expectations and dreams of outdoor barbecues, swimming in the lake after sauna, enjoying the midnight sun, going to concerts and all kind of peculiar *summer events that only exist in Finland. And then strikes the reality… +10 degrees, pouring rain, cold wind…finding your vision about the perfect summer holiday completely shattered. Cannot get much more depressing than that.

Except this summer I decided to change my attitude. I ditched the dreaming of the endless summer early on, and instead chose a different thought pattern. Not worrying about the sun burns, getting new summer clothes, or using notable amounts of money to entrance fees to concerts and outdoor summer events. Instead, I’ve invested in a new umbrella and enjoyed quiet walks under it (hardly anyone else is outside this weather), visiting the library and reading books evening after evening, establishing an at-home yoga studio and making plans to visit museums and galleries. This shift of attitude has worked quite well until now but let’s see what happens when my summer holiday starts next week and my new strategy is put into real test.


View from my office window in summer 2012. Looks exactly the same now -if not rainier!

Luckily, a work trip to Italy provided a possibility to enjoy some summer weather conditions.

Luckily, a work trip to Italy provided a possibility to enjoy some summer weather conditions.

In the work front, the past months have been much sunnier than the weather here. Work trips to meetings and conferences have taken me to Japan (sunny), Italy (very sunny) and Denmark (not so sunny). While at the office, much of my time has been devoted on editing of a popular science book highlighting the research conducted with support from INTERACT Transnational Access. It’s all very exciting and I cannot wait the book launch later this year. But more about that and the end result of my anti-sun/pro-rain campaign next time!


*Some examples of these special summer events include Wife Carrying World Championships, Swamp Soccer World Championships, Air Guitar World Championships, and the Evening of Pessimism.

The Anti-Arctic

When the arctic is covered in snow, we turn our scientific interests to the other side of the world: the (sub)antarctic. Our goal is to see if the patterns in the vegetation we observe at one part of the globe – the subarctic world of Lapland – hold true at the completely opposite side as well.

Local Nothofagus forest in the snow

Subantarctic Nothofagus forest in the snow

With this idea in mind, we go to the city of Punta Arenas, on the absolute southernmost point of the American continent. There we study the possibilities of exotic plant invasion in extreme environments. With these trips to the south we hope to come up with a comparison of the limits for common Western European weeds on this far away location with what we know and learn in Northern Scandinavia.

Flowers of invading red clover in South America

Flowers of invading red clover in South America

Our last field trip has been in April, when summer on the southern hemisphere disappeared and made way for snowy autumn storms. This intermediate season presented us with true roller-coaster weather, with freezing lows and icy storms right before the clearest blue skies.

Our high elevation plots covered in unexpected early autumn snow

Our high elevation plots covered in unexpected early autumn snow

The results of this last trip to the south look very promising at first sight. The climatic gradient in the mountains around the city of Punta Arenas turns out to be a pretty drastic one. In the city itself, the ocean buffers temperatures and weather is cold but mild, in fact more a borderline temperate climate than a true subantarctic one.

Huge invasive red clover after harvest

Huge invasive red clover after harvest

The nonnative European species, like the well-known dandelion and white and red clover, profit from these mild circumstances and flourish sometimes even more than in their native range!

Large clover leave

Large clover leave

Several hundred meters above the city, however, you arrive in a different place. The howling winds that already torture the city of Punta Arenas all year round, can blow even more freely up here, and temperatures drop to zero almost every night during the whole summer season. This environment feels much more like Antarctica, the icy continent that is so close-by.

Antarctic feel on top of the mountain

Antarctic feel on top of the mountain

Plants see their growing season reduced to less than half of the months they have at sea level. The negative effects on plant performance are inevitable. Where the nonnative species seemed to be unimpressed by the climate within the safe boundaries of the city, their survival and growth is reduced to virtually zero on the highest elevations.

A little mouse that did not seem to mind the extreme circumstances

A little mouse that does not seem to mind the extreme climatic circumstances on top of the mountains

Interestingly, the interactions of our invaders with the established vegetation seem to change as fast as the weather. However, we have to dig in the data first to get those patterns clear. Hopefully soon more news about that!


And afterwards, it is back to the Arctic, where summer is finally on its way again!

Click here for more information about my research on top of the world.

Science on tour! The art of conferences

How do Earth scientists turn the scribbles in their field notebooks into a piece of coherent research?

It has been almost a year since our latest INTERACT field trip to Greenland, and we have been busy analysing the data and writing research papers. This week we are at the European Geosciences Union (EGU) in Vienna presenting the findings from our fieldwork on Disko Island. We take a look at the transformation of data from fieldwork to conference presentation, and explore what life is like at an international scientific conference.

Time for an ice cream outside the conference centre

Time for an ice cream outside the conference centre


When we get back from Greenland, we type up our notes, enter our data into spreadsheets, draw our maps, and test for any patterns (or sometimes lack of patterns!) in the data. Once all of this is done, we can sit down and look at the data as a whole, and begin to formulate our interpretations and conclusions. For the EGU, we then presented our findings in a poster format that we will present to other scientists in our research field.

Our poster printed out and ready to display

Our poster printed out and ready to display

Why do scientists go to conferences?

Research conferences are not just a bunch of scientists gathered in a convention centre. Far from it! Conferences provide an opportunity for researchers to present their latest findings to a group of like-minded scientists. This can take the form of short oral presentations that last around 15 minutes, or poster presentations where large (A1 or A0 size) posters are displayed for other scientists to look at and discuss. To avoid confusion when there are over 10,000 scientists, large conferences are organised into themes or ‘sessions’ based around particular research fields. Some examples might be ‘Glacial geomorphology’, ‘Sea level change’ or ‘Research on Mars’. Each session will involve a series of talks as well as a poster session. Large conferences such as the EGU happen every year, and there are many sessions happening at the same time. It is a bit like pick-and-mix science. The audience can drop in and out of the sessions that are most relevant or interesting to them.


Tim writing our blog while overlooking the exhibition hall


If you find yourself with nothing to do for a while, there are always plenty of books, equipment, free merchandise, and fun to be had in the exhibition hall. This is where publishers and scientific companies hold promotional stalls. It isn’t uncommon for a researcher to come home from a conference with a handful of free promotional pens, some notebooks, t shirts, mugs, and bags. This year, our favourite is a key ring made from parts of a Google satellite!

As well as the formal scientific part of conferences (and the delights of the exhibition hall!), they are also an excellent opportunity to catch up with colleagues and friends from across the world, and make new contacts through informal discussion with other researchers in your field. There are plenty of opportunities to chat over coffee (and other beverages!) through the day, and meet up with friends in the evening. In fact, it is often at conferences that the best networking opportunities arise, and it is a great time to discuss new projects. Sometimes, it is a bit like a game of Earth Science iSpy – spotting your favourite researchers from books and journal articles that you have read back in your office.


Above all, it is great to see the outputs of all of your hard work – even when months of fieldwork are boiled down to just a few minutes!


Kathryn enjoying an apple next to our poster


It was a great journey …

The short, dark days have arrived here to Oulu now that we are approaching the winter solstice. To even emphasize the general gloominess, we have no snow at the moment, and White Christmas still feels very much like a faraway dream. Therefore, last week’s trip to Hvalsø in Denmark to the INTERACT Final Consortium Meeting was a very welcome and cheering up one. We got to meet again all the wonderful people –friends- that we have made during the past four years of the project, and we even got so enjoy a glimpse of sunlight, as the photos below are proving!

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Despite of the name “Final Consortium Meeting”, the gathering did not mark an end to our collaboration, but rather a wrap up of our current funding period of 2011-2014 and an acknowledgement of the things we have achieved together so far. It has been a great journey and I’ll cherish the experiences and memories from the past four years for the years to come.

The INTERACT network and the strong collaboration between the research stations in it will definitely continue to flourish and grow, and hopefully we will also get good news regarding our application to Horizon 2020 to develop transnational access further, along with many other activities and new innovations.

During the past weeks, we have been warmly surprised by the numerous e-mails from researchers all over the Europe, thanking for the support provided by INTERACT Transnational Access, and hoping for the activity to continue soon in the future. Many thanks for your encouragement and positive feedback, it means a lot to us!

All the best for the approaching Christmas time to all of you, and many thanks for the past year – it has been wonderful! Until the next time! -Hannele