One week before the adventure starts.

In one week, we will depart to Greenland. First, we will conduct fieldwork at Disko Island, followed by fieldwork around the Kangerlussuaq area.  We are all very excited to go and we are very busy with sorting and gathering of our gear.

Fully related to present day climate change, word of large wildfires burning in West-Greenland reached worldwide news.  These fires have been burning the last weeks in an area right between the two destinations of our fieldwork trip. I wonder if we could see any of the burned areas along the way.

This reminded me that people from outside of the scientific community sometimes ask me “Is your research-topic not depressing?”..

My first reaction often is to be surprised by the question; why would I be depressed by such a topic so relevant and honorable?

My second thought, however, is less positive. It then strikes me that climate change is a frightening scenario, and a very real one indeed. As a scientist, I am busy with numbers, graphs and papers. Sometimes the occasional cool field trip too. But the reality of a changing planet is not an every-day concern to me in the sense of fear. In a over-simplified one-liner one could state that the scientist only observes and concludes, passing this knowledge along. As a natural scientist I could even say that change is natural, even if it is caused by an intelligent species. But as a human, I should be scared by this change of environment. Not only for the well being of our species, but for our moral obligation towards planet Earth.

The depressing part is that we probably won’t be able to ‘fix things’. We probably can not rid all oceans from plastics, save all rain-forests, preserve all endangered species and reduce greenhouse-gas emissions to zero at the same time..  Scientists like us can probably only make efforts to limit the damage, and to learn from humanities mistakes. This is exactly where hope emerges, we can make a difference. And this fuels me.

I hope that my journey to Greenland will inspire me further to fight for the cause. I am afraid that observing the changes will also scare me a bit too…


-Fabian Ercan

Greenland Campaign Preparations

Happily I share with you the fact that 99% of the logistical planning and preparations for our Greenland Campaign have been completed. Flights and ferries have been booked, accommodation reservations have been made. A day-to-day planning has been made and the equipment has been inspected.

On Friday the 25th of August,  myself and two other members of our team will fly from Amsterdam to Copenhagen.  The next morning, we will meet up with the fourth member of our team. The team consists of myselfRike, Wim and Daan. After the reunion of our team in Copenhagen, we will leave for Greenland.

The Greenland Campaign will mainly consist of drilling and gathering sediment samples from small lakes and outcrops. In these sediments we expect to find sequential fossil leave remains, we are particulary interested remains of Betula nana or Dwarf Birch leaves. We hope that the oldest samples will be from at least a thousand years old. These leaves can tell us a lot about variations in the length of the growing season, temperature, and atmospheric CO2 through time. During our stay at Disko Island, we will also sample from experimental vegetation plots at the Arktisk Station (managed by University of Copenhagen). These experiments test the influence of factors like snow cover and permafrost on vegetation performance and interaction.

Tuesday the 5th of September will be the day of our return to Europe, after 11 intense days in the field.

Once back in the lab in Utrecht, we will analyze the (fossil) leave cuticles. The data from these analysis will help us understand arctic climate change and the consequences for the future of the Arctic.

All the planning and taking care of things have made me extremely hyped to go on this campaign and I look forward to share my adventures with you in following blog posts!



-Fabian Ercan