At the beginning of July we took a bunch of fabulous future scientists in the form of 3rd year environmental science/biology students to the arctic circle for a field module. This was my first visit to the arctic and all I can say is WOW!
The field course teaches students about arctic ecology including plant identification and environmental surveys at different altitudes from the bog to the mountain top. We stay at the tourist station in Abisko in self-catered cabins looking out over Torneträsk (the second deepest lake in Sweden at 168 m and 70 km (43 miles) long) and in the shadow of mount Njulla. This year 20 students came along meeting us at Gatwick airport bright an early for the first of two flights. The third leg of the journey was a coach ride from Kiruna to Abisko and after settling in to accommodation our first task was to negotiate the local supermarket (in Swedish) and gawk at the very impressive pick-and-mix sweets selection which filled half the shop!
The next week took us to different locations around Abisko National Park and what follows is a photographic tour of some of the places we went!
Day 1: Jokka river
Day 2: Njulla
The second day we took the chair lift up to the top of Njulla – it was colder than usual this year with a windchill of -4C and it was snowing as we headed back down. The students adopted penguin-like behaviour, huddling together in the lea of a rock while others tried star-jumps to warm up! Despite the cold everyone was impressed with the stunning view made even more spectacular by the changing cloud conditions!
Day 3: Paddas
Day 4: The bog
Day 5: Project day
Students then use the new skills they’ve learnt to test their own hypotheses which gives us some down time while students are out sampling…so we strolled out to the lake and edges of the Jokka for more botanising and bird watching.
I’ve not included any photos of students because they are yet to return from summer – perhaps they will write their own blog to give a students perspective. A previous year made their own video which you can find here.
This is a fantastic module where the students learn about arctic ecology and how climate change is impacting this fragile environment. For me this was a wonderful experience combining wonderful students (who had us in stitches laughing on multiple occasions while minutes later asking sensible in-depth questions) and doing things I choose to do on my vacations – botanising and walking in amazingly scenic landscapes!