Association of Polar Early Career Scientists


Arctic Frontiers Science for Schools: Students impress early career scientists

During the annual Arctic Frontiers 2017 conference in Tromsø (Norway), APECS and the Nordnorsk Vitensenter Tromsø (Science Centre of Northern Norway) organized a unique event for schools to learn about Arctic science. Over the course of three days, 13-18 year old students from a number of schools attended diverse presentations by early career scientists from all over the world.

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Photo: The Nordnorsk Vitensenter at the University of Tromsø was the place chosen for the Science for Schools event (Photo by Sara Aparício). On the right, from top to bottom some of this year’s early career presenting scientists: Dennis Fink, Karley Campbell, Jennifer King and Peter Leopold (Photos by Mar Fernández-Méndez).

This year, students also presented posters of their independent research projects that they had been working on for months leading up to the event. This was a highlight of the Science for Schools event as despite their young age, many of the students had created very high quality posters. Their level of understanding of complex problems such as pollution of the ocean by chemicals and plastics, the potential impacts of climate warming on the country’s fishing industry, and ecosystem response to environmental change was impressive. Furthermore, students associated these concerns with their lifestyles and often had ideas about potential avenues for positive change and this gave us all hope that there is a brighter future ahead.

Here are some of the impressions of the early career scientists that participated in this outreach event.

  • Karley Campbell (PhD candidate on sea ice biology at the University of Manitoba, Canada): “It was an opportunity to share my love of science, teach students about important topics such as climate change and engage with youth who live in the North. It was refreshing to see creativity applied to common scientific ideas in student posters through catchy titles, innovative research projects and interesting poster designs.
  • Alexey Pavlov (Postdoc on ocean optics at the Norwegian Polar Institute): “I am glad to see that education of youth is one of the priorities at the Arctic Frontiers conference. I am always happy to share my knowledge and experience with school kids, it’s always fun and rewarding. I have done it for the past two years, and will do it again in the future.
  • Jennifer King (Postdoc on sea ice physics at the Norwegian Polar Institute): “It’s always a pleasure to get out of the office and share our science with different audiences. I was blown away by how engaged the students were with the topic and how much effort they had put into their preparations for it.
  • Ioanna Merkouriadi (Postdoc on snow physics at the Norwegian Polar Institute): “I was definitely impressed by the students’ engagement and their overall level, in both science and English language skills. I also very much enjoyed interacting with them and I would definitely do this again in the future.
  • Hanna Kauko (PhD candidate on sea ice bio-optics at the Norwegian Polar Institute): “It was great to be involved and get to interact with school youth – I was impressed about the quality of the posters, and happy about their interest for polar environmental issues.
  • Sara Aparício (Trainee on earth observation data analyst at the European Space Agency): “I have been part of the Arctic Frontiers’ Science for School event for three years now, and each year I never fail to get even more impressed. This year was the most difficult to find the winning poster. Overall, the content and poster structure had a great level of quality, and I must say that I found the themes quite interesting. The students showed interest on their research, and you could tell during the poster presentation, that they had conducted further research to deepen their knowledge on the topic. In addition, their English is amazing and a good asset for their future, in case they pursue a scientific career. Hats off also for their teachers who are also behind the great success of Science for Schools.
  • Dennis Fink (CEO of the science communication company Mediomix): “The Arctic Frontiers 2017 conference was the first time that I joined a "Science for Schools" project and that I had the opportunity to share my passion of science communications with school kids of different age. When I presented my work on marine bacteria they got really interested in the topic and engaged with me. But what really impressed me were the conversations I had with the kids during their poster presentations. All of them managed to prepare not only comprehensive posters but they were also able to stand in front of it and share what they've learned with the audience. Many of them showed real passion, some even more than I've seen from "real" scientists when they present their work on conferences. I had many good conversations and also learned myself things I didn't know before (e.g. about the tourism on Svalbard). It was a great event and I hope that those kids will keep their passion for science and one day, become scientists themselves.

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Photo: Upper two photos show the students presenting their posters to the early career judges (Photos by Mar Fernández-Méndez). The lower photo shows the poster award presentation (Photo by Dennis Fink).

This year’s overall poster winner titled An Ocean of Problems from the science class of Kongsbakken School, discussed an experiment that they had performed about the effects of ocean acidification on mussels. The judges agree that the highlight of this poster, in addition to the clear layout and informative text, was the enthusiastic discussion about why their experiment hadn’t worked. This level of critical thinking is impressive and represents good training for those choosing to become scientists in the future! We can now be sure that at least they have acquired skills in communication and the utilization of the scientific method that will help them in whichever career path they choose. We look forward to next years challenges.

See you next year!
Mar Fernández-Méndez and the APECS-Arctic Frontiers team

Arctic Frontiers Science for Politics: The future is yours, young politicians ... go for it!

Two of the early career researchers, Megan O'Sadnick (Research Scientist at Norut Narvik) and Mar Fernández-Méndez (Postdoctoral researcher at the Norwegian Polar Institute) had the opportunity during the Arctic Frontiers 2017 Science for Politics event, organized by the Science Centre of Northern Norway (Nordnorsk Vitensenter Tromsø) in cooperation with Arctic Frontiers and APECS to speak with students from Tromsø who are interested in becoming politicians about the interaction between science and politics.

We discussed topics such as the possibility of oil spills in the ice-covered Arctic Ocean and the importance of an appropriate interaction between politicians and scientists. A much-needed discussion in our current world political situation. The young politicians learned that even things that are apparently not related to climate change, such as piracy in the waters of Somalia, are actually triggered by depletion of fish stock populations in those seas. They also took good note on the advices to double check facts posted on social networks before sharing them further, and to surround themselves by people who base their statements on peer-reviewed knowledge. We hope that when these students make it into politics, whether it be with the Norwegian government or elsewhere, they will draw upon some of the things they learned from this event. After all, they are the ones who might transform the future into a better place.

 Mar Fernández-Méndez and the APECS-Arctic Frontiers team

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Photo: Young politicians with early career scientists Megan and Mar at the end of their presentations (Photo by Hanne Sofie Roaldsen).

APECS-Arctic Frontiers Panel Discussion: Which career path would you like to follow?

During the Arctic Frontiers 2017 Conference in Tromsø Norway, APECS organized a panel discussion on 25 January about different career paths in Arctic science, inside and outside academia. The panelists represented various career possibilities: Bodil Bluhm is a professor at UiT The Arctic University of Norway; Katrin Bluhm works as a coordinator of the science part of Arctic Frontiers at Akvaplan-niva; Lawrence Hislop works with science management in Climate and Cryosphere project (CliC); and Dennis Fink facilitates science communication through his company Mediomix. Following introductions, the audience posed questions, and the experiences, choices, and random encounters that led to these positions were discussed.

Some take-home-messages from the panel include:

  • Be persistent! Don’t give up with your goal, but be determined e.g. in seeking contact with future employers.
  • Manage your online presence well (LinkedIn, Facebook, Twitter..etc).
  • Build yourself a diverse toolbox (e.g. software skills, various work experience) and be active also outside the direct study path.

The panel recording can be accessed here or in the APECS webinar archive to give many more early-career researchers the opportunity to benefit from it. 

Mar Fernández-Méndez and the APECS-Arctic Frontiers team

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Photo: Expand your frontiers career path panel organized by APECS. (Photos by Mar Fernández-Méndez).

"And the winner is ..." - Nansen Poster Awards for early career scientists at the Arctic Frontiers 2017

The Oceans Future reception during Arctic Frontiers 2017 in Tromsø Norway was held at the Scandic Ishavshotel on 26th of January 2017 after an intense poster session with vivid discussions. Thanks to the voluntary help of 20 judges, the 50 posters presented by early career scientists were evaluated to determine the ‘Nansen award’ winners for each topical part as well as one overall winner. Part I was about Bridging physical and biological processes; Part II was about Pushing back the Frontiers: New approaches, new technologies, and new insights; Part III about Future Fisheries, and Part IV about Managing risks in policymaking and the law. Part III and IV were merged into one category. It was a tough decision with tight scoring due to the high quality of the posters that were presented. Award winners were acknowledged with a diploma and a voucher to attend the next Arctic Frontiers conference during the awards ceremony, which was presented by Hanna Kauko and Mar Fernández-Méndez and the charismatic presence of Prof. Jan-Marcin Weslawski (IOPAS, Poland). At the end of the evening, Gerlis Fugmann (APECS Executive Director) arrived at the venue directly from a meeting in Iceland to join the celebration of the prizes.

Winners of the 2017 Nansen Awards were:

  • Overall winner: Katalin Blix (UiT Arctic University of Norway) for the poster “Monitoring primary productivity through Chlorophyll-a content estimation in the Arctic.”
  • Winner Part I: Oliver Müller (University of Bergen, Norway) for the poster “How permafrost organic matter input in an Arctic fjord alters the bacterial community structure.”
  • Winner Part II: Sarah Holmes (University of Exeter, UK) for the poster “Using annually resolved bivalve records and biogeochemical models to understand and predict climate impacts on coastal oceans.”
  • Winner Part III/IV: Laura Wheeland (Center for Fisheries and Ecosystem Research, Newfoundland, Canada) for the poster “Inshore fisheries resources, biogeography and oceanography: Insight from sampling aboard platforms of opportunity in the Canadian Arctic.”

See you next year,
Mar Fernández-Méndez and the APECS-Arctic Frontiers team

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Photo: In the upper left photo you can see the winners of the third edition of the Nansen Poster Awards. Below you can see some of the APECS members, including our director, who made these events possible. From left to right: Mar Fernández-Méndez, Hanna Kauko, Alexey Pavlov, Karley Campbell and Gerlis Fugmann. (Photos by Marcel Sieben)

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