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Beth Langley presented at the Arctic Frontiers conference

by Beth Langley (University of Glasgow)

In January 2024, I had the privilege of attending Arctic Frontiers conference in Tromsø, Norway, an experience made possible by the support of the Scottish Arctic Network (ScAN) Early Career Travel Grant. Arctic Frontiers is a conference that brings together representatives from science, industry, policy and local and indigenous communities to discuss the most pressing issues facing the Arctic. From climate change mitigation and adaption to geopolitics, energy transition and shaping ocean policies, this conference is a hub of diverse perspectives, expertise, and cutting-edge science where knowledge can be turned into action. This opportunity aligned perfectly with my research interests, and I anticipated it to be an insightful and beneficial experience for my academic career.

My arrival in Tromsø was impeccably timed, arriving just in time before the onset of a storm that brought strong winds, rain and unseasonably warm temperatures to the town. Unfortunately, many speakers and participants were forced to attend virtually due to the closure of the airport and roads. Somewhat ironic perhaps, as climate change issues were directly impacting the very conferences dedicated to addressing them…

 

Tromsø at night and day – captured within the brief daylight hours of the Arctic winter!

 

The conference featured a diverse array of sessions, from ‘Big Picture’ panel discussions to focused science sessions and various side events throughout the city. The notable Big Picture sessions hosted panels of experts and politicians, including Prime Minister Jonah Gahr Store and Minister of Foreign Affairs, Espen Barth Eide, who engaged in discussions on topics such as economic development in the Arctic and Arctic shipping.

Within the science sessions, topics spanned a wide range, including ‘Healthy Marine Ecosystems,’ ‘Ice-Ocean-Atmosphere Interactions,’ and a particularly engaging session on ‘Polar Fjords and Coasts.’ I found this last session incredibly insightful, as it resonated with my PhD research where I have begun to investigate carbon storage in Greenlandic fjords. The discussions offered insights into the latest understanding of fjordic processes, current ongoing research projects in the Arctic, and knowledge gaps that still exist within the topic. This exposure not only sparked my own ideas but also left me inspired to further pursue and contribute to the field through my research. The diversity of sessions provided a comprehensive overview of the critical issues and advancements in Arctic research, and highlighted the importance of continuous, collaborative research to advance our understanding of the Arctic.

Opening presentation in the ‘Polar Fjords and Coasts’ session.

I was thrilled to be accepted for an oral presentation to share a chapter of my PhD research on Arctic and sub-Arctic marine sediment carbon stocks during one of the science sessions. This work involved synthesising data from over 1000 marine sediment cores across the Arctic and sub-Arctic, utilising it to spatially map and quantify organic carbon in the top 1m of marine sediments. The session provided an excellent opportunity to receive valuable feedback from peers in my field. I was pleased with the positive reception from the audience, receiving enthusiastic feedback, and even caught the attention of Swedish National Radio who interviewed me following my presentation!

Stood in front of the Arctic Frontiers sign after presenting my research.

 

Arctic Frontiers provided an excellent platform for networking over coffee and skillingsboller (the Norwegian Cinnamon roll). The Science Reception, which featured a diverse array of posters spanning topics from whale breeding patterns to the impacts of sea level rise on coastal infrastructure, facilitated connections with many researchers. I had some insightful and engaging discussions of various projects across the Arctic, including the iC3 project, a global initiative aiming to quantify the impact of ice sheets on Earth’s carbon cycle, climate, and ocean ecosystems. As a member of the UK Polar Network (UKPN) committee, it was particularly rewarding to share the work of UKPN through our own poster, contributing to the collective exchange of research and outreach projects.

The poster session at the Science Reception on the opening night.

 

During my time in Tromsø, I had the opportunity to explore the area including hiking up a nearby mountain for a panoramic view of the city, visiting the Arctic Cathedral and relaxing in the ‘Scandi’ way with a sauna session and polar plunge in the ocean. Exploring Tromsø, known as the ‘Capital of the Arctic’, was a memorable experience that only fuelled my desire and passion to persist in researching the Arctic and contribute to the conservation of this beautiful environment.

 

On top of the mountain looking down on Tromsø and the Arctic Cathedral.

 

 

I am extremely grateful to the Scottish Arctic Network Early Career Travel Grant for supporting me in sharing my own Arctic research at Arctic Frontiers 2024 and building connections within the community that will aid my future Arctic endeavours.

 

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