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First Week in Sweden!!

Hello! This is Maria Paula, delivering the first blog post of the University of New Hampshire Sweden NERU program. Welcome!

So the group of students and mentors traveled all through Monday and most of Tuesday to get to Abisko, Sweden and although we were very tired we stopped for some group photos along the road, settled into the Abisko Station and went shopping for the very first time!

In Logan Airport

Shopping was definitely an immersion experience, since we had just gotten off the airplane in Kiruna and had to buy groceries, all of which were labeled in Swedish. But all of us purchased food and made some funny mistakes. I bought lactose-free milk and Lily bought fruit soup thinking it was fruit juice while trying to shop smart. But we laughed and learned plenty of new Swedish words. The weather that greeted us was unusually cold and windy but our enthusiasm in this new country could not be extinguished by severe weather or fatigue.

By the road on Lake Tornetrask.  M.P. Mugnani

But before I go any further on what we have been up to, allow us to introduce ourselves and the program!This is the first year of the Sweden Northern Ecosystem Research for Undergraduate (NERU) summer program which is through the University of New Hampshire (UNH) and was funded thanks to the National Science Foundation (NSF). Our director is Dr. Ruth Varner and we have several mentors depending on the subject disclipline: Julie Bryce, Ruth Varner, and Erik Hobbie. There are nine students from all across the United States in different universities, but we all came together at the beginning of June to create a research project to complete in Abisko, Sweden during the month of July. We are a diverse group with study interests including hydrology, soils, nutrient cycling, methane and vegetation. During all of June we worked at UNH, working with our mentors, learning about sub-arctic ecosystems and preparing our project and methodology. Now we have just finished our first week in Abisko and have each advanced in our projects and goals, setting up research sites, practicing methodology and on our free time, exploring this beautiful country with it’s 24-hour light days, snow-capped mountains, scenic landscapes and interesting culture and language.

And now you get to meet us!

    Hello! My name is Sophia and I am a senior at the University of New Hampshire, majoring in Environmental Sciences with a concentration in Ecosystems. I am from Belmont, Massachusetts, just outside of Boston. I am very excited to be part of this NERU program and to be in Sweden doing awesome research! My project over this ten-week program involves methane (CH4) ebullition, or bubbling, from peat thaw ponds. Peat thaw ponds occur when frozen peat thaws, slumps, and allows for melt water to collect.

I have designed and built six acoustic sensors based on past research done in Sweden by Dr. Ruth Varner and others that will allow me to record ebullition events as they happen as well as allow me to sample the accumulated gases for further analysis. The sensors will be deployed in three thaw ponds in the Stordalen Mire, which is located 11km away from the Abisko Research Station. My main goal is to try and answer the questions: how does methane flux via ebullition in thaw ponds compare to the flux from frozen peat? And how much does this flux contribute to the overall methane budget from the Stordalen mire? I plan on submitting an abstract of this work to the American Geophysical Union Fall Conference in San Francisco, California as well as writing a senior thesis paper.

Hello. My name is Alejandro Macias and I am a biology major at Northern Michigan University. I was born in Spain but moved to the USA three years ago to get my bachelor’s degree. I love traveling and last summer I volunteered in Ecuador working with Andean bears and condors. I am also very interested in both, botany and mycology, and will be working on the plant communities, and ectomycorrhizal fungi across a previously established elevation gradient. Fun/Tragic fact: my bag got delayed two times in a row while traveling these last months, and now it got lost for good so I am now hiking through snow with my sneakers and plastic bags.

    Hi! I’m Rebecca Jacobson and I’m from Londonderry, New Hampshire. I’m a senior Environmental Science and Policy major at Plymouth State University in Plymouth, New Hampshire. While in Abisko, Sweden I will be looking at mercury concentrations and movement in vegetation and moss along the methane flux gradient. I hope to learn more about various field techniques, mire plants and see neat geologic landforms. A special fact about me would be that I’m really afraid of parasites and parasitoids including ticks, leeches and misquotes. I’m really excited for this program and to go to Sweden!!

Hi!  My name is Victoria Ward.  I grew up in Germantown, MD, near Washington, D.C. and have been attending the University of New Hampshire for the past 3 years working toward a Hydrology degree with a French minor.   My research in Abisko is focused on the cycling of hydrogen in Subarctic soils because it is a secondary greenhouse gas important in the cycling of primary greenhouse gases such as methane and carbon monoxide. The consumption and release of hydrogen by soil is currently responsible for about 75% of the global hydrogen budget; however, very little is understood about this process. When I have time, I love to figure skate. I started skating at age 10, and it has been a huge part of my life ever since!

    Greetings and Salutations! My name is Ryan Lawrence and I hail from the small, historic town of Scotland Neck, NC. Currently, I am in my fourth year pursuing a Bachelor of Science in Chemistry at Elizabeth City State University, located in Elizabeth City, NC.

In order to enhance my undergraduate experience, I conduct research at the Center of Excellence for Remote Sensing Education and Research, where my primary focus includes glaciology, specifically tracking basal stress boundary changes in the Amundsen sector of West Antarctic. In general, I am interested in green house gas-climate interactions as it relates to the emissions and potential impacts of elevated carbon dioxide and methane levels in the atmosphere.

While in Abisko, Sweden, my primary research goal is to study the dynamics of carbon dioxide exchange and methane flux during respiration. With the increasing concern over climate change, it is my plan to learn about the potential role plants play in the carbon budget, which could enhance our knowledge of future carbon budgets and the feedback of climate warming in the Swedish sub-Arctic. I am a member of the American Geophysics Union, the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers Geoscience and Remote Sensing Society, Alpha Phi Alpha Fraternity, Inc., by way of the Beta Zeta Chapter, and the alternative hip-hop band TiME MOVES.

    Hello, my name is Maria Paula Mugnani, I live in Vermont and I am going to be a senior this year at Mount Holyoke College majoring in Environmental Studies with a concentration in Conservation. I like gardening, traveling, linguistics, literature and botany. I love everything to do with the outdoors and science!

My summer research here in Abisko examines the vegetation diversity and abundance differences as well as soil nutrient dynamics between four ecosystems on Stordalen Mire: palsas, Eriophorum-dominated fens, sphagnum peatland and lake edges. The mire is going under a series of changes due to events like permafrost thaw and climate change so it is important to study how the vegetation composition and soil dynamics are altering with these changes. I hope to get more fieldwork research experience and learn more about Sweden and sub-arctic plants! A fun fact about me is that I have snorkeled with marine iguanas!

    My name is Dan Ackerman, and I’m an environmental studies major at Carleton College in Northfield, Minnesota. This summer in Sweden, I plan to use stable isotope analysis to study nutrient cycling along an elevational gradient. A fun fact about me is that I used to be the voice actor for a talking fish in advertisements for a seafood restaurant in Boston.

Hi, my name is Lily Zhao and I am going to be a senior   at  the University of Chicago in the fall. I grew up in   Chico, California and am going to be working in exclosure   plots here in Abisko, as well as collecting samples for my research project. The purpose of my research project is to examine reindeer diet in northern Norway and Sweden since 1909. I would like to see whether reindeer diet has changed over the last 100 years. This is an important question in relation to climate change and Sami herding practices. Warming has been correlated with an increase in vascular plant production, which has in turn been correlated with declines in lichen biomass. A dietary analysis will provide information as to levels of lichen versus graminoids, forbs, fungi and shrubs each reindeer was consuming during the summer and fall of the year that they died. Diet will be analyzed by measuring stable isotope compositions (13C/12C and 15N/14N). 15N/14N composition may also be used to indicate levels of physiological stress on the specimens. I am really excited to get field experience and learn more about the ecology of this region. My interesting fact is that I beat Daniel Ackerman in a cheesy bread-eating contest (note that he is 6’2”), and then (by the terms of the bet) he had to refer to me only as “Goddess Supreme” for a week!

     My name is Nancy Freitas and I was born and raised in Tucson, Arizona. This coming fall I will be a junior at the University of Arizona, where I am majoring in Environmental Sciences with a focus in Climate Change. I also play Ultimate Frisbee at the Uof A and I absolutely love my team! This summer I will be characterizing soil microbes at increasing depths in lake sediments through DNA extractions and sequencing. I will also be incubating the sediments at two different temperatures to determine the relative production of methane by these microbes. C:N ratios, and 13C and 15N isotopic signatures will be determined from the sediments, and will help to give me a better idea of the environment that the microbes are functioning in. And I learned how to row on Thursday, so I am one step closer to figuring out the lake ecosystem! An interesting and slightly embarrassing fact about myself is that I know basically every line from the movie Bring It On.. 🙂

A brief synopsis of our activities this week:

On Wednesday, we looked at our laboratory facilities and explored the station a bit before meeting a current Abisko researcher in the field who studies UVB in vegetation in chambers. In the afternoon we hiked to the Turist Station, which had field guides, a small museum and souvenirs like postcards to send to loved ones. Nearby was a beautiful canyon with a river, which was fun to explore for varied vegetation, landscape, and sheer rocks. On a hike in the Abisko River we could see the beautiful snow capped mountains and cross rocks along the water.

S. Burke

On the lake docks in the Abisko Scientific Research Station.   S. Burke.

On Thursday we had our first official field day in Stordalen Mire to work on our respective projects. All efforts, from learning how to row a boat in the lake to setting up equipment machinery and study site selection proved to be a new accomplishment in each our projects. The mire was beautiful with microenvironments of palsas, eriphorum and carex-dominated fens, and sphagnum peatland.

Canyon along Abisko River. M.P. Mugnani

Walking around was easy on the boardwalks and the land was flat and green with surrounding mountains and vast lakes. With the wind so strong and the mire so vast, one felt very small while working there!

Stordalen Mire.      M.P. Mugnani

On Friday it was much rainier and colder, but we all continued fieldwork, some of us going to the higher elevations, farther south in Sweden or in Stordalen Mire. Already with two fields days we have experienced how variable northern Sweden weather can be!

On Saturday we scattered to do various activities, some of us to our field sites and others to visit Kiruna, a town in Sweden about an hour away from Abisko. Sunday was very exciting, with a full group drive to Narvik, Norway to visit a fjord!

Nancy explores the Narvik seaside. M.P. Mugnani.

The landscape quickly became rocky but with the same snow-capped mountains. The change in countries was not only apparent by the landscape, but also by the housing architecture, with small colorful houses balancing on rocky ledges. The fjord was beautiful with vast mountains and clear water.We throughly enjoyed the sunny warm day and the clean invigorating sea air.     Until next time!



Narvik Fjord.

A Norwegian Troll statue we found along the way.


One comment on “First Week in Sweden!!

  1. Way to go Ryan… I am from Scotland Neck also and is a classmate of your Aunt Elsie. i like your area of research. When i did my masters at UNC, my interest was water quality impacts of agricultural activity.

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