Environmental Studies in the Boreal Forest Zone: IPY Institute

Thu, 12/06/2007 - 01:00

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The Summer IPY Institute provided a unique opportunity for participants to learn about the climate and environment of Northern Eurasia from leading scientists and educators in a wide spectrum of polar and Earth-system science disciplines including meteorology, biology, chemistry, and Earth-system modeling.

Additionally, the attendees observed and participated in research activities under the guidance of experienced scientists. The institute was arranged as part of the education outreach activities of the International Arctic Research Center, the International Polar Year (IPY) effort at the University of Alaska, and the Northern Eurasia Earth Science Partnership Initiative. It was held in Russia, approximately 350 km west of Moscow, in the village of Fedorovskoe, where the Central Biosphere Forest Reserve is located. The summer institute was organized by the International Arctic Research Center (IARC) at the University of Alaska Fairbanks, in collaboration with the A.N. Severtsov Institute for Ecology and Evolution of the Russian Academy of Sciences in Moscow, Russia, and the Central Biosphere Forest Reserve  in Fedorovskoe.  During a two-week interval, the institute participants attended 40 lectures, went on several field trips, and participated in three brainstorming roundtable workshop sessions devoted to special issues and major unresolved problems of boreal forest zone research.

Thirty professors and experts in different areas of climate and biosphere research from Russia, the United States, Germany, Finland, and Japan shared their expertise in lectures and in  discussions with the institute participants. Among the participants were 31 graduate students/early career scientists from six countries (China, Russia, Estonia, Finland, United Kingdom, and the United States) and eight K-12 teachers from Russia. The two groups joined together for several workshop sessions and for the fieldwork components of the institute. The fieldwork was focused on land-atmosphere interactions and wetland studies in the boreal forest zone. Several field trips in and outside the Forest Reserve were arranged to highlight various aspects of wetland studies and management in the taiga environment. 

As part of the GLOBE (Global Learning and Observations to Benefit the Environment) IPY "Seasons and Biomes" project led by  Elena Sparrow, the K-12 teachers were instructed in and practiced both existing and new GLOBE protocols created specifically for the “Seasons and Biomes” project to study interannual variability of seasons in their own biomes. These teachers will in turn engage their students in Earth system science research as a way of teaching and learning science, as well as involving them in the IPY.

Students and some instructors had one full day (Sunday, July 15th) for sightseeing in Moscow. Many of the students, including the Russians, had never been in this vibrant and swiftly growing city. The group went to the Kremlin and various other places. After spending half a day with the hosts at A.N. Severtsov Institute for Ecology and Evolution, the participants were taken on the long bus ride to the reserve. Life at the village of Fedorovskoe was probably a new experience for many of these students. They were able to see a Russian private rural life in a small place, with no fancy shops or supermarkets. The locals were very friendly and tried to help in any possible way. Healthy food and a lot of exercise combined well with lectures. Everyone was a bit tired after long working days, but the traditional Russian sauna (“banya”) and the Russian hospitality helped revitalize the students’ brain functions! Students and instructors found new contacts and formed personal and professional networks. Most importantly, everyone became very good friends!

IARC will offer a Summer School for next year (2008) in Alaska: “On the Modeling of Arctic Climate”. More information can be obtained at the IARC booth at the AGU Fall Meeting 2007 in San Francisco or by contacting Chris Lace at clace iarc [dot] uaf [dot] edu

Student Perspectives on the Summer Institute

 “Summer institute '07 was really very well organized, so thanks to the  organizers from Russia and the IARC. During this summer institute, a lot of interesting lectures were given by qualified scientists. It was very good for me to learn about the latest research and achievements in climatology, hydrology and ecology. Also, I had a chance to talk and exchange experience with other students of the school, which is very important, because keeping in touch now we will have better opportunities for collaboration.”

Dmitry Chechin - Atmospheric Science grad student - Moscow State  University, Russia

 “Besides the interesting lectures and discussions, I enjoyed a lot of things during the school: the location, the environment, the friendly local people, the unforgettable excursions, to name a few. And, of course I will not forget to mention the dear mosquito, who kissed me when I slept, played football, and walked in the forest.  From the institute, I got the real experience of the FOREST and was touched by the joy and challenge of the related research. It was the first  time that I visited a peat bog!”

Xuefeng Cui, Department of Geography, grad student, University of  Liverpool, United Kingdom