Today started with some catching up. Matt and Meredith slept off their jetlag, and I was happy to sleep off my bike ride, which actually made me more sore than I’d like to admit. After that delightful extra shut eye, some computer work and off to lunch before heading over to the airport to wait for the rest of the team due in from Summit. The team arrived later than we had expected, and we got to hang around the fence watching the comings and goings of the airport for a couple hours before my compatriots skipped their way out of the C-130, clad in colorful clothes for the occasion. We spent the afternoon catching up, unpacking cold weather gear and moving them into their rooms again, before heading out for dinner and discussions, where each of us was charged with discussing a theory of foundational importance to our fields. Matt started using the theory of evolution by natural selection, explaining it in three points: 1. Individuals in a population vary. 2. Some variable traits have a heritable basis. 3. Some heritable traits influence survival and reproduction.
Therefore, ecologically favorable alleles (alternative forms of genes) tend to increase across generations such that the fit of populations to their environment is improved. We each attempted similar explanations of foundational concepts in our fields and the discussion brought us all better understanding of each others fields and prepared us for the weeks ahead nicely.
The day closed out with a bit of drama and a very good lesson in how we are viewed by the local population. Upon arriving back at KISS the group decided to spend some time out on the porch watching the sunset and enjoying lively discussion, mostly of science related topics that we can’t seem to get out of our heads even for social time. At some point during the evening a local man mixed into the gathering and nicely began asking what we were doing in Greenland. Our initial explanation failed and it became clear that he was very inebriated and a bit intersted in some of the female members of the party, but mostly upset about the white man coming to Greenland, his home, and taking things, while disrespecting the local population. Despite the effects of inebriation, the gentleman had some very legitimate points, and gave us a wakeup call about how we are viewed by at least some of the population. The encounter further underscored one component of our work here. We are to trying to do a better job communicating our science, and working with the Greenlandic population to ensure it is relevant to answering questions important here, and around the world. This year our plan was to do most of our outreach during our trip to Nuuk, but perhaps next year we can build time into the program to do better outreach here. Certainly the night has inspired me to think about what I might be able to do during this trip to
help foster better lines of communication here in Kangerlussuaq.
The evening’s events also spurred me to take a more critical look at our science accommodations… which shows that we are operating in a similar situation to the tourists, and perhaps have that same gawking look about us even. Nearly everything we will use flew in with us… the KISS staff is almost all non-Greenlanders, much of our food came with us. So far, the only services I’ve seen us drawing from the local population (and therefore contributing to the local economy with) have been the meals we eat out, and the custodial staff at KISS. I’m sure there’s more than that, but I can easily see where one would get the impression that there is little economic benefit from the scientist’s presence. More to think about and gather information about as we think about the human side of Arctic change, as well as our place as scientists in the Arctic.