Archive for the ‘Nuuk’ Category

Seals, polar bears, and double-tusked narwhals, oh my! One of the many exciting things to do in any capital city is go to their museums. Nuuk is no exception! The C4 IGERTs (+ C1 IGERT Lauren, now a Dartmouth postdoc) got to experience part of Greenland’s cultural history by visiting not only the Nuuk Museum and the Art museum, but also an ‘economy’ museum where we watched a few very skilled inuit people constructing their traditional outfits.

The Museum (a.k.a. Nunatta Katersugaasivia http://www.natmus.gl/) was established in the mid-1960’s and was one of the first museums in Greenland. The Museum is made up of multiple buildings and walks through different periods in Greenland’s history from the first settlements to industrialization. The exhibits show what every day life was like through displays of traditional clothing, modes of transportation and even types of food they were eating and hunting.

varieties of traditional Greenlandic outfits

varieties of traditional Greenlandic outfits

Beyond seeing the detail in the traditional Greenlandic costume, one of the most interesting things for me were the different hunting outfits, hunting boats and how they evolved with new hunting methods and with new animals being caught. The Museum even had a few of the outfits from arctic explorers- one was made entirely out of polar bear!

Polar explorer outfits made of polar bear and other furs

Polar explorer outfits made of polar bear and other furs

The Museum even has an impressive skull of a Narwhal with two tusks more than 2 meters in length!

Christine and Zak discussing the double-tusked narwhal

Christine and Zak discussing the double-tusked narwhal

Right around the corner from The Museum is Kittat the ‘economy museum’, or workshop, that specializes in making the traditional Greenland costumes. The traditional Greenland outfit is made of different seal skins, intricate beading, crocheted lace and wollen cloth. Kittat is a fully functional shop with the sewing room inside and the skin-drying racks outside. Not only could you watch some of the incredible beadwork and leather stitching taking place, but you could try your hand at sewing some of the leather pieces together- they make it look so easy!

Ruth feels the very soft fur used in the traditional Greenlandic costume

Ruth feels the very soft fur used in the traditional Greenlandic costume

The last museum we had the opportunity to visit was the Art museum, Nuuk Kunstmuseum (http://www.kunstmuseum.gl/). This museum (and over 300 paintings and nearly 500 figures) was given by Svend and Helene Junge Pedersen in 2005 and donated to the citizens of Nuuk. Among all of the fantastic art, Nuuk Kunstmuseum contains the largest collection of paintings by Emanuel A. Petersen (150 pieces).  E. A. Petersen (1894-1948) was an artist from Copenhagen who traveled all around Greenland in the early 1900s painting, drawing and sketching the different landscapes. These paintings are some of the first forms of documenting the landscape (including glacier position!) of this area.


an Emanuel A. Petersen painting of a glacier terminus

We even got a special treat at the last stop on our Nuuk museum tour- when we were talking with the curator, we found out she used to be a member of the Greenlandic government. She was in office when Greenland was granted self-rule (June 21, 2009) which gave Greenland more independence from Denmark. Hearing another first hand experience of that day and all of the new experiences that resulted was incredible!

I think we will all remember Nuuk with fond memories of the culture, museums and especially the people. Thank you Nuuk!

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The first time I walked through Ilimmarfik, the building that houses part of Ilisimatusarfik, or the University of Greenland, I immediately felt at home – although the physical environment is very different from the Dartmouth campus (and the views are much more spectacular), the atmosphere in the library and classrooms was just the same.  I also felt at home because of the warm welcome we received from everyone we met; all were eager to meet us, share their knowledge, and strengthen the connection between Dartmouth and Ilisimatusarfik.

Views around Nuuk are slightly different from the Dartmouth campus.

Views around Nuuk are slightly different from the Dartmouth campus.

On Wednesday, we walked up to Ilimmarfik for a public talk by Dr. Minik Rosing, a well-known Greenlandic geologist and the chair of the University Board of Directors.  In an overflowing room full of students, professors, and community members, Dr. Rosing presented a talk entitled “Greenland in our hearts and minds:” while the intellectual pursuit of science is what technically brings us to Greenland, it is the connection we carry in our hearts that keeps pulling us back.  Dr. Rosing spoke specifically about an expedition to Northeast Greenland that included both scientists and artists.  Without any specific goals, both groups were able to take in the beauty of the landscape, trying, in Dr. Rosing’s words, “to make a picture of the world that someone else can read.”

At the end of the week we were invited back to Ilimmarfik for a full day of lectures about Greenlandic culture, history, and language.  For me, the most inspiring part of the day was to hear from two PhD students about their research.  While waiting for the fog to clear so she could head out for fieldwork, Ann Eileen Lennert told us about an impressive interdisciplinary project looking at past use of the fjord system around Nuuk.  By combining archaeology, marine geology, and anthropology, Ann Eileen will investigate how the ice conditions in the fjord system have changed over the past few thousand years.

Axel Jeremiassen, a PhD student in the Department of Cultural and Social History, gave us a detailed account of Greenland’s history from the arrival of the Saqqaq people in 2500 BCE through WWII.  Unlike many indigenous peoples, Greenlanders have had the fortune to have a long history of written language.  Axel’s PhD project takes advantage of this rich history by looking at letters to the editor in the two longest running Greenlandic newspapers, Atuagagdliutit and Avangnamiok, to see the opinions and thoughts of Greenlanders over time.

Axel Jeremiassen teaches us about the early history of Greenland -- the Saqqaq, Dorset, and Thule cultures.

Axel Jeremiassen teaches us about the early history of Greenland — the Saqqaq, Dorset, and Thule cultures.

Our experience at Ilisimatusarfik was both educational and enjoyable.  Many thanks to all for the warm welcome and the willingness to share knowledge with us.  We look forward strengthening our ties with Ilisimatusarfik in the future.

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On Aug 8th we had the pleasure of traveling up the Kobbefjord by boat to visit the Nuuk Basic field station. Nuuk Basic was established in 2007 through funding by the Aage V. Jensen Charity Foundation and is run by the Danish Energy Agency. The aim of the field station is to document and study the effects of climate change on aquatic and terrestrial systems.  Although relatively new, the station has already housed many researchers and is generating incredible data.  What’s more, the long term data they have begun collecting will undoubtedly be valuable in the coming years and decades, especially when compared to the data generated by its sister field station, Zackenberg Basic, in Northeast Greenland.

The main building at Nuuk Basic can house four researchers, has a kitchen, toilet, and a laboratory.  If the researcher population is higher than four (which it often is), a small tent village is created around the main building. photo source

The main building at Nuuk Basic can house four researchers, has a kitchen, toilet, and a laboratory. If the researcher population is higher than four (which it often is), a small tent village is created around the main building. photo source

After a lovely 45 minute boat ride from Nuuk we were greeted by our guide for the day, Maia Olsen.  Maia is a Nuuk native who traveled to Denmark to obtain her bachelor’s degree in molecular biology but has returned to Greenland to spend time in the field.


Maia greets us on the rocks as we arrive by dinghy.

Maia is in charge of collecting data associated with BioBasis, which is one of the four branches of research conducted at Nuuk Basic (the others are ClimateBasis, GeoBasis, and MarineBasis). For BioBasis, Maia is observing phenology of flowering plants, conducting bird surveys, and pan trapping for insects among other duties. I was interested to learn that, like the Colorado habitats where I perform my field work, snowmelt is the main driver of flowering phenology in these habitats.

Maya explains what data she is in charge of collecting as part of BioBasis.

Maia explains what data she is in charge of collecting as part of BioBasis.

Next we were introduced to Maria, a Danish researcher who is getting some field time in before starting a Master’s program.  Maria is currently in charge of collecting data on soil methane release. The set-up is incredible, and consists of a series of small bridges extending into a wet meadow.  The bridges lead to eight plexiglass boxes.  Once every few minutes, the lids automatically close and take methane measurements using a sensor similar to the IRGA that we learned about from Julia Bradley-Cook. One of the most incredible features of this research is that all of the data are instantly and freely available online (link).


Maria explain how the methane monitoring system works.

After a quick hike we came across three more researchers who are studying how climate change could affect soils and vegetation.  They are using ITEX, the plexiglass structures pictured below, to increase temperatures over several plots within a meadow near the Nuuk Basic field station. We tried sticking our hands in these plots and noticed that the air was considerably warmer in there, so the treatments seems to be working well! The first researcher explained that she is studying how increased temperatures could affect soil CO2 flux by placing an IRGA over a small patch of bare soil in each plot (learn more about an IRGA from Julia here!). Next, another researcher demonstrated how he collects data on vegetation CO2 flux using a larger chamber that fits completely over the shrubby plants within the plots. Finally, yet another researcher showed us how he collects air samples to test for VOCs (volatile organic compounds) released by the plants.


Christine tests the air inside the ITEX. Yep! It’s warmer in there!

We get the lowdown on how these researchers are investigating how warmer climates could affect soil carbon flux.

We get the lowdown on how the Nuuk Basic researchers are investigating how warmer climates could affect soil carbon flux.


We are all impressed the the volatile organic compound (VOC) capturing machine! The VOCs are sucked up into a small metal tube, to be analyzed later in a lab in Denmark.

Nuuk Basic is an incredible facility filled with enthusiastic scientists.  Thanks to Maia and all the other researchers for taking time out of their field seasons to show us around, we are eager to see what conclusions can be drawn from these data! Keep up the good work!

Check out those sweet hats!

Check out those sweet hats!

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As the lone engineer on this field seminar, there has been so much to gain from the unique perspectives of both my fellow students and everyone that we have been fortunate to meet in Greenland. After over a week of seeing the tundra through the eyes of ecologists and earth scientists, I was excited to travel to Nuuk, Greenland’s capital city, and see this beautiful country through the eyes of the people who live and work here.


Cohort 4 arrives in Nuuk!

With many changes happening in Greenland due to exploration for natural resources, a recent election, and a rapidly changing climate, there is so much for us to learn. We were able to meet with representatives from the Department of Permitting for Minerals and Natural Resources, the Greenlandic hunters and fishers association (KNAPK), the Inuit Circumpolar Council, and physicians from Nuuk’s center for family medicine.

Of course, the engineer in me sees all of these different perspectives as part of a larger system. Each person that we met with had a particular expertise within the system but it was the links between these entities which were the most interesting. For example, figuring out how natural resource exploration and extraction might affect hunters and fishers in Greenland, or how a changing climate and globalization might affect the culture or mental health in Greenland.


Shrimp populations in Greenland are moving northward, causing economic shifts in southern Greenland.

These types of cross-linking effects are already visible. Some examples of these changes include shifting aquatic species found in Greenland’s waters due to warming temperatures and the emergence of more chronic illness in Greenland caused by changing diets and lifestyles. It is of course a complex and extremely dynamic system, as vibrant as the colors of the homes in Nuuk and as alive as the culture and city at all hours of the day. We were given a unique chance to delve into some of its pieces this system with the help of all the generous people we met.


Brightly colored houses dot the coastline in Nuuk.

We would like to extend many thanks to all of the people who took time to meet with our IGERT cohort while we were in Nuuk! We appreciate that you shared your ideas and time with us.

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This year marks the fourth year that Dartmouth graduate students are in Nuuk, Greenland as part of an IGERT goal to build and sustain partnerships in Greenland. A core component to our success has been involvement with the Joint Committee, a high-level forum involving cooperation and interaction between the Greenlandic, Danish, and U.S. governments.

The Joint Committee Science Group supports projects such as IGERT that facilitate interaction between government, academia, and the private sector to advance Arctic science and education policy. This year I joined Ross Virginia and Lenore Grenoble for a meeting with Naja Lund of the Joint Committee and Greenland representative of the Arctic Council. We are excited to work with Naja in the future to continue our involvement with the Joint Science Education Project, expand our student exchange program, and develop new initiatives that support the Joint Committee’s language and education goals.

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(Note: This was written on Wednesday 8/8.  We haven’t had a fast internet connection since then!)

Hello from the city of brightly colored buildings, ice bergs, deep fjords, and the seat of the Greenlandic government!  The remainder of cohort III (Lee left us for Thule) safely arrived in Nuuk on Monday morning, after a 1-hr flight on a ~20 passenger prop plane, Dash-7.  The views were so stunning that I don’t think anyone would have objected to a slightly longer flight, except perhaps the man in the window seat next to me who had to deal with my snapping pictures every three minutes or so.


(Photo: A.Giese)

On Monday, we kept busy by familiarizing ourselves with the central part of the city, the waterfront (rather, one of many), and some internet cafes.  Internet is surprisingly hard to come by here, but the fact that it’s available only at the distant university or in cafes provides a good excuse to indulge in delicious pastries and cappuccinos.  On Monday night, Courtney, Julia, and cohort III were invited for a “girls’ night” at the home of Upaluk Poppel, a Greenlandic woman who studied at Dartmouth two years ago with the Dickey Center’s Greenland exchange program.  It was a rare treat to spend time in a home after so many weeks of traveling, and our frank but light conversations served as a perfect introduction to the culture of our new location.

On Tuesday, we elected to familiarize ourselves with the history of Greenland and its people at the National Museum, which houses an impressive collection of clothing; household and hunting materials telling the story of Greenlanders from the expansion of the Thule Culture more than 1,000 years ago to the present; and the Mummies of Qilakitsoq, made internationally famous by a National Geographic feature in 1985.  Following the museum and a brief lunch, we attended a talk on the proposed Isua Iron Ore Project, which would create an open pit mine roughly 150 km northeast of Nuuk.  The mine is controversial for a number of reasons (environmental effects, influx of foreign workers), though the talk centered around the engineering design of the mine rather than the social issues, which will be the focus of a meeting in late August after we leave.  We heard from a London Mining representative as well as an engineer from the engineering company SNC, and the talk was translated into Kalaallisut, as well.  Not only was the project itself fascinating to hear about (especially because they have to “mine” part of the glacier to access ore), but the dynamics between speakers with different interests were also thought-provoking.  We observed how the project chose to present complicated science and engineering to a general audience.

Following the mining talk, we received our first official Kalaallisut (Greenlandic language) lesson with two students from UChicago working with Lenore Grenoble, renowned linguist and our other professor for the Nuuk segment of the seminar.  TJ and Perry taught us basic phrases like hello, good day, how are you, thank you, yes, and no, which are, respectively: “aluu,” “kutaa,” “qanoq ippit,” “qujanaq,” “aap,” and “naamik.”  We practiced some of our new skills when in town last night with noted documentary filmmaker, Patrick Morrell, and when meeting with the Inuit Circumpolar Council (ICC) this morning.


View of Nuuk from the University. (Photo: A.Giese)

The roundtable gathering at ICC this morning was the highlight of our time here so far.  After meeting ICC International president Aqqaluk Lynge at Dartmouth last winter and again at IPY, we were all familiar with the basic aim and structure of the ICC: an organization that acts as a “permanent participant” in the Arctic Council and advocates for Inuit self-determination, human rights, health, education, language, political participation, and other Inuit interests.  The ICC bears the responsibility of implementing the UN Declaration of Indigenous Rights locally and firmly believes indigenous involvement essential to its efficacy.  The Inuit have reasserted their identity and human rights in recent decades as Greenland transitioned from colonial status to home rule and then to self-rule status in 2009.  Now, Greenland has autonomy in all areas except foreign affairs, defense, and financial policy.  (Note: this means that Greenland has complete ownership/control over its natural resources.)

ICC Greenland President, Carl Christian Olsen (Puju) spoke of the inception of the ICC, its integration into the Greenlandic government and UN, and its role around the circumpolar region in general.  Its range of interests is instantly apparent within the first 10 feet of the office, where I walked by the Arctic Pollution 2011 Report and the Inuit Diabetes Calendar.  Much of our conversation with Puju centered around the International Labor Organization (ILO) convention of 169, ratified by Denmark and Greenland in 1996, which required that nation states recognize indigenous identities, removed any mandatory assimilation practices, and permitted self identification.  A particularly illustrative example of the types of issues resolved by the UN ILO convention number 169 was that of individual land ownership (imposed during colonization) vs. common land use (Inuit practice); now, all of Greenland is public land.  Land use is a concern that extends beyond Greenland, too; because migratory patterns don’t conform to international boundaries, hunters often have to navigate different policies and regulations.

Another part of our conversation focused on the future, and Puju identified the navigability of the Arctic Ocean as a concern.  He also spoke of knowledge and resource sharing between the various geographical divisions of ICC.  Chukotka has been in need of aid following the collapse of the Soviet Union, and the ICC provided dentists, doctors, clothing, and housing.  Alaska can share its experience with resource (especial oil) development, Canada its progressive reputation for environmental management, and Greenland its political and social integration of Inuit peoples as well as its focus on human rights.  Despite the obvious and enormous challenges the ICC faces, it was reassuring and encouraging to hear optimism about the future.

It’s been an exciting, educational, and fun stay so far in Nuuk!  We have more exciting engagements coming up, like our public talks at Katuaq on Monday (see below), so stay tuned!


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Scientist in Action at Nuuk Basic

This week we had the unique opportunity to visit Nuuk Basic, a low-arctic long-term ecological monitoring station.  The research station is part of the Greenlandic Ecological Monitoring (GEM) program, which also has a station in high-arctic northwest Greenland at Zackenburg.  The goal of the GEM program is to study the effects of climate change on the terrestrial, freshwater, and marine environments of Greenland and more broadly the arctic using “cross-disciplinary” techniques.

Greenland Ecological Monitoring (GEM) program sites

Cross-disciplinary – it is kind of like double narwhalwhat does it mean?

When I think of the term cross-disciplinary, I envision using one set of methodologies (i.e. ecology) to think about and answer questions in a different field (i.e. geology).  Cross-disciplinary may or may not be synonymous with multi-disciplinary, inter-disciplinary, or trans-disciplinary; it may also just be used colloquially as a synonym.   This is one very interesting questions that our Polar Environmental Change IGERT program at Dartmouth College is trying to think about and contribute to the discussion occuring in academia.

Badeso in the foreground (i.e. the lake with Arctic char) and Kobbefjord in the background

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