News - July 17, 2015

Summer job: Summer in Lapland

Linda van der Nat

Wageningen students like to be busy during their holidays. Resource portrays students who use their summer holidays to work in their discipline. This week: Iris Keizer.

Photos by Fanny Olsthoorn

In summer you go to a sunny place with friends or family. Or maybe you stay in Wageningen to study, and every now and then take a dive in the Rhine. Iris Keizer, master student Biology and student editor of Resource, stands this summer to her calves in the bog in Lapland.

Over a week ago, Fanny (MSc Forest and Nature Conservation), Victor (MSc Forest and Nature Conservation) and Iris got on the plane. They had only met each other  a few times beforehand, and now they would do research with the three of them, for their theses during seven weeks, in Finnish Lapland, about the moving tree line due to climate change.

Iris: 'Personally I look amongst others how permafrost and shrubs affect saplings. Last year, our predecessors, four other thesis students, planted a lot of saplings at various places in the bogs with and without permafrost. This year it's my job to see how they are doing.’

In practice that means the following: wearing mosquito protecting clothing and boots, mosquito net on your head, and in the bog, between the bushes, looking for 3 centimeters high seedlings. ‘I think after a week here I've already seen more mosquitoes than during my entire previous thesis, which was actually about the biological control of mosquitoes.’

The three students are all involved in each other's research, says Iris. ‘Fanny and Victor help me to check the trees, and I for example help them in estimating the reindeer density of another region, or in setting up an experiment on the effect of rodents on the establishment of trees. That is a lot of fun.’

The base is a research station next to a 'stunning' lake. The students can enjoy the view 24 hours a day: the sun does not set this time of year. ‘We have already met many nice people here. We sat around the campfire with Finnish researchers with their dry Finnish humor, a French student and a group of Spanish researchers. Occasionally we have time to get acquainted with the Sami culture. We have been to the fishing competition of the year, and afterwards we had a very nice evening at the local karaoke bar. Also, a piece of reindeer meat could not miss in our integration in Lapland.’

The first week Iris' tutors came along to the research station to help with setting up the experiments. Yesterday they left, so now Iris, Fanny and Victor have to figure it all out by themselves. ‘If we do not sink into the bog, it is probably going to be fine.’

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