Biology student share experiences from internships in the Arctic
Biology student share experiences from internships in the Arctic

From seawater analyses to polar bear guarding

Life as a lab technician intern at UNIS is varied as always! Lately I have been working with the nutrient analyser, organising samples and equipment in the biology department storage rooms, done some seawater filtrations and been polar bear guarding on a field excursion with the limnology (freshwater biology) course. It’s nice to get so many different experiences and I learn a lot from utilising my biological knowledge and skills in different fields of biology.

As I mentioned in the last post, there is a lot of work needed to get the nutrient analyser running. But after spending a lot of time on preparations and calibrations, we had to give up, at least temporarily. There is a special coil in one of the channels that the seawater is running though that has caused us a lot of problems. After testing out several cleaning and activating procedures with no luck, we had to face the defeat and order a new coil. And since we are finding ourselves in a High Arctic island, that could take some time!

Although it was a little disappointing not to get results from the nutrient analyser, I feel like I have learnt a lot from this process. Trying to run a complex machine like this without much experience requires creativeness and analytical thinking, and being able to find solutions. I think that it is very valuable to deal with situations like these and learning to think independently instead of just being told what to do.

I have also been working a little with one of the other bachelor students here, Dagny, who is doing a bachelor project in marine molecular biology. I’m helping her process some seawater samples, where we run seawater through filters of different sizes and structures to do analyses of for example DNA, RNA and chlorophyll. It’s interesting to learn some of the techniques and methods that are used in this field as I have mostly been working with terrestrial biology.

One of the most rewarding days of my internship though, was a snowmobile trip into a beautiful valley outside Longyearbyen, joining the fieldwork of a limnology course as a polar bear guard. Didn’t really feel like work J It’s also nice to join fieldwork as a part of the staff, as I get to know the professors a little better and get to learn about some sampling techniques without putting my hands in freezing cold water! Next week I will be joining a field excursion with the environmental management course, where we are going to count reindeers.

I feel very lucky to have such a nice internship and I’m looking forward to keep working with my internship host and the rest of the department!

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