I am on Svalbard to work on my master thesis which is co-directed by Connie Lovejoy at Université Laval and Tove M. Gabrielsen at University Centre in Svalbard. The project is funded by the Research Council of Norway and MicroFun Research program. Pico- and nanoeukaryotes (0,45 to 10 micrometers size) are key elements in biogeochemical processes such as the carbon pump and represent a large proportion of total primary producers biomass through almost all year. Unfortunately, little is known about biogeography of them and the perspective of climate change and strong modification (as stratification) appear to be more pronounced in the Arctic ocean.
My main aim of research is to determine the correlation between historical dispersal events (influence of hydrogeography and water masses (Atlantic and Arctic water masses)) and/or contemporary variable environmental conditions (temperature, salinity, nutrients, etc.) with pico- and nanopicoeukaryotes community structures around Svalbard archipelago. As those organisms are too small, metagenomic next generation sequencing (454) will be used to determine communities structure.
But science is half the reasons why I came back on Svalbard. Adventures are infinite in the Arctic. There is this continuous adrenaline during your excursion, where a simple moraine represent a source of polar bears encounters, avalanches or even ice glacier crevasses, which make each adventure a unique moment. The endemic characteristic of the Arctic is also to be wider than it looks like and time allowed to cross valleys is often underestimated by inexperienced people. At this moment of the year, our biggest challenge is probably the rivers. Arctic snow is still melting, creating larger rivers than on maps. As those are only a small part of elements to keep in mind, the success of an excursion is strongly linked to the teamwork. Thereby, unique relationships develop between the hiking team. When I came back from Svalbard in July 2012, how much I felt strange to hike only with a small backpack, without rifle, flare gun, avalanche beacon, probe, etc!
Actually, a friend of mine, while a camping trip with his friends after being back from Svalbard, woke up in panic and looked for his rifle before figuring that the “polar bear noise” was in fact his friend snoring!