‘Arctic Floating University 2022: The Changing Arctic’ Expedition Studies Northern Water Ecosystems

The ‘Arctic Floating University 2022: The Changing Arctic’ research and education expedition was held in the high Arctic on the Professor Molchanov research vessel from 24 June to 11 July. The research was conducted as part of the plan of the main events of Russia’s Chairmanship of the Arctic Council in 20212023, which is being operated by the Roscongress Foundation.

“The ‘Arctic Floating University: The Changing Arctic’ project is now in its 10th year. In this period, 675 participants from 53 universities and research institutes from all over the world have taken part in its voyages. All of this year’s expedition objectives have been achieved. We were able to carry out research in remote areas of the Novaya Zemlya archipelago and obtain valuable data on the biodiversity, ecology, climate, and historical and cultural heritage of the region,” Project Head and Director of the Institute of Arctic Strategic Development at Northern (Arctic) Federal University Alexander Saburov said.

55 participants from scientific and educational institutions and organizations took part in the expedition. The Professor Molchanov research vessel sailed along the route Arkhangelsk – ‘Cape Zhelaniya – Salmy Island’ oceanographic sector – Russkaya Gavan – Ledyanaya Gavan – Bukhta Murmantsa – Cape Zhelaniya – Bolshiye Oranskiye Islands – Ivanov Bay – Varnek (Vaygach Island) – Pechora Sea oceanographic sector – Arkhangelsk. One of the purposes of the expedition is to train young personnel in professions relevant to the region, to develop scientific and educational cooperation through expeditions in the high Arctic, and to get young people involved in science and project activities.

The expedition programme was based on the UNESCO concept of “Learning by Doing”, which combines theoretical training with scientific work under the guidance of scientists. Each stage of the research was accompanied by an educational component: students attended lectures by leading scientists in preparation for the expedition and participated in workshops, seminars, and practical sessions on board the ship. The researchers carried out work in seven areas that included microbiology, Arctic historical and cultural heritage, human adaptation to the high Arctic, and hydrometeorology.

Expedition participants also sorted, counted, and classified marine debris by type of polymer product along with other types of material. During the voyage, NArFU students tested a special robot designed to automate the recording and collection of rubbish that accumulates along the coast. In turn, staff from the Joint Institute for Nuclear Research investigated atmospheric deposition of heavy metals and radionuclides.

The researchers were also searching for new antibiotics and a variety of different enzymes. In particular, in Ivanov Bay, a researched from PFUR managed to obtain a representative sample of ‘coloured’ snow, presumed to contain Chlamydomonas nivalis. The algae will be identified more precisely in the Department of Microbiology and Virology laboratory at PFUR. Once the biomaterial has been processed, there are plans to create an antimicrobial, antimycotic product or one that increases the sensitivity of microorganisms to other chemotherapeutic agents.

The development of science and technology in the Arctic is a priority area of the Strategy for Developing Russia’s Arctic Zone and Ensuring National Security until 2035. Participants in the scientific and educational expedition gained new knowledge and practical skills and abilities in areas related to the marine and coastal territory ecosystems of the archipelagos and islands in the Western part of Russia’s Arctic. The expedition’s educational programme was implemented in eight modules that included Arctic eco-tourism, Arctic anthropology, and the history of Arctic exploration and development. The Arctic Floating University project was launched in 2012 and is implemented by Lomonosov Northern (Arctic) Federal University (NArFU) together with the Northern Hydrometeorology and Environmental Monitoring Department with support from the Russian Ministry of Science and Higher Education, the Russian Geographical Society, and Russian Arctic National Park.

A cross-cutting priority of Russia’s Chairmanship of the Arctic Council in 2021–2023 is to ensure responsible governance for sustainable Arctic development that is the socially, economically, and environmentally balanced. The chairmanship programme aims to increase the efficiency of scientific activities and the practical applicability of their results in the region, optimize the use of scientific infrastructure, promote new technologies and best practices in the implementation of joint projects, and increase high latitude specialist training though “Learning by Doing”.


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