16. juli 2021

Research expedition to the Central Arctic Ocean

Marine Biology

In the end of July, a research expedition is departing from our home waters of Øresund, setting course towards the Central Arctic Ocean. Onboard is PhD student Lisa von Friesen from the Marine Biology Section at the University of Copenhagen, who will spend the coming months studying microorganisms in the Arctic. 

During August and September, this expedition will cover parts of the Arctic Ocean that very rarely have been visited before because of its sea ice cover making it very complicated to reach. But being carried by the powerful icebreaker IB Oden, there are good chances the researchers will cross the North Pole, which of course is a symbolic highlight with the echo of footsteps from historical polar expeditions. The expedition will cover areas of the Arctic Ocean where multiyear sea ice remains, something that is becoming more and more rare in the Arctic because of climate change. But before the ship is departing, all participants will spend 8 days in strict quarantine in individual hotel rooms in Malmö because of the pandemic.

Arctic View
Sea ice on the Arctic Ocean. The expedition will gradually move from open waters into areas with more and thicker sea ice cover North of Greenland. Photo: L. von Friesen

Onboard the ship are 38 researchers from 14 different institutions from many countries. The expedition is a part of an international program where 12 research vessels in a collective effort aim to cover different regions of the Arctic Ocean, called the Synoptic Arctic Survey. The teams will together cover as much of the marine system as possible, including chemistry, physics and biology. A highlight is that especially the biological parameters will this time be much better covered compared to previous expeditions where the main focus has often been on water hydrography and chemistry. Largely based on collaboration between countries, institutions and research groups, this effort is hoping to cover large gaps in the understanding of the Arctic marine ecosystem that is one of the fastest changing oceans on our planet.

The participant from the University of Copenhagen is PhD student Lisa von Friesen from the group Marine molecular ecology, supervised by Professor Lasse Riemann. She will be a part of a group of researchers from Linnæus University in Sweden that focus on the smallest organisms in the Arctic: bacteria and phytoplankton.

– "I am beyond excited for this opportunity and feel privileged to be one of the few people who get to visit and study the Arctic Ocean. After many hours of planning, we are finally soon sailing off. Now the last days at home I am trying to enjoy the view of trees and darkness during night – there will not be much of that the coming months", says Lisa von Friesen, PhD student at the Marine Biology Section of the University of Copenhagen.

IB Oden

The Swedish icebreaker IB Oden on which the expedition will be carried out. Photo: L. von Friesen

The expedition can be followed on the blog of the Swedish Polar Research Secretariat https://www.polar.se/en/expeditions/synoptic-arctic-survey-2021/.