My interest in plastic pollution in the Arctic was sparked through my studies of Coastal Communities and Regional Development at the University Centre of the Westfjords (UW, Iceland). So, when I got the change to attend the UArctic Summer School in Nuuk (Greenland) on Marine Plastic in the Arctic Ocean I was obviously thrilled and could not wait. Greenland was the perfect place to learn more about plastic pollution in our oceans.
After a long journey and many hours spend in tiny airports I arrived in Nuuk and could instantly admire the tall mountains all around. My first morning in Nuuk started with a nice surprise visit of an iceberg that found its way to the shallow waters close to town. Our Summer School week was intense and filled with interesting lectures as well as lab- and fieldwork. Among other things, we got the chance to go for a boat ride and clean some beaches around Nuuk. The litter that was found was later analyzed to determine its origins and estimate the time it had spent in the ocean. Furthermore, we got to dissect fulmars and analyze their stomach contents. We also visited the local waste treatment facilities and learned a lot about the challenges of handling waste. Lastly, we had the opportunity to talk to local stakeholders about how they perceive and understand the issues surrounding plastic pollution in the Arctic ocean.
When the time came to travel home again some of us had troubles with delayed and rescheduled flights, long layovers and long travel times in general were common. However, since many of us travelled parts of our journey together even this part turned out to be fun. Though the Summer School was short I learned a lot about plastic in the Arctic Ocean, waste management in the Arctic, remote places and Greenland in particular. This intense week gave me a more thorough understanding of the issue of plastic pollution in the Arctic in general and in our Oceans. Moreover, it gave me the opportunity to connect with other likeminded researchers. We will forever be bound together not only through the time we spend inside the classroom but especially though the time we spend outside doing fieldwork and enjoying our free time together.
By Louise Wittwer