Velkommen! Tikilluarit! Welcome!
We are three students from Denmark, Greenland, and the United States, and we are Team Ukaleq! Ukaleq is the Greenlandic word for ‘Arctic hare’. We traveled to Kangerlussuaq, Greenland to be part of the Joint Science Education Project (JSEP), a program of the U.S. National Science Foundation and the Greenlandic and Danish governments. Kangerlussuaq is a small town in the southwestern part of Greenland with a population of about 500, and it is mainly home to scientists and researchers — including us!
Meet the Team
I’m Frederik from Denmark! I’m 18 years old and in my second year of high school. I applied to be part of this project because I love exploring nature and new places.
I’m Rune, a student from south Greenland. I wanted to participate in JSEP to expand my knowledge, find different perspectives on science, and meet people who want to do the same.
I’m Aislinn! I’m 17 and a high school student in the United States from a small, rural town near Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. I applied to be a member of the U.S. team because I’m passionate about science and the pursuit of global improvement.
We wanted to share three of the most significant aspects of our time at JSEP: the nature, the knowledge, and the people!
JSEP is, first and foremost, a truly wild experience. We camped next to a glacier, went hiking on the ice sheet, had close encounters with free-roaming wildlife like musk ox and caribou, and spent hours hiking, camping, tenting, and living in (and with) the wild and untouched nature of Greenland, from Kangerlussuaq to Russell Glacier to Summit Station.
We realized that we take many parts of our lives for granted once we understood how people have depended on nature in a very deeply connected relationship for a very long time, especially in Greenland, where there is a very strong cultural basis for the role of nature. People in Greenland have always had a very deep respect for nature and all things in it. Many of them depend on their relationship with nature for almost everything – food, clothing, shelter, and so on. Many people here still rely on or use nature for many things. We begin to have this same respect for nature and the world around us.
Our experiences with nature were much more than hiking and seeing wild animals. It changed our perception of the world around us and we began to reevaluate the way we see the nature around our homes. In Greenland, we saw the coexistence between people and the wild, and it was one of the most significant experiences we had.
We spent our first two weeks completing the Kangerlussuaq Science Field School component of the program. We shared in cooking and cleaning responsibilities and split our time between classroom learning and field work. We designed and completed our own independent research projects in small groups. We (Frederik and Aislinn) were in the same group and we set out to study plant biodiversity along the climate gradient here in Greenland, while Rune was in the group that studied biological life (like zooplankton and vegetation) in freshwater and saltwater lakes. We presented our research at the conclusion of the Field School component and shared our research with the general public in an outreach opportunity at the airport.
We studied interdisciplinary sciences like geology, biology, botany, glaciology, and limnology (the study of lakes), took ablation (melting ice) measurements at Point 660 on Russell Glacier, calculated river measurements at the Watson River, practiced GPS tracking, looked for fossils in a giant fossil quarry, collected sea tomatoes, and practiced lichenometry.. just to name a few of the things we did!
We spent our final week at the top of the Greenland Ice Sheet at Summit Station. We were flown to and from the site by the Air National Guard in an LC-130 cargo plane and camped out in tents on the ice (in subzero temperatures!) while studying snow and ice (everything from albedo to physics!).
To us as a team, one of the most important parts of JSEP was the people. We learned from them and with them, and all three of us are returning home with lifelong friends from Denmark, Greenland, and the U.S. We are especially thankful for our coaches, Kasper Busk and Lotte Kjaer, for all of their support during our time together as a group. We could never have done it without you. Our coach, Lotte Kjaer, always said, “Everyone is a resource.” We appreciated all of the lecturers, coaches, students, professors, and teachers who were a part of the program. We had teachers from Denmark, Sweden, Greenland, the U.S., and more.
Each country hosted a cultural night, and we cooked traditional dishes, shared our history and culture, and played games, and these nights opened up conversations for our cultures as a whole. We found out that while we are different from each other, we are far more similar than we are different. We learned about coexistence, harmony, and teamwork with each other as well as with nature, wildlife, people, and the world around us.
Sometimes when we stood next to raging rivers, glaciers, and ice sheets, we felt very small on our own. When we stood as Team Ukaleq, though, instead of on our own, we felt a little bigger, and when we were all together as the JSEP team, we felt even stronger.
Ukaleq, the Arctic hare, is a social animal that survives in a group and coexists with many others, depending on them for survival. The Arctic hare is a prey animal and needs to stay on guard most of the time, relying on its group for safety. However, it is known for its playful nature. Ukaleqs know how to work hard and play hard! We were focused in class and were always 100% on when we were working. However, when we were done, we always had a lot of fun together with each other and with everyone else. All of us at JSEP became part of a family, and Ukaleq was a hardworking but playful part of that family. We are incredibly proud of our group and our team as a whole, and we were proud to be a part of JSEP 2015.
Yes, JSEP is about science, but it’s about much, much more than that. We are very proud to be Team Ukaleq, and we are thankful beyond words for JSEP 2015.
So, to all of our new friends, our teachers, and everyone we met along the way: Tak! Qujanaq! Thank you!