Arctic Science Summit week: 2023 edition
Updated: Mar 3
The Arctic Science Summit Week (ASSW) is an annual event organized by the International Arctic Science Committee (IASC) that brings together researchers, policymakers, and stakeholders from around the world to discuss the latest findings and developments in Arctic research. This year the event took place from February 17th – February 24th in Vienna, Austria.
ASSW logo by IASC.
The theme for the 2023 ASSW was "The Arctic in the Anthropocene". This reflects the urgent need to better understand the rapidly changing Arctic environment and its impact on global climate and ecosystems. The conference covered a wide range of topics related to Arctic research, including climate change, biodiversity, human health, social and cultural dimensions, and sustainable development.
One of the key objectives of the ASSW is to foster collaboration and knowledge exchange among Arctic stakeholders. The conference provides an opportunity for researchers from different disciplines to share their findings and insights, and to discuss how to better integrate scientific research with policy and decision-making. The ASSW also includes a series of workshops, round-table discussions, and networking events, which provide opportunities for participants to connect and exchange ideas.
Pictures of #wienliebe and ice skating ring in Vienna.
Vienna was the host city because this year it is the 150th anniversary of the Austro-Hungarian expedition to Franz Josef Land. Moreover, the city has a long history of scientific excellence, and is the home to several world-class research institutions, including the University of Vienna and the Austrian Academy of Sciences. Vienna is also known for its vibrant cultural scene and its commitment to sustainability, making it a perfect host city for a conference focused on the Arctic's future.
APECS BE was represented at this year’s edition and three of us presented our research. First, we had, Eléonore du Bois d'Aische from Earth and Life Institute at UCLouvain and SPHERES Research Unit at ULiège, who studies permafrost degradation. She presented her work of combining geochemical and geophysical parameters with a focus on iron-organic carbon interactions. With permafrost thaw comes soil subsidence and thereby changes in soil hydrological conditions. This has a direct impact on soil redox conditions and therefore redox sensitive elements such as iron. Iron can protect physically as well as physico-chemically carbon from mineralization. But with fluctuations in soil redox conditions upon permafrost thaw, the interactions between iron and organic carbon may not hold making organic carbon vulnerable for mineralization.
Eléonore du Bois d'Aische wants to thank the IASC for the support of travel funding, she is grateful to have this amazing opportunity to come to Vienna and give a talk in front of so many senior and early career scientists. This is a good opportunity to share her work and to learn from the audience. She said ‘Vienna is a beautiful city with so many incredible historical buildings. It is definitely worth visiting it, especially under a bright sun and a blue sky. ‘
Eléonore du Bois d'Aische during her presentation.
Next, Jill De Visscher from Protistology and Aquatic Ecology at Ghent University, who focuses on microorganisms in lakes and soils, talked about the functional potential of the microbiome in polar lakes. Life on the poles is mostly dominated by microorganisms, so these organisms are very important for the ecosystem functioning. However, our knowledge of which functions these microorganisms perform in polar lakes is still limited. Climate change not only impacts the community composition of the microbiome but can also change the functions of these communities. Therefore, it is important to understand which functions these organisms are performing and how this can possibly be affected by climate change.
Jill De Visscher said ‘Vienna is a beautiful city with many beautiful architecture and wonderful parks, so this was the perfect setting for the conference. It was very interesting to exchange ideas and thoughts with other participants. Given the wide diversity of topics covered at the conference, it was a great opportunity to learn more about other research fields. Looking back, it was a great experience and I returned with some new insights on my research.’
Jill De Visscher during her presentation.
Lastly, Lotte De Maeyer, from the same lab as Jill, who investigates the soil microbiome in high-Arctic tundra and presented her work on the impact of moisture availability on these organisms. In the project CLIMARCTIC, we focus on moisture because the Arctic is not only affected by increased temperature but also changes in precipitation at the hand of climate change. Therefore, it is of utmost importance to understand how these microorganisms, who are key players in important ecosystems functions, are impacted by these changes. Because this can, in turn, potentially lead to altered functions and whatever happens in the Arctic will not stay in the Arctic and will impact lower latitude regions.
Lotte De Maeyer during her presentation.
Lotte said ‘I enjoyed myself a lot during the conference. It was an intellectual stimulating experience set in a beautiful city full of wonderful art and beautiful buildings. But also, a lot of green can be found in Vienna creating a lot of options to take a breath and relax. Coffee breaks were a delight with tasty pastries in and immense hall covered in beautiful paintings and the biggest chandeliers I had ever seen in my life. I returned from the conference tired from the long train ride but also with a renewed enthusiasm and energy to do science’.
Overall, the ASSW 2023 fulfilled it promises and it was an exciting and informative event for anyone interested in Arctic research and its impact on the world. The conference provided unique opportunities to connect with experts around the world, and to learn about the latest developments in this rapidly evolving field. If you are interested in participating in this wonderful event, you can join next year in Edinburgh, UK, where the ASSW 2024 will be held. Go ahead and mark 21 March 2024 - 29 March 2024 in your calendar!