My research is focusing on the marine ecosystem in Ilulissat Icefjord, Greenland. Ilulissat Icefjord has one of the most productive glaciers regarding icebergs in the Arctic. This makes it an interesting fjord system to study as the marine terminating glacier is assumed to provide good conditions for the marine productivity. At the same time, it is also a challenging fjord system to study, as the main fjord is usually closed off by huge Icebergs much of the year, and the fjords accessibility depends on good snow and sea ice conditions. Traditional surveying methods such as trawl surveys or surveys from research vessels, are impossible to use due to the huge icebergs in the main fjord.
For my PhD project, which is in cooperation with the Greenland Institute of Natural Resources and Arctic Research Centre at Aarhus University, Denmark, I have chosen to use an interdisciplinary approach to be able to explore the marine ecosystem inside the fjord and to uncover some of the characteristics of the fjord’s ecosystem. The methods I have chosen are using eDNA, nutrient concentration measurements, oxygen isotope analysis, CTD profiles, stomach samples from different seals and fish caught inside Ilulissat Icefjord as well as using the knowledge of the people that use the fjord system as a fishing and hunting ground.
Fishermen and hunters in Greenland usually start their fishing/hunting activities early in their lives, which ultimately gives them years of experience and knowledge. For this reason, they hold the knowledge of the effects the changing climate has on living resources, and of the environmental conditions which they have had to adapt to in order to continue their fishing/hunting activities. Their stories also tell of their resilience to climate change, and their ability to adapt to these environmental changes, contradicting the believe of the traditional Inuit way of life being static. Sea ice, for example, plays a crucial role in the traditional fishing and hunting activities. Due to the warming climate, fishing/hunting activities had to adapt to these changes. For many centuries, Ilulissat Icefjord had only been accessible with dogsleds when land-fast sea ice had formed. But today, as the fjord becomes more accessible from the sea, boats are used more and more to fish in the fjord instead. I have worked with local fishermen and hunters in collecting stomachs from different seals and fish to look for indications of the structure of the local food web. So I have also spent many hours looking at stomach content.
The project is broad indeed, requiring an interdisciplinary approach and will ultimately lead to a description of the fjord systems ecosystem. My interdisciplinary approach has required a broad insight into different methods, which requires me to build up a network and collaborate across different scientific disciplines. Being part of the Marine Working Group in IASC will hopefully provide a broader network and open up for greater opportunities.
Sascha Schiøtt, e-mail: sasc [AT] natur [DOT] gl, tlf no: +45 21200501
Photo, top left: Sascha going through stomach samples, Photo Credit: Else Olsvig
Photo, top right: Going fishing with dogsled in Ilulissat Icefjord, Photo Credit: Sascha Schiøt
IASC Fellowship Program
The IASC Fellowship Program is meant to engage Early Career Scientists (ECS) in the work of the IASC Working Groups (WGs). IASC Fellows are doctoral or postdoctoral researchers who actively participate in selected activities of the IASC WGs. The total duration of the IASC Fellowship Program is 1+2 years. After the first year the Fellows have an opportunity to stay involved up to 2 more years. The further involvement is individually decided by the WG Steering Group and the Fellow.
From 2020, following the recommendations of the IASC Action Group on Indigenous Involvement (AGII), IASC welcomed also two indigenous Fellows (Inaugural Fellows announced on 27 April 2020). IASC has had Indigenous Fellows before, but this new recommendation (and budget line!) means that there will be at least one every year, as an additional sixth Fellow appointed each year. They will be able to choose whichever IASC Working Group is most of interest and relevance to them. .
The IASC fellowship Program opens for new candidates every year around late September and is due mid-November. The call and the selection is held in collaboration with APECS.