On Saturday 25th of November the staff and students at UNIS arranged an open day to showcase some of the research and education highlights to the rest of the population of Longyearbyen. All four UNIS departments, Arctic Geology, Arctic Biology, Arctic Geophysics and Arctic Technology, demonstrated some of the research conducted and, last but not least, also contributed to informing the children and adults of what is going on in Svalbard Forskningsparken during the year.
The Arctic Geology department took over the UNIS canteen and surrounding classrooms and converted it to a coal mine – highly topical given the recent decision by the Norwegian government to close down and clean up the Svea coal mining settlement. The mine entrance was easy to find – with dinosaur tracks leading the way from the reception and a hit with our younger visitors. Once in the mine, our visitors had the chance to experience something for everyone – be it fossil coloring for the youngest, outreach videos on the CO2 lab and methane seepage from pingos for the slightly older or demonstrations on the time aspect of the geological record for all ages.
We also demonstrated some of the state-of-the-art equipment we use in addition to compass, hammer and note book. These include an underwater remotely operated vehicle capable of submerging to 150 m depth taking videos, photos and samples on the way. In addition, we demonstrated the commercial drones we use for taking the photographs needed for photogrammetric 3D modelling of outcrops – and ARCEx PhD fellow Tom Birchall demonstrated the processing techniques by digitizing a large “cannon ball”.
The event was held indoors and in the full dark season – when there is absolutely no day light left and midday is just as dark as midnight in Longyearbyen. We nevertheless managed to run excursions to some outcrops – thanks to virtual reality! We managed to visit outcrops in Brazil, Utah as well as Svalbard, but we must also admit that with the youngest visitors a virtual reality dive with sharks by the Discovery Channel was more exciting – we still have some way to go for geology to be attractive but we are on the right way – and hopefully the UNIS open day stimulated some youngsters to strive to become natural scientists themselves. For us researchers these virtual outcrops and the numerous ways of immersing in them provide an exceptional opportunity to significantly “extend” our field season.
By Kim Senger,
Associate Professor in Structural Geology and Basin Analysis University Centre in Svalbard (UNIS)