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Published: 2023-12-19 Updated: 2023-12-20, 09:04

Successful Sample Collection at Svalbard Scientific Expedition

NEWS Postdoctoral fellow Audrey Schillings went to Svalbard to study the Eidembukta lagoon. The trip was funded by the Arctic Centre at Umeå University.

In the middle of August 2023, Postdoctoral fellow and Arctic Five fellow Audrey Schillings went to Svalbard together with a team of Lituanian marine researchers to study the Eidembukta lagoon. The trip was funded by the Arctic Centre at Umeå University.

Audrey Schillings is a Postdoctoral fellow at the Department of Physics at Umeå University, and an Arctic Five fellow. She joined a team of marine researchers on an expedition to the Eidembukta lagoon on Svalbard.

Tell us about the expedition!

– The scientific expedition was a week long at the Eidembukta lagoon on Svalbard, between 13 and 20 August 2023. It was led by a Lithuanian team from the Marine Research Institute of Klaipéda University, Lithuania. The team was composed of researchers from Klaipéda University, a student team and their leaders from the Institute of Oceanology Polish Academy of Sciences and Gdansk University of Technology, one retired researcher from the US, and myself, Schillings explains.

She continues and shares more information about the lagoon.

– The Eidembukta lagoon, located between Eidembukta bay and Eidembreen glacier, expands every year due to the melting of the surrounding glaciers. This expedition was the third expedition in Eidembukta bay for conducting hydrogeological surveys of the lagoon and taking samples in its surroundings.

What did you do during the expedition?

Schillings explains that they conducted research in the lagoon by collecting sediments data and doing depth measurements, and on the land by taking geological samples, e-DNA samples, sediments and hydrological parameters in many ponds and lakes as well as flying a drone to map the area with high resolution. Then, after the expedition, they ordered and assembled all data samples and pictures of the area collected for research purposes.

– During the expedition, I was part of the “land group” where we walked in the entire area collecting geological samples at multiple places, and e-DNA, sediments and hydrological samples in the ponds and lakes. The days we collected e-DNA and water samples, once we were back in the camp, we continued with the filtering of the water samples.

How did you, as a space researcher, end up on this expedition?

– I was on Svalbard earlier this year, in January, at the Polar Night Week in Longyearbyen. That trip was also made possible by funding from the Arctic Centre. There, I met the team, and then later in the year I was helping the team with satellite images of the region. The satellite images from Sentinel-2 data operated by the European Space Agency (ESA) were used to plan part of expedition and highlight specific points to visit once in Svalbard. I joined the project after that.

A week of rich wildlife and successful sample collecting

Schillings shares that during the seven days at the lagoon, they saw almost all types of wildlife, such as arctic foxes, a lot of birds including puffins, arctic skua and arctic ptarmigan, seals, reindeers, and the king of Svalbard: a polar bear that came to greet the team in the first morning at about 300 meters from the camp.

In the end, Schillings is very happy with the expedition.

– Despite several logistical challenges before and during the expedition, and not the best weather, we collected many samples of all types, which hopefully will provide nice results and lead to a better understanding of lagoon formation in the arctic environment.

Audrey Schillings
Postdoctoral fellow (on leave), postdoctoral fellow