GEM Scientist of the Month - July

2019.07.17 | Marie Frost Arndal

Thomas Juul-Pedersen represents GEM’s scientist of the month for July 2019, working as the manager of the MarineBasis program in Nuuk, as well as for several years in Zackenberg. Thomas focuses on the coastal ecosystems, fjords systems, and the interaction between glacier-fjord-ocean, as well as energy and carbon cycling on the continental shelf slopes, where the most important fisheries in Greenland takes place. Since 2007 he has been involved in GEM and he looks back at the exciting challenges of Arctic field work. For him, the “temporal perspective” is an exciting factor, which includes not only the great temporal variability of the ecosystem but also the time span of conducting research, studying, quantifying and describing these variations in order to commit to the long-term effort on monitoring. This creates a huge database of knowledge and unique time series set to grow more valuable and important by the year in a changing climate.” Living and working in Godthåbsfjord also comes with the unpredictable highlights of sampling during sunny summer weather with bypassing whales swimming by up to a cold blizzard in dark February.

Thomas is convinced of breaking down the barrier between monitoring and research, also in a personal level. When working on marine productivity and carbon cycling, linkages between environmental conditions and plankton communities, food web structure and function, the context of a changing climate creates the link to long-term monitoring goals of understanding the ecosystem in a climatic context. This means combining detailed process studies with the temporal perspective of descriptively quantifying seasonal and inter-annual patterns and variability and identifying climate related effects on marine ecosystems. “We simply have to get more and better time series to understand the temporal perspectives, variability and patterns, which cannot be resolved by short-term studies alone. GEM is a very good example of how investing in long-term monitoring programs attracts many short-term projects, which creates more than just the sum of the parts.”

For Thomas, working with the marine and coastal ecology in Greenland, a country with ca. 44.000km Arctic/Subarctic coastline, logistics and their costs can make science challenging, but also tremendously rewarding. Finding and describing new trends and patterns and contributing with new pieces of the Arctic puzzle – something that is particularly important and urgent in this rapidly changing environment.

There is a lot to gain for students as well. Also for Thomas, the Arctic excitement really started in university, when courses in Arctic ecology and biology took him to the Arctic Station in Qeqertarsuaq. This resulted in a master’s project and first memorable field work in the Disko Bay area. After his Masters, he moved to Canada for his PhD on Arctic biological oceanography, feeling the moods of the Northern Seas during six months onboard a research icebreaker in the Canadian Arctic. This work lead him directly to the Greenland Institute of Natural Resources where he has worked since 2007. By now, “the collaboration between MarinBasis-Nuuk and annual graduate courses since 2015, has resulted in many rewarding moments and it is great to see the motivation of the students when they know their field sampling contributes to the ongoing monitoring and at the same time it helps spreading the knowledge about the program and the datasets. Merging monitoring, research and education in practice is something that has great potential and can be mutual beneficial, even if it is not always easy.”

 “Living and working in Greenland for the past 11 years means that the Arctic is very important to me and I am proud to call it home. The Arctic is my life now; it is where I live, it is where have started a family and it is also where I have made a work family within GEM. Thus, in so many ways I am privileged to live and work in Nuuk and having the Godthåbsfjord as my backyard and place of work.”

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