GEM Scientist of The Month - June

For June Mikhail Mastepanov is GEM’s Scientist of the Month – also starting his new position as Zackenberg GeoBasis manager. Below he answers some questions about working for GEM and the special 'Arctic feeling'.

Mikhail, how did you get interested in the Arctic?

It would be a lie to say that I was always in love with the Arctic: as a kid, I was more dreaming about tropical islands, palm trees and warm sea. However, the fate decreed otherwise: my first field studies were done in Siberia, after few years my focus changed to Lapland, and after that – to Greenland. I have two PhD degrees: one in Biology (Moscow), the other in Physical Geography and Ecosystem Science (Lund). Now I am senior researcher at Aarhus University (Bios and ARC) and worked for many years for Lund University, Sweden. Somehow, I started feeling like an “Arctic researcher” - as even my children call me so. For at least all of their lives, I was always working in Arctic.


What is your current research all about?

The main focus of my research is greenhouse gas exchange between northern terrestrial ecosystems and atmosphere – how methane and carbon dioxide are emitted or consumed, and how these processes are influenced by the climate change. I develop automatic measurement systems, which can work days and nights for many months with minimal attendance, and generate a lot of important and often surprising data. And of course I work with this data, analyze it, trying to put different pieces of Mother Nature’s puzzle together.

 “I had many different experiences, but what is always living in my memory, is some combination of senses I always experience in Arctic – very special light, special smell, even the silence is special. All the senses become sharper. After being in Arctic for some time you will always want to come back to experience this feeling again. Every time I step off the plane in Zackenberg, I see this light, breathe in this air, and feel: I am here again!”


 Since when do you work for GEM and what do you enjoy most about it?

First time I came to Zackenberg in 2005 (most probably, I am the first Russian who has ever been in Zackenberg valley) – to enhance GeoBasis program with methane flux monitoring, from 2007 on also in Nuuk. Since then I have been at Zackenberg every summer, being gradually involved in more and more activities - now I am the new program manager for GeoBasis in Zackenberg. The fieldwork is a culmination of each year! Working at a remote place like Zackenberg is quite challenging: everything should be well thought and prepared in advance, there are no shops to go and buy even a simplest spare part, no Internet to google for extra information or advice. But this isolation has a positive side: I can throw off my brain all the troubles and disturbances of the big world and fully concentrate on my work – really enjoying it!


What are your hopes and aspirations for future Arctic research?

Arctic is changing fast, and we should rush to study it. Arctic research should be well planned, efficiently conducted, and properly communicated. We should be ready for surprises, for new phenomena – and study them when they happen.

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