The Bjerknes Centre is a collaboration on climate research, between the University of Bergen, Uni Research, the Institute of Marine Research, Nansen Environmental and Remote Sensing Centre.

Researchers from UiB, IMR, GEOMAR, PINRO and AARI among others, were present at the workshop in St. Petersburg.

Arctic initiative opens up for Russia collaboration

Russian scientists are now expressing their interest towards an extensive synoptic survey of the Arctic Ocean. Scientists from eight countries are already part of the initiative set to start in 2020. 

The study named Synoptic Arctic Survey (SAS) aims to generate a synoptic data set that covers all basins and shelf seas of the Arctic Ocean through a set of coordinated scientific cruises. This will provide a complete characterisation of the area and its vulnerability to climate change. 

Initiators Are Olsen, researcher at UiB and the Bjerknes Centre, and Øyvind Paasche, head of Bergen Marine Research Cluster, has worked towards establishing good collaborations between the Arctic countries since 2014, and are delighted that Russia has expressed their interest.

An important collaborator

In the beginning of June a workshop was held at the German Consulate in St. Petersburg where the SAS initiative was presented to Russian scientists.

- It is essential to make Russia part of this collaboration in order for us to obtain a complete overview of the Arctic Ocean, Are Olsen says.

The Russian Arctic area stretches over nine time zones - nearly halfway around the world. The majority of the freshwater flowing into the ocean comes from Russian rivers, and in addition to these factors, it is difficult for foreign vessels to move into Russian waters. Collaboration will therefore provide a stronger basis for the survey. 

- Dialogue across projects is often non-existent and this is something we want to change through this initiative, Olsen says. Currently, scientists from eight countries are involved; Canada, USA, Germany, Iceland, Japan, Korea, Sweden and Norway. At the worskhop Leif Andersson (University of Gothenburg), Are Olsen (UiB), Øyvind Paasche (UiB) and Vidar Lien (IMR), Heidi Marie Kassens (GEOMAR), Oleg Titiov (PINRO) and Vladimir Ivanov (AARI) among others, participated.


Infrastructure in place

During the visit the Norwegian delegation also visited The Norwegian University Center in St. Petersburg. This centre is open for research and educational activities, and is owned and financed collectively by NTNU and the Universities of Bergen, Oslo and Tromsø.

- This centre provides excellent opportunities for a comprehensive partnership with Russia, Olsen says. By already having the infrastructure in place scientists will have immediate access to meeting rooms and conference facilities and student exchanges will be easier to implement. There is a common agreement that the initiative should facilitate several PhD positions.

The Next Step

Russia is invited to a workshop in Sweden in the fall with the aim to develop the collaboration further. In September, all nations of the Arctic Council are invited to a workshop with the American Science and Technology Adviser to the Secretary of State in Washington D.C. In addition, initiators are working towards collaboration with China. Richard Bellerby at  SKLEC in Shanghai is the current contact person for SAS in China, and he will continue to be an important mediator between the parties moving forward.