AWI Final Reflections

My last day at the AWI German Arctic Office

I will begin this post as I ended my first post with a picture of me and the German Arctic Office banner. My CBE Fellowship with the Alfred Wegener-Institut German Arctic Office is coming to a close.

My daily routine of bike riding, taking the 92 Tram to/from Kirschalle/Postdam Hauptbahnhof and then the 691 bus to the AWI on the Telegrafenberg and eating lunch with Dr. Rachold, Lisa and Gerlis of APECES everyday in Cafe Freundlich has come to an end. I spent time with new friends from IASS, ate Doner Kebab, currywurst, dranked German beer and visited several of the historical sites in Potsdam and Berlin (pictured below) while working for one of the best Arctic science organisations.

There were tough times in the beginning and I thought often about whether I made the right decision. There was not much of a cultural shock to me despite some significant challenges, but I’m glad I can say that I survived 2 months in Germany, and that I was able to complete a fellowship at the AWI. I fulfilled my dream of working with the AWI. I feel very accomplished! And I am so lucky! Here’s to next time and future collaborations with the AWI and my German Arctic colleagues.

Ich werde euch vermissen. (I will miss you).

What did you accomplish with your host organization? What was the impact of your work?

My CBE Fellowship as an Arctic policy research intern with the Alfred Wegener-Institut German Arctic Office (AWI) located in Potsdam, Germany ended on 20 September 2019. As an Arctic policy research intern, my responsibilities consisted of assisting the head of the German Arctic Office, Dr. Volker Rachold and AWI/APECS project officer, Lisa Grosfeld with organizing an Arctic science to policy workshop taking place in Reykjavik, Iceland in October 2019. My primary work focused on conducting literature review on Arctic laws and agreements to formulate a fact sheet, called Governance in the Arctic. The project addresses fundamental questions regarding Arctic ownership, governance, the role of Indigenous Peoples, existing institutions and agreements, Arctic cooperation, the role of Germany in Arctic policy and science and challenges in the Arctic.

The experience at the AWI afforded me the opportunity to interview Arctic Indigenous representatives of the Arctic Council Indigenous Peoples’ Secretariat in Tromsø, Norway, the Director of the Arctic Centre in Lapland, Finland and the Arctic Governance group at the Institute for Advanced Sustainability Studies (IASS) in Potsdam, Germany. Additionally, I was able to interact with representatives from the Germany Federal Foreign Ministry and the head of the MOSAiC Arctic expedition, Dr. Markus Rex. The final product of the fact sheet was well received by my AWI colleagues. We anticipate that the fact sheet will also be well received throughout the Arctic community, the German Federal Government, the Arctic States and the general public.

My last lunch at Cafe Freundlich. The meals here were so delicious!

Describe the benefits of this experience for you professionally and personally.

In 2016, I decided to apply to graduate school and focus on Arctic policy. I wanted also more than anything to work for the Alfred Wegener-Institut Helmholz Center for Polar and Marine Research. I can say with great pleasure that I can check these two items off my list. My experience interning with the AWI was extremly benefical to my career development. Prior to my relocation to Germany, I had been working as a CBE graduate assistant to senior CBE Fellow and Executive Director of the Study of Environmental Arctic Change (SEARCH), Dr. Brendan P. Kelly. He has worked extensively in the field of Arctic science as a marine biologist and now focuses on the science to policy interface. This interface is part of my professional and personal interest.

I had the opportunity to work directly with Dr. Rachold and communicate with other science and policy practitioners on this topic. I connected also with directors from other Arctic organizations and was introduced to representatives from the German Federal Foreign Ministry. We discussed the importance of a sustainable Arctic. I met also Dr. Hugues Lantuit at the AWI, who is a geologists and permafrost expert guiding the Nunataryuk Horizon 2020 permafrost project. I will collaborate with Dr. Lantuit on this project in my current position as a project assistant at Grid-Arendal in Arendal, Norway. The benefits of my professional and personal experience working at the AWI has afforded me opportunities I didn’t think would be available to me this early in my professional and graduate career. I have further expanded my Arctic network by building relationships with others in the Arctic community. Additionally, I was fortunate to attend the Arctic Futures 2050 conference in Washington, D.C. during my fellowship with the AWI. Here I connected with other like minded professionals to bridge knowledge gaps between the science, indigenous traditional knowledge holders and policy makers. I am grateful to Dr. Kelly and Rachold for allowing me to be apart of these experiences. Through every experience I gain a new mentor, colleague and friend. I am glad to be a professional member of the Arctic community.

The AWI is already great! I just liked this sign on Dr. Lantuit’s office door. (:

Did your experience provide any unexpected discovery, self-reflection, or epiphany?

Not to dwell on the negative because it leads one down a rabbit hole but my experience in the country of Germany began as an unwelcoming one. I was met with unkindness at different levels by locals and native Germans. This was my first time traveling to Europe. I was disappointed. I did not have unrealistic expectations and I was not expecting to be met with such terrible disturbances. These moments preyed on my mental state. However, I thought about the girl from  2016 who declared that she would work for the AWI. This girl told her MIIS career advisor that she would become the first MIIS student and alumni to work for the AWI and she did. This girl is me. After rebooting and centering myself I was not going to allow these outside disturbances to interfere with the thing I love most – my Arctic work. I persevered. I gained more from this experience with the AWI and living internationally than I could have ever imagined. I learned a lot about myself and others. The environment on the science campus and the AWI was very supportive and welcoming. The AWI German Arctic office is small. It consists of three people. I was glad I could work in such an intimate setting with my colleagues. We ate lunch together every day and learned much about one another. Dr. Rachold put in a great deal of effort to make sure I was comfortable, welcomed and made me feel part of the AWI. The AWI was everything I envisioned it to be, and I am forever grateful and indebted to Dr. Rachold for inviting me to intern under his direction. I am glad to call him a mentor, colleague and friend.

My last hours at the AWI. The fact sheet is complete. Dr. Rachold is happy and so am I.
The German Arctic Office is located in the building behind me.

Mandii Hoffman, Anzhela Safina and I walking the grounds of Sanssouci
Doner Kebab in Berlin
The famous German Currywurst
One does not go to Germany and not drink a German beer
Leftover Berlin Wall

Berlin Brandenburg Gate
The Chinese House on the grounds of Sanssouci Palace
Goodbye for now! Auf Wiedersehen. Next stop Norway!

AWI Fact sheet continued…

I am in the second half of my fellowship with the AWI and the literature review continues, but the fact sheet is coming together very well. Dr. Rachold and I converse biweekly regarding progress, content, formatting, and imagery of the fact sheet. All of the AWI fact sheets include a cover photo to represent Arctic scenery appropriate to the theme. Dr. Rachold and I agreed that a representation of the Arctic region was appropriate for my fact sheet, Governance in the Arctic. We decided that an Arctic map would be best. This was the perfect opportunity for me to put the GIS skills I learned at MIIS to use. I met a wonderful gentlemen and AWI GIS wiz, Sebastian Laboor. Together, we created an Arctic map. The map represents the economic exclusive zones of the eight Arctic States, the North Pole, Arctic Ocean, Arctic Circle and the Arctic Marine Assessment Program’s (AMAP) boundary line (see image above). The AMAP is a working group of the Arctic Council. The boundary lines are especially relevant as there are different definitions of the Arctic based on the context of the region. The Arctic Circle boundary circles the globe at 66° 34′ N of the equator. Some use it to describe the Arctic region as the area above the Arctic Circle. The AMAP boundary defines the Arctic region as the marine and terrestrial areas north of the Arctic Circle, north of 62°N in Asia and 60°N in North America, and includes elements of the Arctic Circle, political boundaries, permafrost limits and major oceanographic features. https://www.awi.de/en/about-us/publications/brochures-and-reports.html


Arctic Experts and Interviews

In addition to my constructing the Arctic GIS map, I conducted interviews with members from the Institute for Advance Sustainability Studies (IASS) Arctic Governance team in Potsdam, Germany, the Arctic Council’s Indigenous Peoples’ Secretariat located in Tromsø, Norway (IPS) and the Arctic Centre located in Lapland, Finland (see below images). I am very appreciative and grateful that each of them we willing to speak with me and discuss at length the future of Arctic governance, perspectives, ownership, Indigenous youth, culture, language, resources, challenges and positive relationships. These wonderful people provided feedback and reviewed the content of the fact sheet for accuracy and clarity. I’d like to thank Michaela Stith, IPS Associate (not pictured here) for providing comments and review of the fact sheet as well. I am forever grateful for their time, engagement and for enhancing my thoughts on the realities of the Arctic region. https://www.arcticcentre.org https://www.arcticpeoples.com/ https://www.iass-potsdam.de/en/research-group/arctic-governance (The images below were obtained from the organisation or the world wide web)

Arctic Centre Director, Timo Koivurova
Arctic Council Indigenous Peoples’ Secretariat Executive Secretary, Anna Degteva
IASS Arctic Governance Research Associate, Vilena Valeeva
IASS Arctic Governance Intern, Anzhela Safina and I at Sanssouci Schloss in Potsdam
IASS Arctic Governance Research Associate, Marianna Pascale Bartels

Arctic literature and presentations


Arctic issues – Potsdam Summer School

https://potsdam-summer-school.org/

A few weeks ago, I connected with public policy professionals from the Potsdam Summer School. I attended only the Arctic Issues session where Dr. Rachold and other AWI scientists and researchers gave presentations. The Arctic Issues session took place on the AWI campus. The session was highly constructive and informative. A lot of the content is known to me, but I learned a great deal from those participating in the summer school. The Q/A and discussion period led to great conversations. This was another highlight of my time at the AWI. I met professionals from all walks of life with different policy interests, and I learned more about the Nunataryuk Permafrost Horizon 2020 project. https://nunataryuk.org/

I will contribute to the Permafrost Atlas for the H2020 project in my current role as project assistant in the Polar and Mountain program at the Grid-Arendal in Arendal, Norway. https://www.grida.no/about

There are several international partners for the permafrost project but the AWI is responsible for project coordination.


The AWI presentation at the Potsdam Summer School
Dr. Hugues Lantuit of the AWI, Permafrost Project Coordinator
Dr. Volker Rachold (left) giving the German Arctic Office presentation
Arktischer Rat and Schifffahrt in der Arktis (Arctic Council and Shipping in the Arctic) are two fact sheets created by the AWI

Arctic Futures 2050 Conference

Busy times ahead… Dr. Rachold and I flew to Washington, D.C. to attend the three day Arctic Futures 2050 conference hosted by the Study of Environmental Arctic Change (SEARCH). This conference bought together Arctic scientists, Indigenous Peoples and policy makers to explore the knowledge needed to inform decisions concerning the Arctic in the future. I am grateful to Dr. Brendan Kelly, Executive Dir. of SEARCH and my CBE graduate supervisor for sponsoring my travel to/from AF 2050. I was especially glad that I could attend as the objective of the conference aligns with the topic of my master’s project for the Applied Professional Practicum at MIIS. This was an extremely informative, educational and professional experience for me. This experience will no doubt contribute to my career and professional network. I had the privilege of networking with policy makers, Indigenous Sámi and Inuit representatives and Arctic researchers, not to mention absorbing the variety of knowledge in the tent (below). https://www.searcharcticscience.org/arctic-2050/conference-2019

Arctic Futures 2050
Dr. Rachold on a panel discussing informing Arctic policy
My poster was accepted for presentation at AF 2050
The AWI German Arctic Office poster was also accepted for presentation.

Galapagos Reflexion

What did you accomplish with your host organization? What was the impact of your work?

Working with WildAid Galapagos and the Galapagos National Park I was able to revise and complete the procedures manual for the Marine Control Department of the National Park, work on updating a database of all the illicit marine activity taking place in the marine reserve in 2019, rescue and disentangle several Galapagos Sea Lions, and assist the park veterinarian in monitoring and taking blood samples from Sea Lion populations on the island of Santa Fe. Furthermore, I assisted with several patrol trips of the Galapagos Marine reserve to help monitor fishing and tourism activity, and I worked on a week-long excursion to monitor albatross and tortoise populations on the island of Española. Finally, I assisted in research to support an economic analysis looking into raising the prices of private tourists’ boats that wish to enter and visit the Galapagos marine reserve.

Some of my work had a very direct impact; the Sea Lions that I rescued have a much better chance of surviving now than if I hadn’t helped rescue and disentangle them, and the National Park has an updated database and a more comprehensive operations manual. However, perhaps more interesting is the potential impact that some of the projects I helped with may have in the future. The research excursion to Española has the potential to provided invaluable information on the health of global albatross populations (it is one of the only islands in the world where they nest) and could influence conservation policy. The research I did for the economic analysis has the potential to change the prices and affect the tourism industry of the Galapagos.

Describe the benefits of this experience for you professionally and personally?

Professionally this experience has helped me learn how international conservation NGOs, such as WildAid, work and interact with local governmental organizations, like the Galapagos National Park. I’ve also benefitted from a large professional network of people I have met here. These professional relationships even lead to the National Park inviting me back next year to work with the vet. Finally, I have learned what the management structure of a conservation NGO looks like and I was able to put into practice much of what I learned at MIIS.

Personally, my time in the Galapagos has helped me grow immensely. While I was already a good Spanish speaker, these past three months my Spanish has improved dramatically, especially when it comes to using professional language. I have also made several lifelong friends who I will go back to Galapagos to visit. This experience also really shaped what my career goals will look like in the future.  

Did your experience provide any unexpected discovery, self-reflection, or epiphany?

After my time working with WildAid and the National Park in the Galapagos I realized the career I would like to pursue. Thoughts of this career change had been in the back of my mind since I worked at the Marine Mammal Center while studying at MIIS, but after my time in the Galapagos I am sure of it. The next chapter of my life will be dedicated to studying to go to vet school. My dream is to be a marine wildlife vet. Committing to at least six more years of studying after graduating from MIIS is a huge endeavor, but after working with the vet here in Galapagos I know it is what I want to do. Working with WildAid and the National Park helped me realize that this has been my dream and if I don’t follow it I will regret it.