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Dr. Annett Bartsch featured in the latest press release from TU Wien

01 Bartsch AnnettThe PAGE21 Work Package 5 leader Dr.Annett Bartsch was featured in the latest press release from the Vienna University of Technology. The TU Wien is part of the newly founded Austrian Institute for Polar research, which serves as an important coordination site over Austrian international polar research programs.
Dr.Annett Bartsch at the Department of Geodesy and Geoinformation, analyses remotely sensed satellite data that is used to provide temperature, soil, vegetation and topography data in areas that are inaccessible for local measurements and to validate the locally collected data sets in selected accessible areas. 
In remote sensing the entire surface is scanned with microwaves. The intensity of the scattered waves reflected back to the satellite gives valuable data for example on the soil moisture or the dynamics of thermokarst lakes.
"The many small thermokarst lakes in the tundra are an important indicator of climate change," says Annett Bartsch. "In addition, the wetlands are the largest source of methane, and can have a much stronger influence on the greenhouse effect than CO2." A deep understanding on how changes in these lakes affect the methane content in the atmosphere and our climate has until now been missing.
To read the original press release (in german only), please follow this link.

PAGE21 Researcher Profiles: Fanny Kittler

Next in our research profile series is Fanny Kittler form the Max-Planck-Institute for Biogeochemistry in Jena Germany.


Fanny Kittler


Max-Planck-Institute for Biogeochemistry



Research Focus

Micrometeorological measurements and modeling of subarctic regions

How it is affiliated with the PAGE21 project?

I am interested in the impacts of the climate change on permafrost ecosystems. Therefore, I will conduct landscape scale measurements of carbon and energy fluxes to improve the understanding of the processes that control ecosystem-atmosphere exchange in this region. The overall objective is to develop upscaling procedures for these fluxes to improve training and evaluation of global climate models. For our research we will setup a new station in Cherskii (NE Siberia), which will also be included in the PAGE21 with the aim of improving the data coverage and getting new insights into the carbon cycle.

What is the current challenge within this topic?

Most of the measurement stations are located in a remote environment with harsh climatic conditions, which makes it very difficult to assembly and pursue measurements year round. Because of this there is a huge lack of understanding of the surface-atmosphere exchange processes mostly during the shoulder and non-growing season.

Fanny 1


How did it happen that you became a researcher?

I had never explicitly pursued becoming a researcher. I just chose a job with a topic I was interested in and which seemed very challenging to me.

Why do you like being the researcher?

The work of a researcher can be diversified because you are dealing with a lot of topics and your workplace can change from field, to lab and office. Furthermore I may travel to amazing places, I would never have the opportunity to visit otherwise.


How a typical working day looks like?

Most of the year I will be in my office preparing our next field and analyzing the data we already collected. But once or twice a year I will travel to our station for a certain time, to conduct some special experiments.

Funniest response ever when you told somebody that you are a "polar researcher"?

I never really called myself a polar researcher. I usally explain that I am researching on permafrost and therefore I will go to Siberia. The response to that is not funny at all, but it is always: "Then watch out for polar bears".

What are your plans for the upcoming three / five years?

My plan is to setup and pursue eddy-covariance measurements in Cherskii , analyze and publish these data and develop further experimental plans. All of this is included in my PhD program, which I am planning to finish in this time span.

What will be this years biggest challenges?

The first field trip to Cherskii of our team will be in spring/summer 2013. We hope that the setup, we are planning to construct, will work and deliver a lot of high quality data we can analyze.

PAGE21 Researcher Profiles: Stefanie Härtel

This weeks researcher is Stefanie Härtel from the University of Copenhagen and University Centre in Svalbard.


StefanieH2 smallName:

Stefanie Härtel


Center for Permafrost (CENPERM), Department of Geosciences and Natural Resource Management, University of Copenhagen, Denmark and The University Centre in Svalbard (UNIS), Department of Arctic Geology, P in Longyearbyen, Norway



Research Field:

In my PhD project, I study periglacial geomorphology and permafrost cryolithostratigraphy at two high-arctic sites in Svalbard and in Zackenberg (NE-Greenland) located at a steep climatic gradient. Permafrost coring, core analysis and mapping are used to improve our understanding of the heterogeneity of permafrost physical conditions and in relation to the Holocene periglacial history and underlying processes in past, present and future.

How is your research affiliated with the PAGE21 project?:

This project delivers stratigraphical data on permafrost physical properties (ice content, grain size, geochemistry etc) from different landforms as well as geomorphological and geocryological maps from two primary sites, used as input and validation data for e.g modelling purposes.

StefanieH smallWhat is the current challenge within this topic?

The permafrost cryostratigraphy and spatial heterogeneity is not yet well studied or unknown, however, extremely important in order to predict the effects of climate change on permafrost environments.

How did it happen that you became a researcher?

While everybody else fell asleep during in the introduction to soil sciences in grade 7 - I really found this stuff interesting! It seemed to have started early on.


Why do you like being the researcher?

Doing things that probably nobody else has seen or done before and working in fantastic environments.

What do you like most in being a researcher?

Having a job based on being curious.

How a typical working day looks like?

  • 1. Driving samples from the freezer storage at CENPERM to the freeze-lab at the Niels Bohr Institute.  
  • 2. Moving the boxes into the basement through 7 magic doors.  
  • 3. Putting on thick layers of clothes, two heads, glowes, goggles and entering the beloved freeze lab at -14 degree.  
  • 4. In the lab, being welcomed by a noisy fan (with real wind chill factor!) and the even noisier band saw.
  • 5. Finding the right cores, put them in the right order, open sampling bags, closing sampling bags, length-cutting cores, scraping cores with chisels and razor blades, encountering beautiful cryostructures, meter-long the same boring pore-ice bonded sand, or having what-the-hell-is-that?-moments, photographing cores, logging cores, sub-sampling the core, drill small holes in the cores to measure thermal properties, vaccuum seal core samples, measure volume... getting cold, getting tired of this monotony, seeing something unexpected and continue.
  • 6. Every hour call in "I am alive".
  • 7. Before leaving the lab, cleaning up nicely.
  • 8. Transport frozen samples back to CENPERM freezer storage to later process in the lab.
  • 9. Daily problems: Saw blade eats itself into the core and freezes tight - only way to deal with it, shisel it free ..., saw blade jumps off ..., saw blade is blunt and needs to be replaced but new saw blade can´t get fixed ... oh, I run out of saw blades ... shisels blunt, fingers cold, getting a cold, forgotten something, drill bit broke, battery is empty, camera strikes, stepped against the tripod etc...

Funniest response ever when you told somebody that you are a "polar researcher"?

"Isn´t it a quiet dangerous job with explosive methane all around?"

StefanieH1 smallWhat are your plans for the upcoming three / five years?

Getting cool results, published.

Which expeditions do you participate this year (2013)?

  • April/May - Svalbard: Shallow hand-drilling campaign at 10 sites/landforms as input data for geocryological maps, core sharing WP2 and WP3
  • End of June/Early July - Svalbard - geomorphological mapping and permafrost excavation on plateau mountain
  • August/September: Zackenberg (NE-Greenland): Shallow hand-drilling and geomorphological mapping, river cliff exposures

What do you usually miss the most when being on the field?

In the field is in the field is in the field ... well warm feet sometimes

Biggest challenge?

Time is running

Nicest experience so far on expedition?

Brine geysir during drilling in Adventdalen

Worst experience so gar?

Not to be allowed to drill where you think it is most interesting and relevant

What has been the most interesting experience so far on expedition?

Its all pretty interesting!

PAGE21 Researcher Profiles: Frans-Jan Parmentier

Next in line on our researcher series is Frans-Jan Parmentier from Lund University in Sweden.

At -30 its cold but its ok if you dress warmName

Frans-Jan Parmentier


Lund University



Research Focus

In my research, I study how Arctic ecosystems respond to global warming, and how this leads to changes in the natural exchange of greenhouse gases. This is important, because the Arctic is one of the regions of the world where global warming is the strongest, and this affects natural greenhouse-gas exchange.
For example: snow has started to melt earlier in the polar region, and returns later in autumn. This leads to changes in Arctic ecosystems: when plants are able to start growing earlier in the year, they also photosynthesize longer. This way they take up more CO2, which would be a beneficial response to climate change.

Unfortunately, warmer temperatures also lead to an increase in soil respiration, which releases CO2 into the atmosphere. Besides, higher soil temperatures also lead to an increase in methane emissions. Since methane is a very potent greenhouse gas, this can reduce the ability of Arctic ecosystems to take up greenhouse gases.

To be able to study these processes – and to predict what their cumulative effect is – many research stations have been set up around the Arctic in recent years. I myself ran such a station on the tundra of Northeastern Siberia during my PhD, and since recently I've started measurements at a new station on Svalbard in the high Arctic.

Besides these site-specific studies, my research extends further and tries to answer questions in the larger Arctic context. Recently, I've also become interested in connections with the Arctic Ocean, where large amounts of sea ice have disappeared. This has amplified Arctic warming, but has also led to many changes in the exchange of CO2 in methane from ocean waters.

The Monitoring Station

What parts of your research will be a direct input to PAGE21?

Within Page21, I study the exchange of CO2 and methane at a high arctic site in the beautiful valley of Adventdalen on Svalbard.
We established this station in 2011 and have been measuring the exchange of CO2 by the ecosystem, as well as the amount of methane being emitted from the soil. The data we collect is shared within Page21 to improve our understanding of the system.

What is the current challenge within this topic?

In the past couple of years much more data has become available from the Arctic, but many questions remain unanswered. The spatial variability is high, and it is therefore difficult to bridge the gap to models. But this mismatch must be solved if we want to be able to predict how greenhouse-gas exchange is likely to change in the future.

How did it happen that you became a researcher?

When I was studying Environmental Sciences in Amsterdam, fieldwork was a normal part of the curriculum and there I learned how to do my own measurements. While doing that, I always enjoyed being outside in the field, and working with my own data afterwards. I considered for a while to do something similar for a company, but I came to realize that in research you have much more freedom to go after a burning question, and contribute to something that lasts.

Adventdalen in February 2013. Sunlight just returned

Why do you like being the researcher?

Not only the freedom, but in my field I get to see beautiful places in the Arctic such as the tundra on Svalbard or the fjords of Greenland. And all this while trying to contribute something to our understanding of how greenhouse-gas cycling works in those areas, and to help in solving a piece of the global warming-puzzle.


How does a typical working day look like?

That depends. If I'm out there doing fieldwork, we do whatever is required. Is the equipment working properly or do we need to fix things? Do we need to install new equipment? Or if everything is running correctly, does the equipment perhaps need calibration? And if the automated measurements are running properly, can we do some manual measurements to support the rest of our data?

Of course, all of this is done in an Arctic environment. In winter, temperatures can easily drop to -30 while you're working outside. But when the sun is shining, the temperature doesn't matter much. Dress warm, and enjoy the scenery!

There's one catch though: in Svalbard there are more polar bears than people. So you always have to bring a rifle out into the field with you. Luckily it's very rare too meet one. Our site is not far from the city of Longyearbyen, and other people in the neighborhood will often see a polar bear before you do.

Despite all the outdoor fun, fieldwork is only a short time of the year. Other days I'm in the office, behind my computer and analyzing data, where you have to use programming languages such as Python or Matlab to be able to handle the large datasets you work with. Luckily for me, I really enjoy this part as well. Or you're writing an article, which requires a lot of language skill. All in all, every day is different!

Adventdalen in Summer. View towards the fjord

Funniest response ever when you told somebody that you are a "polar researcher"?

Most people don't understand what a 'polar researcher' is the first time round. I guess they don't meet them often! But once they get it, they're almost always intrigued and wish they could go as well. Although they're often worried that they'll get eaten by a polar bear.


What are your plans for the upcoming three / five years?

Improving our station on Svalbard, and also trying to delve deeper into connections between the Arctic Ocean, sea ice and the land.


Which expeditions do you participate this year?

This year, I will probably have many trips up to Svalbard.
We try to automate most of our measurements but sometimes you still have to go up there and make sure everything is ok. That's also the biggest challenge: trying to make sure our measurements are continuous without too many gaps. Most often, power is the issue there. We use solar panels but in winter it's pitch-dark. We do get some additional power from fuel cells, but they turned out to be unreliable due to the cold. To solve this problem, we installed a small wind generator in February 2013. Hopefully this will lead to a good dataset this year.


Nicest experience so far on expedition?

Apart from the beautiful scenery, the Arctic feels different in winter and summer. In summer, there is sunlight all day. When there are no clouds, you will need sunglasses at midnight in Svalbard! On the other hand, in winter it's completely dark. But on some clear nights the northern lights come out, and that's always a great spectacle! These kind of experiences always make it enjoyable to go up to the Arctic, regardless of the time of year.

New Austrian Polar Research Institute

Austrian POlar
Austria has a long-standing tradition in polar research and posses a number of excellent researchers from varying disciplines, who Substantially contribute to international research in the Arctic and Antarctic. Scientists from the Universities of Vienna and Innsbruck, the Technical University of Vienna and the Central Institute of Meteorology and Geodynamics Therefore have recently founded the Austrian Polar Research Institute. The goals of this new institute are to consolidate the fragmented polar research activities in Austria, to develop joint interdisciplinary research programs and to increase the international visibility of the Austrian polar research.
The Austrian Polar Research Institute now invites interested parties to an opening presentation at the University of Vienna, Monday 8 April, 2013.

Program for the presentation of the Austrian Polar Research Institute


Heinz W. Engl, rector of the University of Vienna
Karlheinz Töchterle, Federal Minister for Science and Research
Michael Staudinger, Director of the Central Institute for Meteorology and Geodynamics

Presentation on the new Austrian Polar Research Institute

Andreas Richter, a professor at the University of Vienna and head of the Austrian Polar Research Institute 

International integration of the Austrian Polar Research

Volker Rachold, Executive Secretary of the International Arctic Science Committee

Lecture "The Polar Regions and Climate Change"

Heinz Miller, deputy director of the Alfred Wegener Institute for Polar and Marine Research


Horst Seidler, Dean of the Faculty of Life Sciences, University of Vienna
Following a small reception
Time: Monday, 8 April 2013, 17 clock c.t.
Location: Small Hall of the University of Vienna, University of Ring 1, 1010 Vienna