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Glaciologist - Polar Guide

Silje has completed her PhD in glaciology at the Bjerknes Center for Climate Research, Bergen, with exchange to both Jet Propulsion Lab-NASA, California, and Center for Ice and Climate, Copenhagen. Her research was focused on modelling ice dynamics of Greenland, with focus on subglacial hydrology. During her BSc and MSc she lived 4 years in Svalbard studying marine terminating glaciers and calving. In addition she did a one year study program to become an Arctic Nature Guide and has worked as a snowmobile, cruise and glacier guide in Spitsbergen. Silje is now ready to start a postdoc at the University of Alaska Southeast, shortly after the ski expedition. Her research here will be observing and modelling glacier lake outburst floods.

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Meet Silje, before the expedition:

Hello Silje!

Where are you right now and where are you originally from? 
I'm in my office in my hometown Bergen; desperate for some easter holiday!

What is your job? 
I'm finishing up the last bit of my PhD in glaciology. I spend most of my time in front of my computer modeling glacier dynamics, but once a year I get to go to the Greenland Ice Sheet for some lovely field work. I will be back on the ice at the end of May, and I can't wait to escape my computer and thesis for an entire month!!!

Can you describe yourself in 3 words? 
Enthusiastic, entertaining and tough

What does “Climate Sentinels” mean for you? 
This project is the light at the end of my PhD tunnel! I really look forward to this expedition, and it represents freedom for me. The closer we get the more excited I get and the more clearly I can picture it.

What are you hoping to achieve with this project?
I hope we can inspire more scientists to be more green and have the environmental impact in mind when planning their next scientific expedition. Also, if we can inspire more young female scientists to stay in science and academia, that would be amazing.

Is there anything that scares/worries you about the expedition? 
eh yes! Sea ice! Going through sea ice is my biggest fear, so I will definitely focus on that in the preparation and during the expedition.

What are you most excited about with this project? 
Just being out there, far away from everything, sampling snow and skiing, slowly and sturdy, one step at the time..

Meet Silje after the expedition:

Hello Silje!

Where in the world are you, and how has your life changed since Climate Sentinels
Back in my hometown Bergen, and started a new job at the Marine Research Institute. At the moment I’m packing to go back to Longyearbyen for a wedding next week <3

If you had to summarize Climate Sentinels in three words, what would these words be?
Inspiring, brave and enduring

If there was one moment during the expedition that you will never forget, what would that be?
When we had just set camp, and Anne said, very calmly, “There’s a polar bear on the ice”, and the stressful times after that moment. We packed down the camp very efficiently and aimed to seek shelter in a cabin a few km away. The only problem was that we had to cross the sea ice in front of Nordenskioldbreen to get there, and the bear was somewhere between us and the cabin. Nerve-wracking moments to find the cabin, keep a close eye on the bear and cross the sea ice…! But we made it, and we all slept like babies in that amazing cabin. 

During your pre expedition interview you mentioned that “sea ice” was one thing that really worried you. In hindsight, did you ever get scared by the sea ice we came across during the expedition?
Yes I was still worried every time we skied on sea ice.

What have you learnt from this expedition?
Good planning before the trip is key, including picturing every scenario that can happen and have a plan according to this. Then of course there’s no way you can plan for every scenario, and during the expedition good and open communication within the group was really good and helped us a lot.

Would you like to embark on another expedition with these crazy ladies again? And if yes where?
Yes for sure! Somewhere cold and snowy. Greenland?? During the ski expedition we were talking about other places we could go, and Egypt came up, and I’m sorry, if that’s the case, I’m out :D.

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