April 12, 2022
Tromsø is world famous for its northern lights and its polar bears. If the reputation for being the best place in the world to see northern lights is well deserved, the polar bear population is smaller than visitors think. But to us at Wild Lab, Tromsø is first and foremost a fantastic place for citizen science.
A science hub
As the largest town in Northern Norway, Tromsø concentrates most of the research infrastructures in the region. The University of Tromsø (UiT) has over 3,700 staff and 18,000 students, and the campus is still growing. Then, at the Fram Center, 280 researchers and technicians work in one of the 21 institutes present in the building (which, of course, has its own polar bear in the lobby). Also called the High North Center for Climate and Environmental Research, it is an epicenter of scientific research, with a focus on natural science, technology and social sciences. This concentration of science is an opportunity to build bridges between scientists and the rest of society. And it is precisely what we do at Wild Lab: connecting willing scientists and non-scientists through meaningful projects that have measurable benefits for nature and society.
A world class destination
Tromsø is not only a science heaven. It is also a world-class destination for travelers and adventurers. Tourism is a source of revenues for lots of people and businesses in the region, but there is also a flip side to this shiny-green coin. In a decade or so, the northern lights tourism industry has transformed the town’s look and atmosphere, to the displeasure of some and the delight of others, and this is particularly noticeable in the winter. The seasonal flow of visitors regularly creates tensions with the locals and generates visible and long-lasting impacts on the environment. It’s time to make tourism less extractive and more regenerative! A great opportunity to participate in the citizen science effort.
A playground for field – citizen – scientists
Tromsø is a fabulous playground due to its diversity of ecosystems. From the bottom of the sea all the way to the mountain tops, the fjords, the shoreline, the rivers, lakes, tundra and forests form a mosaic of natural habitats where outdoor enthusiasts and field scientists can thrive. There are strong variations between the seasons too. In winter when night is almost permanent and everything is buried under the snow, it is hard to imagine the same mountains covered in tundra and lush vegetation. Yet, it happens every year. In this environment, reaching the study sites can be a small adventure. Hiking, snowshoeing or kayaking is often necessary and this is a part of the experience.