Cultural expression for scientific outreach

Science and society

Cartoon movie star Laila and pole dancers. For nearly a decade, researchers at the Fram Centre have enlisted artists, musicians, writers, and entertainers to help spread the knowledge they have acquired. Here are three recent examples.

In keeping with the show’s historical approach, the models and researchers were joined by the great Norwegian explorers. From left: Pernilla Carlsson, John Lukas Somby and Linda Hanssen.

Photo: Sverre Simonsen

The Great Arctic Fashion Show

Who could imagine scientists dancing on the same floor as fashion models and pole dancers?

In September, they did exactly that. Linda Hanssen from NILU – Norwegian Institute for Air Research, Pernilla Carlsson, from the Norwegian Institute for Water Research, and Unni Mette Nordang from the Centre for the Ocean and the Arctic rose to the challenge and took part in “The Great Arctic Fashion Show” in Tromsø.

Together with a team of twenty models, stylists and technicians, the three focused on how ordinary citizens have adapted to climatic and environmental changes in the 225 years since Tromsø became a city. The events venue Storgata Camping was packed and the response to the show was fantastic.

The performance, produced by the Fram Centre, was one of 400 events held around Europe in connection with Researchers’ Night. The scheme is a component of the European Union’s Marie Curie actions (the People Programme) aimed at making Europe attractive to researchers by promoting research careers and research communities in Europe. The events target the general public by offering “edutainment” activities, with the objective of increasing people’s knowledge in an entertaining way.

Linda Hanssen from NILU – Norwegian Institute for Air Research (front), Pernilla Carlsson, Norwegian Institute for Water Research (right) and Unni Mette Nordang from the Centre for the Ocean and the Arctic during “The Great Arctic Fashion Show”. Photo: Sverre Simonsen

Kari Ellingsen was one of the people who came up with the idea of an animated film about Laila, the sculpin. The two-minute film premiered in autumn 2019.

Photo: Helge M Markusson / Fram Centre

A little fish tells a big story

Speaking through a little fish named Laila, researchers explain their focus on fishing banks.

The tiny sculpin Laila is the star of a new animated film made by the Tromsø-based company Fabelfjord. She explains why it is important to know more about the major fishing banks in the north. The film, entitled “My Bank”, was released in October, in Norwegian and English.

The idea of making the film was conceived by Kari Ellingsen in the Norwegian Institute for Natural Research (NINA) at the Fram Centre in Tromsø and Ken Frank at the Bedford Institute of Oceanography in Canada. With it, they hoped to reach a broader and – especially – a younger audience. People from NINA and Fabelfjord teamed up to develop a screenplay in which Laila demanded more and more space.

“It’s been a lot of fun being involved in creating an animated film. It has also proved very instructive, because the filmmakers have been good at simplifying and presenting what is really a much more complicated story,” says Kari Ellingsen.

Ellingsen is a senior researcher and leader of the project DRIVEBANKS, funded by MARINFORSK and the Research Council of Norway.

“There’s still a lot we don’t know about fishing banks. We know that the fishing banks are shallow seas where the currents provide good conditions for plankton growth, increasing productivity and supporting rich fish populations. For this reason, fishing banks are also very attractive for fisheries.

“I feel it’s important to reach an audience that isn’t just researchers. Children and young people are eager to protect our natural environment. It’s important for them to be well-informed about what’s going on beneath the surface of the sea and what influences the marine environment,” says Kari Ellingsen.

Kirsti Blom and researcher Rolf Anker Ims presented their children’s book about the lemming at Stakkevollan School in Tromsø in December.

Photo: Helge M Markusson / Fram Centre

A little animal accomplishes a lot

A pint-size animal with a supersize impact finally it has its own book. Author Kirsti Blom and researcher Rolf Anker Ims, UiT The Arctic University of Norway have written about the lemming.

“Lemen” (The Lemming) is a book for children aged eight to ten. It takes a close look as the most important aspects of the lemming’s ecology: its life history; environmental adaptations; what drives the lemming’s lifecycle; its role in the ecosystem; and what effects climate change might have. The book has illustrations by some of Norway’s best wildlife photographers and presents several “fun facts” and myths about the lemming. It also describes some of the research that has been done on this key species of the Arctic tundra.

Together with researchers from institutions at the Fram Centre, publishing house Cappelen Damm has released 11 books that address various aspects of Arctic nature and research. All of them are suitable for young readers.

This is the sixth book produced in collaboration between the Fram Centre, its researchers, Kirsti Blom, and the publisher.