Ars Bioarctica

Posted Aug. 6, 2016 by Theun Karelse

The biological research station has been set up at Kilpisjarvi because of the relative slow pass and simplicity of the ecology in arctic Lapland. The extremely short growing season tampers the metabolism of the landscape so much that remains of a WW2 airplane crash are still visible some 80years later. Vegetation still has not regrown there. The visibility of causal relations in the landscape make it a particularly apt theater for the science of ecology, and for the research questions that Machine Wilderness asks; introducing technological interventions in this setting.

The team arrived at the station after several days of travel including some 7 hours on a bus. It’s the summer equinox. This means permanent daylight. It’s a strange thing to witness when a day doesn’t end. According to our host Leena who lives locally, people in the area just choose their preferred rhythm of sleep. Basically this is an ongoing day that lasts hundreds of hours. Local wildlife has adapted to this, with Cloudberry as an extreme example, this little plant only fruits where permanent daylight showers it with the energy it needs to fruit. It basically fruits in one day, but one that lasts hundreds of hours. It only does so here in the extreme north of Europe.

We started immediately after arriving with opening the windows, setting up equipment and establishing a ‘meat-pile’ to engage with local wildlife. The team worked on developing a robot that interacts with the local crows, adapt the camera system of a drone to see in the spectrum that local hawks see in and hunt rodents, and during the residency we explored additional experiments in ‘robochory‘ (the dispersal of plant seeds by machines).

In this final session of the current Machine Wilderness programme we came to understand the rough outlines of what a "maker-lab in the forest" would look like: what tools are crucial, how to prepare and where to start. Theun will write his findings in an upcoming publication with 'Verlag fur Handbucher' in their Handbook series.

A video impression of the residency by Theun: