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Research above the clouds

14 July 2014

High school students paid a visit to the high-altitude Sphinx laboratory. The excursion to Jungfraujoch was part of Nano-camp 2014, a research camp for teeangers organized jointly by the 3sat television network and the Oeschger Centre.

Research above the clouds

Research at 3,580 meters above sea level is indeed a unique experience. Last Saturday, the University of Bern welcomed twelve new young researchers on campus for a weeklong whirlwind of hands-on research with climate experts from the Oeschger Centre for Climate Change Research (OCCR). These students had the opportunity to visit the high-altitude Sphinx laboratory on top of Jungfraujoch, in the framework of the 3sat nano-camp. The one-of-a-kind laboratory is not open for regular visitors, and it is filled from floor to ceiling with machines that measure gas concentrations and atmospheric radiation around the clock.

Bundled in layers of clothing that should already be packed away for the next ski season, the twelve campers could notice the effect of the thin air when climbing the staircase up to the Sphinx research observatorium. Slightly dizzy but unperturbed, they crowded into the laboratory and learned about the collaborative work done here by research teams from all over the world. The University of Bern has its own machines stationed here that measure CO2 and air quality on a continuous basis. “The whole research station, that was just really impressive,” said camper Morris Schmid.

Outside on the Aletsch glacier, the students braved blizzard conditions to dig a 3-meter deep snow/ice profile. How much snow had been packed down since the beginning of the winter season? Is the biggest, most well documented glacier in the Alps growing or shrinking? Hands were raised, and the questions were so plentiful that the 30-minute question-and answer session with Dr. Samuel Nussbaumer turned into first one hour, then two.

Making the film

Throughout the week, a camera crew from the 3sat network filmed every moment of research, but also came along to document the campers enjoying Bern. Swimming in the Aare, grilling at Eichholz, touring the city center—the campers all agreed that they wouldn’t mind staying longer, perhaps even coming back to study at the University in the future.

The nano-camp has been organized by 3sat as a science research experience for young students for the past 12 years, but never before has it been hosted by any institution in Switzerland. Coming to Switzerland was an easy decision for the 3sat television team, editor Johannes Steinbronn explained. “When we found out that we could take the students up to the research station at Jungfraujoch, the deal was sealed.”

The popularity of the location and theme is clear from the record-breaking number of applications received this year: the twelve teenagers from Germany, Austria, Italy, and Switzerland were handpicked from over 160 applicants.

Oeschger Centre organizes a busy week

Throughout the week, climate scientists from the Oeschger Centre took turns leading the nano-campers through various research experiments. “Taking the sediment core at Moossee was really cool,” declared camper Viktorija Marmakovic at the end of the week. “Splitting up the different zones in the core—I’ve never had the chance to look at it that way.” “And the ice cores—I had no idea what an ice core even looked like!” added Morris Schmid. After learning about the CO2 gas measurements, Jonas Kittel remarked, “I didn’t realize that the global CO2 concentrations change so much throughout different seasons of the year—that was really astonishing.”

The students wrapped up the weeklong climate nano-camp experience with an inspiring closing lecture given by world-renowned climate scientist and University of Bern Prof. emer. Heinz Wanner. From atmospheric physics to climate negotiations at the UN, the campers gained valuable insights from a scientist who has seen almost every angle of climate research, and has consulted everyone from CEOs to governments on climate change.

The students will leave the camp with good experiences from the Oeschger Centre and a whole new perspective on what it takes to film an exciting science documentary with a professional film crew. What was their favourite experience? “Swimming in the Aare!” Laurin Steinmaier voted. “You can’t do that every day!”

The show about the nano-camp 2014 will be aired at 6:30 p.m. on 5 September 2014 on the 3sat television network.

(Source: uniaktuell)

University of Bern | Oeschger Centre for Climate Change Research | Zähringerstrasse 25 | CH-3012 Bern | info@oeschger.unibe.ch | Tel +41 31 631 31 45 | Fax +41 31 631 43 38
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