A little over one year ago, one of our first-year physiotherapy students at UiT The Arctic University of Norway wrote a fictional account of a future in which multidisciplinary teams of natural scientists, physiotherapists and many others were tasked to sail to the Arctic Ocean to work on remedial measures for the quickly decreasing polar ice. A little over one year ago, just the thought of physiotherapists joining a multidisciplinary research expedition to the Arctic Ocean seemed entirely crazy. When we published this student’s story in Physiopunk Vol 1 about six months later I had already been invited to precisely such a cruise, and now, we are only days away from departure.
In between shopping sprees for ginger lollies, ginger tablets, chewing gum and other remedies against sea-sickness, I’m constantly having to pinch myself because I just can’t quite believe that this is really happening. I really hope I’m not going to jinx it with this blog post, but unless something goes horribly awry over the next few days, I will be flying to Svalbard, the Norwegian archipelago about midway between the northern coast of Norway and the North Pole, on Sunday. Two days later I will be boarding the RV Kronprins Haakon – UiT University’s ice-breaking research vessel to join the AKMA project for its 12-day AKMA OceanSenses expedition in the Arctic Ocean.
Endorsed by the UN Decade of Ocean Science for Sustainable Development and led by Prof Giuliana Panieri from the Geosciences department at UiT The Arctic University of Norway, the AKMA project is setting out to do not just one, but a whole battery of remarkable things. Its primary aim is written into its name – Advancing Knowledge of Methane in the Arctic Ocean and seafloor. This is critical research for a whole range of reasons, including that the Arctic regions are particularly vulnerable to the effects of climate change and methane is a highly effective climate-changing gas when it reaches the atmosphere, yet the deep-sea remains less explored than the surface of the moon. The expedition will focus on extreme environments, specifically, two natural methane seep sites where environmental stressors affect the biological communities that inhabit them and produce peculiar seafloor features.
Because its express mission is also to advance knowledge about the Arctic Ocean and inspire people around the world, the AKMA OceanSenses expedition will encompass a strong effort in environmental education. To make this as accessible as possible, the multidisciplinary team of scientists and educators will develop learning tools that will enable learners of different ages to experience the ocean using all their primary senses: touch, sight, smell, hearing and taste. Teachers that will be joining the expedition will connect with their schools in Norway, Italy, France, Kazakhstan, Portugal, Brazil, Germany, Tanzania and Botswana to deliver some fun and engaging multisensory environmental education.
Filip Maric (PhD)
A/Prof, EPA Founder & Executive Chair
Filip Maric is Associate professor at UiT The Arctic University of Norway, and founder of the Environmental Physiotherapy Association. He is interested in the outer rims of healthcare and critical physiotherapy, philosophy, #EnviroPT, environmental post/humanities, planetary health and sea kayaking.
Giuliana Panieri (PhD)
Prof, Department of Geosciences, UiT
Giuliana Panieri is a Professor in Geology at the Department of Geosciences at UiT and leader of the AKMA project at CAGE Center for Arctic Gas Hydrate, Environment and Climate. Giuliana leads the Norwegian PhD trainee school on Changing Climates in the Coupled Earth System, serves as General Secretary of the European Geosciences Union and has an Adjunct scientist position at Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution (USA).
She is interested in using micropaleontology and geochemistry to study the evolution of extreme environments and methane emissions and possible connections to climate change in the Arctic.
In addition, a physiotherapist you might know will connect with EPT Agenda 2023 participating institutions from around the world, live from the RV Kronprins Haakon for discussions about, for example, (1) the importance and potential of multi-sensory, experiential approaches in planetary health, environmental and sustainability education, (2) what and how physiotherapists might have to contribute to (embodied) environmental education, (3) how we need to progress our engagement in transdisciplinarity well beyond the confines of healthcare systems if we are to contribute to planetary health and (4) how (else) Arctic deep-sea hydrothermal vents and resident biodiversity connect to planetary health and environmental physiotherapy.
Also live from the boat, I will be joining this year’s CoPEH-Canada Course on Ecosystems Approaches to Health to talk to students about the surprising potential of Healthpunk fiction writing to envision new futures for more socially and environmentally just health and life on this beautiful planet of ours. Who knows what futures they will come up with and how quickly those fictions will become fact. I’m not hoping for anything less than magic by now.
And if you thought ‘What, and that was it? That’s all you will be doing?’, I can tell you that it isn’t as we will be doing a whole lot more. If we find sea ice, we are also planning to go on the ice to take some samples back to our university for further research.
To name only a few more people and activities, the team on the boat will also be joined by: Prof Katrin Losleben from the UiT Center for Women’s and Gender Research who will be working with AKMA OceanSenses to reflect on strategies for understanding environmental change through sound; Research Prof Margherita Paola Poto who will continue her work in visual law, rights of nature, empathy, compassion and care in Water Governance from the perspective of integral ecology; and even Jane Zimmermann from miucreative.com, the ecological science and fiction illustrator, graphic designer and artist who has been the steady backbone of the EPA and EPT Agenda 2023, will be joining AKMA OceanSenses to create children’s books, graphic novels and all sorts of other cool visual educational material. Talk about multidisciplinarity.
If it isn’t obvious already, I could go on and on listing the 35+ different passengers (+15 crew on board) but I think this might do for a first impression of what is coming. While we are on the boat, you can follow the expedition on a story map that we will gradually be filling with content, and you can follow AKMA on Twitter and Instagram for bite-sized snippets along the way, and well after this next stage of the project.
Being a part of this project is already amazing on a personal level, but beyond that, I already know that it will be very exciting in so many professional ways, for all the different things that will be studied, created and shared along the way, and in its wake. If I had to finish on a note with a particular focus on environmental physiotherapy, I would say the project is a testament to the fact that we have only just scratched the surface of what is possible in this highly urgent, but also exciting new field of ours.
Just a few months ago, physiotherapist, Army Officer, and endurance athlete Preet Chandi #polarpreet made history by becoming the first woman of colour to complete a solo expedition in Antarctica. A little less ‘active transport’ maybe, I’m now joining an expedition in the Arctic Ocean only one year after one of my students thought it would be funny to imagine such a thing. Who knows what else is possible when you put physiotherapy, health, and environment together in ever new ways. Not to mention the possibilities of putting environmental physiotherapists in touch with supercool geoscientists, gender researchers, illustrators, lawyers, philosophers, climate scientists, you name it. Worlds. Oysters. Foraminifera. Wicked Problems? Wicked Awesome Solutions. Deep time pasts. Futures. Presents. Hope. Change. And then some.
🌍 🌎 🌏 🚑. #EnviroPT ❤️ #GeoScience