Dr. Maciej Manecki
Department of Mineralogy
Petrography and Geochemistry
AGH – University of Science and Technology, Poland
What questions related to the Arctic are you trying to answer? The group of geologists I am working with have, I would say, historical objectives. On the one hand, we are interested in ancient past of our globe, trying to reconstruct the order of geological events which resulted in contemporary arrangement of lands and oceans in the Arctic. On the other hand, we are interested in our future, trying to reveal how the climate changes result in the evolution of the environment, particularly soils, glaciers, and waters. These changes are relatively fast (compared to extremely slow geological processes in general) and may affect humans.
How will answers to those questions help us understand more about our world? It is still a matter of discussion between scientists studying nature, to what extent observed climate changes result from civilization and to what extent this is a natural fluctuation, similar to [previous changes] observed in the geological history of the Earth. Therefore, reconstruction of the history of Earth and information about the evolution of the Earth surface before humans were even present gives us a hint on natural global processes. This allows for clear separation of the effects of civilization on the environment from natural changes.
How are you trying to find the answers to those questions? [The] Arctic acts as an exceptional natural laboratory for environmental research. This is thanks to [its environment which is] relatively clean and undisturbed by civilization. On the other hand, this region, similarly to other regions of the world, is under the influence of global changes and global scale pollution. This includes global climate changes.One of the most pronounced (obvious) effects of observed global warming is [the] retreat of glaciers. In many cases, this creates a very unusual opportunity for researchers: we can sample the sediment which very recently appeared from under the glacier and compare it with identical sediment [which has been] exposed for many years now. We can also observe how new soil and new life colonizes these [newly-exposed] patches of land which until now were for ages covered with tons of ice.Studying these extremely complicated systems requires collaboration between researchers from many disciplines: chemists, biologists, mineralogists, geologists, climate modelers and many others. Everybody can find himself/herself useful [if he or she has] solid education and enthusiasm for solving mysteries.
Recount for us one of your field days in the Arctic. The most exiting part of this work is the fieldwork. Still, after so many years in the field, I find unspoken pleasure in hiking through the glaciers and mountain ridges with the geological hammer in the hand, a notebook in the pocket and a handful of sampling bags in the backpack. Finding rocks which were never sampled by other geologists before. How exciting! Many places in the Arctic are still as [untouched] as the surface of the Moon. And every time I feel the same excitement I felt doing [research] for the very first time.The days seem to be similar to each other: setting up the tent on the glacier moraine, dinner, few hours sleep in the warm sleeping bag, difficult wake-up and cold mornings, looking into the direction of next exploration over the cup of coffee and breakfast, then packing and hiking again for the whole day. Often a very long day. Geologists work in summer seasons, when the sun doesn’t set [above the Arctic Circle]. So there is no time limit for the working day. This makes the fieldwork safer, too.
What do you find most rewarding about being a scientist? The most rewarding about being a scientist is shearing the results and new findings or ideas with others. This makes me feel useful for the society and gives pleasure of accomplishing something important. This is a very pleasant feeling when you conclude that you solved a problem and you go confront the solution with others. And when it holds, when you defend your point of view, you feel strong and important, contributing to the progress and to our understanding of the Mother Nature.