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Winter School Report on the 10th Jyväskylä Winter School of Ecology, Finland

In February 2017 Gabriel Brownell attended the 10th Jyväskylä Winter School of Ecology held in the Konnovesi Field Station of the Jyväskylä University, Finland. They were located between the lake of Konnovesi and the like named town. The special relevance of this Winter School lies on the effects of a warmer climate in traditionally cold areas and ecosystems of the Globe, such as the boreal biomes.

This year´s winter school consisted of a two week course, each week having three parts. The first week of the school featured lectures and field exercises pertaining to boreal winter ecology. The second week covered topics which change from year to year. This year's topic was: Wildlife and Game Management. Finally, the third week had a workshop that continued the theme of the first week and featured talks given by students and guests from all around the world.

On the first hand, the Jyväskylä Winter School consisted of extensive field work, which included vole enclosure preparation and trapping, snow depth/density measurements, skiing, ice fishing methods, behavioral observations, bird trapping and identification, and tracking. On the second hand, the school´s workshops focused their discussions on ecological management efforts and their efficiency. These topics were presented and commented by students and invited researchers.

During the time we were free to explore on our own, the station gave us free use of skis and ice fishing equipment. The big event of the Winter School was the day trip to the national park Pyhä Häkki. It was there where we practiced our tracking skills. We observed a forest of glacial till, a peat bog and valley ecosystems. Animal tracks were also identified, mostly from squirrel and dog tracks. One set appeared to be a possible bear track but the snow was too old to be certain. We found blood and scales near the trail which we deduced was a large bird carrying a fish off to eat in peace. We also observed boring beetles responsible for many tree deaths including the formerly oldest tree in the park. Damaging effects of the beetle are expected to increase with climate change and less severe winters.

Finally, something to be aware of is that going to the sauna is a major part of the evening activities, as it is the primary social interaction and is part of the Finnish culture. Other outings were often planned there. My recommendation for any interested student is that stay and flights are both cheap. Jyväskylä is totally worth going for two weeks. If you only get in the first week, it is easy to get in a second time for the second week as it changes each year and they like returnees.

Text: Gabriel Brownell

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