Annabel Flatland ’24

University of Oslo, Centre for Earth Evolution and Dynamics, Norway

This summer, I worked at the Centre for Earth Evolution and Dynamics (CEED) at the University of Oslo. CEED is related to the geoscience department but focuses on understanding Earth tectonics, climate, volcanoes and modeling. My project’s goal was to gain insight into Arctic basin mantle dynamics.

The geologic history of the Arctic Ocean is especially difficult to study because the region is dark, cold, remote and often covered by sea ice. As a result, not much is known about how the Arctic basin was formed or the underlying mantle dynamics. One way to learn more about the Arctic is to study seamounts, or underwater mountains. Their formation may reveal clues as to what’s going on under the crust.

The best way to study seamounts is to take measurements in person. While this would be a cool summer adventure, the most practical way to do large scale studies of Arctic seamounts is to use data from satellites. My job was to extract data from existing grids and create a database of seamounts, including information from gravitational, magnetic, topographic, sediment and crustal datasets. I used Python to create web scrapers, learned the PyGMT mapping library and used the GPlates software to display geospatial data. There aren’t any databases about Arctic seamounts yet, so compiling this information will be useful for future seamount analyses. The skills I developed to create the database will also be useful at Williams for my research into Arctic sea ice.

Apart from learning about seamounts and building a database, my job also included writing a series of blog posts about Arctic features and their names. This gave me the chance to learn more about Arctic geography and the history of Arctic exploration.

When I wasn’t working, I had the opportunity to explore Norwegian geology and culture in person. I was able to see glaciers for the first time, swim in the Arctic Ocean, learn about organic strawberry farming north of the Arctic Circle, go camping in Jotunheimen National Park and see the midnight sun. There was a wonderful mix of studying and experiencing the Arctic in a way that I’ve never been able to before.

This internship showed me that I’m still uncertain about what I want to do in the future but that it’s worth trying new things. I was able to experience the culture of a big research university as well as the laid-back Norwegian summer work environment. Learning about seamounts and the history of the Arctic was fascinating, but in the future I want to focus on researching climate change. Even so it was fascinating to meet so many international researchers who left their home countries to work somewhere else. Living abroad for the first time has given me a new perspective on the U.S., and I now see more possibilities for my future career paths.

Thank you to the Class of 1974 and the ’68 Center for Career Exploration for this experience, giving me the opportunity to study the Arctic and live abroad this summer.