Earlier this month NARI spoke with Chloe Richards, a recent PhD graduate from Dublin City University and Ireland’s representative at the 2022 Emerging Leaders in the Arctic Program. This is an annually run event designed specifically for early-career researchers and future industry leaders and policy makers under 35 years old. It is hosted by the Arctic Frontiers annual conference that links science, policy and business through the common goal of sustainable development in the Arctic.

Finding NEMMO* in the Arctic Circle –
A First Hand Account of the Arctic Frontiers Emerging Leaders Program.

 
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PhD graduate Chloe Richards (Front row, third from right) was awarded funding by the Irish Embassy in Oslo and the Marine Institute in Ireland to take part in the Arctic Frontiers Emerging Leaders program.

 

The full program is an immersive 7-day experience including a 5-day voyage through the Norwegian Arctic starting in Bodø, continuing north through the Lofoten archipelago and culminating in a Workshop Conference in Tromsø in far north Norway. We wanted to know more about this once in a lifetime experience and glean what lessons and opportunities could be applied to a successful career in STEM. Chloe is a passionate advocate for other young and early career researchers to apply for this, and other Arctic Frontiers programs, as a way to learn about global challenges and perhaps more importantly, to discover what opportunities are out there to help solve them. The Emerging Leaders Program is targeted at young professionals, PhDs and Post-docs affiliated with business, public management or institutes from the academic industry or policy sector.

Chloe was selected as one of only 30 participants from around the world to participate.  Her attendance was sponsored by the Embassy of Ireland in Oslo and the Department of Foreign Affairs. In partnership with the Marine Institute in Ireland, they worked to secure funding to have one young researcher attend the program and represent Ireland on the international stage.

 

Chloe Richards pictured here with her sponsors,  Ireland's Ambassador to Norway Keith Mc Bean and  Olive Hempenstall from the Department of Foreign Affairs.

Chloe’s own work forms a crucial part of the Next Evolution in Materials and Models for Ocean Energy (NEMMO)* project, making tidal energy more affordable. Her PhD was focused on the widespread problem of marine bio-fouling; a phenomenon whereby marine organisms such as seaweed and invertebrates attach themselves to off-shore and coastal infrastructure- a damaging and economically costly problem. Chloe developed and tested various industrial surface designs using 3D printing and laser etching techniques. Taking inspiration from nature, she designed her etchings to closely mimic fish scales. This type of surface prevents the attachment of invertebrate spores to underwater infrastructure, minimising bio-fouling without having to revert to current methods such as using copper compounds which are toxic to the surrounding biosphere.

 

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Like her, many of Chloe's crew mates were close to finishing their PhDs while attending the program. Keeping open the contacts and calling on the networks made while on the ship has been hugely beneficial for all of them as they embark onthe next stage of their careers. “Finishing up a PhD you don’t always know what steps are next, but (as the program shows you) there is such a wide variety of roles out there” she says. “You can go into energy or into fisheries or working with indigenous communities or various government departments”. And while she concedes her own work was not developed specifically for the polar-regions, she now has a better idea of how her industrial designs could be applied to the sustainable development of the Arctic. “There are a lot of renewable energy companies undertaking R&D work” she told me, “It would be interesting to see if these (anti-fouling) surfaces could be applied to some the work going on within them”. 

As part of the program, Chloe had the opportunity to present her work on bio-fouling reduction at the conference in Tromsø in northern Norway.  

Since attending the program, Chloe has kept in touch with many of her crew mates.“We send each other research articles that we see coming up about Arctic research and marine science more generally”. She is also planning to return Norway next year with some of her fellow alumni to see the Northern Lights.

Chloe has kept in touch with many of her fellow Emerging Leaders Alumni (Above Left) who are planning to return to Norway together next year to see the Northern Lights . As part of the itinerary, the crew attended a dinner at the Lofotr Viking Museum while on their Journey to Tromsø. (Above Right) .

 

And back home in Europe, Chloe is making waves with her own work. Her anti-fouling surfaces are set to be trialled on prototype wave energy turbine blades in Scotland next year. This will be a huge step forward in helping make the clean energy sector in Europe more lucrative and competitive within the global market.

 

Looking to the future, she is now starting work helping develop underwater sensory technology. With its potential for such multi-faceted applications in decarbonisation and sustainable coastal development, her work is demonstrative of what can be achieved with talent, hard work and imagination. Here at NARI, we wish Chloe all the best in her work and will be keeping a close eye on her preliminary trials in Scotland next year!

For more information about the Emerging Leaders program and how you can apply visit Emerging Leaders – the Leadership program under Arctic Frontiers for young professionals.

Photos provided by Chloe Richards

*Next Evolution in Materials and Models for Ocean energy (NEMMO) - This project has received funding from the. European Union's Horizon 2020 research and innovation programme under grant agreement No 815278

ENDS

For more information, please contact:
Angharad Johnston e. angharad.johnston@NUIGalway.ie/info@NARI.ie