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See it! Touch it! Smell it! And… eat it?

Date: 10. juli

As part of Hyfer festival, NTNU’s Forskningsdagene (Research Days) are gearing up to engage students with hands-on activities to learn about the ocean and beyond. The multi-day and multi-venue events bring research to life by encouraging children to experience the wonders of knowledge – whether that’s life in the sea or the maths behind the internet.

Let’s start with a little game. Guess which of these statements about Norway’s seas are true:
Norway has the second longest coastline in the world
Norway has the biggest coldwater coral reef in the world
Norway is home to glow-in-the-dark sharks. Believe it or not, all of these statements are true! But why do most of us not know about these incredible facts? “We learn more about the Great Barrier Reef than we do about our own oceans!” exclaims Pia Ve Dahlen, a marine biologist and science communicator. “And there’s always new stuff to learn – we’ve only just scratched the surface!”

Pia is passionate about unveiling the wonders of the seas and helping us discover the magical world that surrounds our shores. That’s why she will be a speaker at this year’s Researchers’ Night – an event to engage high school students with research – showing off the weird and wonderful life that swims, scuttles, and settles beneath Norway’s oceans. “I’m not a theoretical person,” she explains. “I like to be hands-on, in the mud and in the kelp.”

Under the waves with the weird and the wonderful

Pia spent several years studying and teaching marine biology. At a recent research school for kids, she has been teaching them to free dive too. “We just throw them in the ocean and point at the great things they see down there!” she jokes. And there’s plenty to see: from the sea spider that’s so skinny it has to squeeze its intestines out into its legs to a 60-metre-long neurotoxic ribbon worm.

During the last 10 to 20 years, however, Pia has noticed the coastlines changing. “As a child, we would spend our summers in the south of Norway looking for shrimps in huge bowls of seaweed,” says Pia. “But now when I go back, the whole fjord is just mud.”

Soil erosion and run-off into Norway’s largest river, Glomma, is one of the culprits. Aside from turning beautiful sandy beaches into murky mud baths, there is a large impact on the local biology. Fish are disappearing due to overfishing and habitat loss, and so-called “lurv”, a competitive kind of seaweed, is taking over. It grows best in warm and nutritious environments, so combining soil erosion with an increasingly warmer climate invites the perfect storm.

But biology can at least begin to help clear up our mess. Sea squirts, for example, are squishy, tubular animals that suck in and squirt out seawater to filter and clean it. Given the right conditions, they can filter up to 200 litres per day – they just need a surface to sit on. That’s why Pia and her collaborators are setting up sea squirt hotels – hanging ropes in the fjord to provide space for the sea squirts to settle.

To love is to protect

But between talking about all of the problems and solutions, Pia is keen to talk about the ‘what’ and the ‘why’. “At Researchers’ Night, I want to show people what it is we’re trying to save, and why,” she explains. “I mean, why should you change your entire life to save some ecosystems just because I think barnacles are cool?”

Pia makes a good point. She says that you protect what you love, but it’s difficult to love something if you don’t even know it exists. “Once you get to know nature, it’s so much easier to understand what it needs from us,” explains Pia. “And then changing some habits will become automatic.”

As part of Researcher’s Night and other events within NTNU’s Forskningsdagene, children throughout Trøndelag can get the chance to find out more about the ocean and the life it is home to. This annual research festival incorporates many events which aim to excite and educate children about a broad range of topics, including the ocean.

Project Manager and Regional Contact for Forskningsdagene, Randi Wenche Haugen reiterates the benefits of Pia’s hands-on approach;
“we want children to really experience research – they should be able to see, hear, taste, and smell it all!”
Marine biologist Pia Ve Dahlen is one of NTNU Researchers’ Night speakers. Photo: Kersti Kesper

Forskersprinten 2022 | The Research Sprint 2022

To kick off the festival, NTNU researchers will sprint from the university to the classrooms around Trøndelag – and what will follow won’t be any ordinary class.

In one lesson, students can create their own virtual city. By learning about and balancing social conditions, the economy, and the environment, young people can see how green cities can be developed in a smart and sustainable way. Perhaps renewable energy is of particular interest. In this case, researchers from the Department of Electric Power Engineering will show students how fossil fuels can be replaced with renewable electrical energy. Or if the maths class shouldn’t be missed, students are given the chance to work together to create and solve each other’s codes, in this way discovering the hidden world of cryptography that simmers underneath our daily internet browsing.

School children aged 11 to 15 will get the chance to deep dive into one of these three different topics. But students aged 16 to 19 are also in for a treat as NTNU researchers will also visit high schools across Trøndelag as part of another event within Hyfer Festival.

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Forskningstorget 2022 | Science Fair 2022

The tables are turned on the 23rd of September when students venture out of the classroom and into the NTNU University Museum to take part in Forskningstorget. This diverse and dynamic science fair will arouse curiosity and light up students’ imaginations. Traditional academic posters filled with text from floor to ceiling will be nowhere to be seen. Instead, students will get hands-on experiences, performing experiments themselves and engaging in varied research activities.

Across seven spacious tents there will be something to interest everyone, but here’s a sneak peek of what you can explore. Those interested in creepy crawlies will be fascinated to take part in a treasure hunt to search for moss scorpions, or discover water mites under the microscope. Or perhaps boats are more your cup of tea. Discover how they are built and tested – and what happens if it all goes wrong. The dramatic stories told through shipwrecks will also be divulged as part of the science fair.

Students will be guided around the fair to ensure they can see, hear, taste, smell, and experience it all. But there’s always the chance to come back for more. The next day, the Science Fair will be open to everyone. This will be the chance for students to show their siblings and parents what they have learnt, and maybe teach them something too!

Discover the Programme!

Researchers’ Night 2022

Forskningsdagene will end with a bang this year as there will be a record number of programme activities at Researchers’ Night. The mix of 50 lectures, lab visits, and stands is guaranteed to astound with new knowledge and ‘Eureka!’ moments. These activities will begin to answer questions on a myriad of subjects, but – as is normal with any good research – one fact learnt will lead to ten more questions just itching to be answered.

Students might already be pondering some of these questions themselves. For example, how can I learn to handle my emotions? Why do I get pimples? What can I study at NTNU? Other questions might not have been thought of before. Like, what on earth is a sea walnut?! But maybe more importantly – why should we care? Pia Ve Dahlen and NTNU researchers will shed light on the answers to all of these questions and more as part of the Researchers’ Night’s lectures.

There’s also the opportunity to explore some of NTNU’s labs. From the cleanest lab in Norway (NTNU NanoLab), to arguably one of the windiest (NTNU’s wind tunnel), there’s plenty to see and experience. There is even the chance to see a turbine being tested at the Hydropower Laboratory, something that is usually never possible outside of a power plant.

Jumping out of the labs and into the Night’s 33 activity stands, there’s the chance to win prizes, try your hands at being a researcher, and even listen to the mysterious underwater sounds of the sea. Some of us might already have an idea about what a whale sounds like – but what about a shrimp?!

As well as getting lost amongst the activities, there will be the chance for students to meet up, make new friends, and learn from each other. Together they can sit in NTNU’s lecture theatres, walk down distinguished corridors, and explore the research environment for the first time.

To mark the end of the night and celebrate the importance of the visiting students, a glittering fireworks display will dazzle the skies. We hope that for everyone who has taken part in Forskningsdagene, this won’t be the last time they come to NTNU!

Discover the Programme!


Registration for Forskersprinten, Forskningstorget, and Researchers’ Night is now open. All events are first come, first served so be quick to secure your spot!

Programme at a glance

21 September

Forskersprinten 2022 | The Research Sprint 2022

School pupils, 5th - 10th grade

School classrooms

23-24 September

Forskningstorget 2022 | Science Fair 2022

School pupils, 5th - 10th grade (23 September)

Everyone (24 September)

NTNU University Museum

30 September

Researchers’ Night

High school pupils

NTNU Gløshaugen