A Norwegian experience to remember: (Part I) Oslo: Renewing old connections and making new ones

By Vidyadhar Atkore

I received my Norwegian visa in mid-November 2017. I was thrilled; this was going to be my first ever visit to Europe! The imagination wandered as I thought excitedly of Norway! However, I was also under considerable pressure: reviewers’ comments on my doctoral thesis were yet to arrive. Fortunately, I received comments just in time. This allowed me to defend my thesis successfully days before I was to leave.  I was elated when the defence went off smoothly on the last day of November.  All I had to do now was to pack my bags. Soon enough, four days later, I boarded a flight to Dubai from Bangalore en route to Oslo, for a trip that was to last three weeks.

Dr. Asbjørn Vøllestad, Professor at the Centre for Ecological and Evolutionary Synthesis (CEES), University of Oslo (UIO), had generously agreed to host me as a guest researcher in his lab. Dr. Vøllestad is highly renowned for his expertise in European fish biology. His area of research lies in understanding fish-environmental relationship, fish traits, and assessing the role of hydrological barriers on native salmon in Norway.

Valuable support for my visit came from the ATREE-Royal Norwegian Embassy grant, which sponsored my trip. The grant is aimed at facilitating student, researcher, and faculty exchange between ATREE and Norwegian research institutions in order to identify opportunities for collaboration in the natural and social sciences.

Since I had been working on river systems for my PhD, I was hoping to find post-doctoral opportunities to work with like-minded researchers in Norway, with expertise in freshwater ecosystems, especially fish ecology and ecohydrology. (Norway, being a leading producer of renewable energy, with more than 99% energy derived from hydropower alone, has several researchers with expertise in this area.) I was interested, in particular, to learn how fish populations respond to hydro-electric dams. I had written to a few researchers regarding my visit. Among them was Prof. Knut Alfredsen from the Norwegian University of Science and Technology (NTNU) who invited me over to Trondheim, where NTNU is located. Meanwhile, I received another invitation to stay over in Oslo from Seethapathy, a former ATREE colleague, and currently a graduate student at the Department of Pharmacy, UIO. His warm offer of hospitality came as a source of immense relief, especially because I had been warned that Norway is an expensive country for travellers. Besides, over email conversations with researchers in Norway I had learnt that December is a difficult time for visitors. December is university examination time, and no sooner do the examinations end than researchers and students alike leave on Christmas holiday. Moreover, funding is hard to find. Had it not been for my hosts’ and friends’ timely support and guidance I would have had to reschedule my visit.

It was afternoon when my connecting flight from Dubai touched down at Oslo Airport. A short train journey from the airport took me to the Oslo city centre. Here I was delighted to find Seethapathy and Bhavanishanker (another ATREE colleague visiting UIO) waiting for me. We boarded another train to Kringsjå, a beautiful village adjacent to Sognsvann Lake, where they lived along with many other UIO students. It was snowing and the sight was beautiful! I could not resist taking pictures with my phone camera. At the station where we got down we took ample photos with glee!

I was hungry and tired, but the sight of fresh snow everywhere elevated my mood. We went to the UIO canteen for lunch, where I met a Pakistani cook who immediately started conversing with me in Hindi upon learning that I was Indian!  Later we visited the Social and Natural Science Libraries at the UIO. The Libraries are open to everyone, including lay citizens.

Next morning I met with Prof. Vøllestad at his office in the CEES. We chatted briefly and he introduced me to his office staff and research colleagues. As the day progressed, I realized that there was an interesting similarity between ATREE and CEES – tea/coffee-break at both places is at 10.30!

Humanities and Social Sciences Library, University of Oslo

Text and pictures by the author.

About the author:

Vidyadhar Atkore is a Senior Research Associate with ATREE interested in assessing the impact of hydropower on native fishes in the Eastern Himalayas. He enjoys travelling, cooking and hopes to see the Aurora Australis one day.


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