The new normal – how the Borgå group is responding to the Coronavirus

The spread of coronavirus has led to a lot of changes in our research group over the last week. As we are getting used to a new normal, our priority is keeping ourselves and the people around us healthy and safe.

On Thursday 12th March, the Norwegian government decided to close all universities and schools for staff and students in an effort to reduce the spread of the novel coronavirus (COVID-19). For our group at the University of Oslo, our focus now is our health, and the health and safety of the people around us. We are all taking the steps necessary to #flattenthecurve, by staying at home, social distancing, and most importantly, basic hygiene, like washing our hands.

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A “colleague” at the home office of Mia, one of the master students of the Borgå group, is very happy with the new set-up. (Picture source: Mia Drazkowski Teksum).

For the Borgå group, this has meant that several activities had to be cancelled or delayed, including experiments, fieldwork, and lab work. This includes

  • Cancellation of a research cruise in the Arctic as part of the Nansen Legacy programme.
  • Terminating a recently started experiment with bumblebees.
  • Delaying an outdoor experiment with bumblebees in Reading with our collaborators.
  • Delaying a ready-to-go feeding experiment with springtails.
  • Delaying lab analyses
  • Maintaining springtail cultures at UiO.

As we are getting used to a new normal, we hope to make decisions and plans so that these cancelations and delays have as little impact as possible on our work. Luckily, some experiments can be performed later this year without too much impact on the project (e.g. our indoor experiments looking at the effects of neonicotinoid pesticides on bumblebees in the NEOPOLL project performed at UiO). As appropriate preparations were made last week, we are able to continue the long-term low maintenance experiments for the MULTICLIM project, which looks at the combined effects of climate change and pesticides on springtails. Silje and Sagnik have gained access to the springtail lab at UiO, dropping in for just an hour every week to maintain these crucial colonies. The remaining cultures have been brought home for further maintenance – some new pets for Silje!

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Some have home office while others have home labs! (Picture source: Silje Marie Kristiansen).

Despite these restrictions, activity in the Borgå Ecotox group is still going strong! This is the perfect timing for analysing data, writing manuscripts, submitting papers, and catching up on literature. Most of us had already started to work from home before UiO closed, and the rest made the last necessary steps to do the same last Thursday (12th March).

In an effort to keep in touch with each other, we have become diligent users of Zoom, a program that allows us to see and talk to each other. This includes both our weekly Monday meetings and smaller “mini zoom meetings” for lunch and coffee breaks. It can be easy to feel isolated and constrained these days, but we feel that communicating with and seeing our colleagues and friends which we meet every day in the office, keeps us motivated and encouraged.

To everyone, please stay safe and do not panic, we will make it through this!

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We always make time for our Monday meetings! (Picture source: Katrine Borgå).


By Malin Røyset Aarønes
Published Mar. 20, 2020 11:01 AM - Last modified Mar. 23, 2020 9:18 AM