TPU to Lead Team of Scientists in Large-Scale Study of Ecological Condition of Rivers

Scientists from Tomsk Polytechnic University, together with their colleagues from Sweden and Finland, will conduct a large-scale study in the Murmansk region to identify the causes of the accumulation of mercury and persistent organic pollutants in the region's rivers that flow into the Arctic seas. The project is part of a research initiative of the international Arctic Council, which consists of eight arctic states.

TPU is to lead the Russian research team, which will also include scientists from institutes of the Russian Academy of Sciences. The research will consist of two parts: expedition and analytical work based on previously collected data. It is expected that the first joint expeditions of Russian, Swedish and Finnish scientists to the rivers of the Murmansk region will begin in the summer of 2022.

"The state of the Arctic is a global indicator of climatic and environmental changes occurring on the planet. The accumulation of persistent organic pollutants and mercury is recorded here. This is a collective responsibility of the entire world, so it is necessary to study the problem and look for ways to solve it together with leading scientists. Such a global problem can only be solved in a concerted effort.

The scientific and infrastructural background of Tomsk Polytechnic University allowed us not only to join this global research, but also to act as a national coordinator.

I am sure that together with scientists from the Russian Academy of Sciences through the case of the Murmansk region we will be able to find answers to important questions: what is the source of pollution in the Arctic today, and what solutions can stop these processes," – says the head of Tomsk Polytechnic University Andrey Yakovlev.

Persistent organic pollutants (POPs) are a group of substances used in industrial processes. They include, for example, furans, dioxins, phenols and many other toxic compounds. Together with mercury, they accumulate in water, soil, and living organisms, eventually reaching the human body. The international Arctic Council has initiated a series of studies of the Northern Sea Route, starting from Murmansk.

In the course of work, Russian scientists together with their colleagues from Sweden and Finland will have to determine which organic pollutants are present in the Murmansk rivers’ water and in the soil in the surrounding areas, find the sources of these emissions and propose environmental measures. The research is planned to be completed in 2023.

More than 30 scientists from Tomsk Polytechnic University, including young researchers, will be involved in the project. These are specialists from the Engineering School of Earth Sciences & Engineering, the Engineering School of Advanced Manufacturing Technologies, and the Research School of Chemistry & Applied Biomedical Sciences. They will conduct analytical work and study water and soil samples brought from expeditions.

"Tomsk Polytechnic University possesses the necessary laboratory facilities for participation and coordination of international cooperation. However, the competence of our scientists is the most important thing. For example, we have an active scientific group studying the impact of carbon emissions in the Arctic on climate change. It was formed as part of a megagrant under the leadership of Professor Igor Semiletov and continues working successfully. TPU also has a unique scientific school of medical geology, which was founded by Professor Leonid Rikhvanov. This scientific field considers the dependence of human health on environmental factors and geological features of the territory," notes Mekhman Yusubov, TPU Vice Rector for Research.

For reference:

The Arctic Council is the central organization for cooperation in the Arctic in the field of environmental protection and sustainable development of the region. The Council includes eight states: Denmark, Iceland, Canada, Norway, Russia, the USA, Finland, Sweden. Six Arctic indigenous peoples' organizations are permanent participants with decision-making authority. Another 13 countries participate in the Council in the status of observers. The Arctic Council has six working groups for solving priority tasks - elimination of pollution in the Arctic, preservation of Arctic flora and fauna, marine environment and others.

In 2021-2023, the Arctic Council is chaired by the Russian Federation.