Expedition 2019 Diaries

Day 6. Zorigto Namsaraev’s mystery

Day 6. Zorigto Namsaraev’s mystery

Since Sunday, the expedition participants have been attending lectures on geopolitics, Svalbard and Arctic legal regime, polar history and microbiology. One of today’s lectures was delivered by Zorigto Namsaraev, candidate of biological sciences, leading researcher in Kurchatov Institute. The main topic of his research work are bacterium systems of the Barents Sea and Svalbard Archipelago.

- Why did you choose this research topic?

- In our world, studying natural systems becomes more and more crucial. We find human traces everywhere and understand that human activity can be followed by dramatic and irreversible consequences for ecology. We should project the possible outcome of our activity and calculate how nature can react to them.

- In today’s lecture, you mentioned the “freedom of imagination”. Do you think imagination is important for you as a researcher?

- A researcher should have a good imagination because we need to elaborate hypothesis and step out from the explored areas. So, we need imagination that will then be checked by logic and experiment.

- Can you think of any case when imagination helped you formulate a hypothesis?

- Yes, my candidate thesis is a good example. I analyzed data of microbes present in hot springs and understood that there were different kinds of them. I could see some regularity in it and finally I managed to describe this regularity. I think that was imagination.

- And has imagination ever failed you?

- I think it may happen to any scientist because we all can think of a number of possible explanations. In this case, imagination works too, even if it gives a negative result.

- Have you ever experienced a “dead end”, when your first, second, third hypothesis is not confirmed?

- Well, yes. It does happen. When a problem is complex, you change one hypothesis after another. But I must say that for a scientist this is daily routine. We need to check different variants before we find by experience the direction that would work.

- Haven’t you ever felt that there was no way out from the dead end? No solution of a research problem?

- Such situations happen in each scientist’s life when they try to make a proportion of their effort and the projected results. This is necessary in order to understand if research work in the chosen direction is worth pursuing.

- So, you have experienced such a “dead end”?

- Yes, I think so. In fact, I do not concentrate on negative points. But I suppose I could remember such cases.

- How can you explain the fact that you do not concentrate on negative points?

- I suppose, it is because of my character and experience. In my opinion, people who concentrate on negative results have more difficulty in obtaining new results. Fear of making a mistake overweighs the pleasure of a future discovery. Amundsen and Scott’s “race” to the South Pole is a good example. There is an interesting book devoted to this race from which we learn that both discoverers prayed God. We can compare: Scott prayed in the moments of bad luck, he asked for salvation, while Amundsen thanked God for good luck.

- When you are heading for a new expedition, do you look forward to a breakthrough? Or is it just an expedition?

- I cannot not say I look forward to a discovery. I need this expedition to test a hypothesis. Either I find out that it is correct, or that it fails and needs to be reviewed. It is quite risky to go on expedition with no hypothesis and just the goal of collecting a lot of samples. Such time and effort management is dangerous.

- Why dangerous?

- Time is a valuable resource and we should respect it.

- Did you have your hypothesis when you started the Svalbard expedition?

- Yes, I have a hypothesis that we are going to check within our future studies.

- Can you share it with us?

- I would not like to develop it now. It deals with photosynthesizing microorganisms in the Barents Sea. So, we are going to compare microorganism composition along the route.

- Does a big team work on it?

- Yes, many people are waiting for these results and samples. I hope to bring them all they need.

- How do you choose the team members to go on an expedition?

- It depends on who has time and necessary experience of work in the field condition. The person should also by physically healthy.

- Does it happen for you to refuse an expedition?

- Surely. You cannot take part in everything, you just do not have enough time for it. I sometimes get offers to go on an expedition but it often turns out that I have no time or have too much to do at the moment.

- What expedition would you never refuse?

- To the Everest, I suppose.

- Is it possible, an expedition to the Everest?

- It is interesting. I study polar systems, and ecosystems of high mountain ridges are quite alike.

- Do you take any special preparations for expeditions?

- I attended a number of trainings for safety in expeditions and understood that tragic consequences are most often caused by the human factor. We need to remember it.


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Updated 26.08.2019