Science Outreach: Engaging Experiences for Visitors in an Arctic Environment


10-week Project + 2 weeks Design Ethnography and + 3 weeks Graphic Design 2

A large number of visitors, both national and international, visit the Abisko region year-round. This offers a unique opportunity to expose research at the Abisko Scientific Research Station and to make the research available to the public, allowing visitors to gain insight into the research that is executed in the Arctic environment in Abisko. The challenge is to find different ways for outreach that utilizes the possibilities that are given in the Abisko environment and the seasonal variations.

There are a multitude of potential platforms for outreach in Abisko; such as ANS and its facilities, the nature reserve, the village, Naturum (the County Administrative Board's visitors center), Abisko Tourist Station, Abisko National Park, tourist facilities and probably a number of others. The ways in which this can be utilized may also differ with the time of the year since winter conditions are very different from summer and season also affects the type of visitors; currently winter visitors that want to experience the cold north, go skiing and see the aurora borealis, summer visitors with an interest in the scenery, the midnight sun and hiking.

The aim of this project, Science Outreach, was to design services, artefacts and installations that create curiosity, awareness and engage visitors in environmental questions related to the surrounding Arctic environment and, maybe also allow them to explore research related issues on a local as well as global scale. The outcomes have been designed to promote CIRC's outreach activities and create a form of dialogue between scientists and visitors. Both provocative critical concepts and realistic, practical concepts were accepted.

The concepts generated in this project will be used to create designs that will be developed and installed within these sights. Therefore, the concepts have been designed with consideration for what is feasible within today's technological environment.

The course teamwork resulted in four service design concepts seen below: HikeLab, Abisko Adventure, Abisko Layers, and Abiscope.

The course was done in collaboration with Climate Impact Research Centre (CIRC) and the Department of Ecology and Environmental Science (EMG) at Umeå University. 

Participation by Swedish Polar Research Secretariat and local stakeholders, and supported by Umeå University (Kiruna Environmental Education).

External Tutors
Brendon Clark, PhD, Interactive Institute 
Mattias Löw, Documentary producer & director, Freedom From Choice AB
Satu Miettinen, Doctor of Arts, University of Lapland, Rovaniemi, Finland
Mira Alhonsuo, Research assistant, University of Lapland, Rovaniemi, Finland

Course Responsible
Parag Deshpande

Project Coordinator
Catharina Henje (course/project lead)

Instructors from UID
Aditya Pawar
Tara Mullaney
Niklas Andersson




HikeLab - by Emily Keller, Jenni Toriseva, James McIntyre and Marcel Penz

HikeLab provides hikers with activities at different levels of engagement, where they collect data relevant to ongoing research projects during hiking expeditions in Abisko.

The HikeLab science kit contains maps, sensors, and a booklet designed for the selected hiking trail. It supports hikers along the way and complements a smartphone application for data gathering. Physical installations such as flag posts and photo platforms mark points of activity.

The role of the Science Communication Officer bridges hiking tourism and the scientific world. She will develop new activities together with scientists and will inspire hikers to contribute to climate impact research.

Downloads: Report - Final Video


Abisko Adventure 1 
Abisko Adventure - by Kallirroi Pouliadou, Madyana Torres and Regimantas Vegele

This is a service designed to help Climate Impacts Research Centre (CIRC) conduct science outreach in Abisko.

The service focuses on tourist families, seeking outdoor activities in a polar environment. Composed of a hiking and exploration experience, the participants can engage with CIRC experiments that have been specially curated for them by visiting researchers. 

Abisko Adventure aims to trigger curiosity in visitors to Abisko, cultivating their knowledge, and promoting participation and action in scientific research and experimentation. Through these activities, our service exposes the value and excitement of the research being done at CIRC.

Downloads: Report - Final Video

Abisko Layers 2 

Abisko Layers - by Jiaojiao Xu, Yedan Qian, Migle Padegimaite and Kevin Gaunt

Abisko Layers is a service that aims to help tourists learn in different depths about what CIRC does and why it is important. The service engages visitors at three main touch-points with different ways of conveying information:

1. Multi-sensory Learning: Virtual Elevator

The first part of Abisko Layers is a virtual elevator. Each virtual floor represents a different area of research (e.g. atmosphere, soil and underground). On each floor visitors experience a short, multi-sensory story supposed to salivate their appetite to get to know more.

2. In-Context Learning: Signage & App

An offline smartphone application containing pointers to research-related locations in Abisko. Interactive signposts mark these locations. They help visitors make sense of what they see. Both the app and the signage visualise the changes Abisko has been going through over the last 100 years.

3. In-Depth Learning: Tablet & Phone Apps

Once hooked, visitors can access more interactive information through a smartphone/tablet app. It describes the greater context of climate impact research.

Downloads: Report - Final Video

 Abiscope Map Hires 05 
Abiscope - by Taís Mauk, Júlia Nacsa and Idil Tunga

Our design process revolved around adapting the concept to the outreach capabilities of CIRC; the tourists' interest in the basics of natural sciences; and their wish to get in touch with the people behind scientific research.

The core of our service within Abisko itself was to target tourists who are not directly aware of CIRC's research activities, but who are interested in experiencing the nature that Abisko has to offer. In this way we discovered that since, both researchers and tourists come to Abisko because of its unique location and natural qualities, we designed our service around using the natural landscape as a teaching tool, in order to educate the tourists about the unique qualities of Abisko, and highlight how the researchers are learning more about them.

The final outcome is a concept called Abiscope, a learning journey which guides tourists through the natural landscapes in Abisko, and opens their eyes to the subjects and phenomena that CIRC's Arctic researchers are studying during their work. Abiscope provides a new perspective on the environment using a series of outdoor interactive stations, a unique map/telescope, framed vistas and visual captions. This system capitalizes on the natural surroundings in the area as a teaching tool, allowing visitors to see the environment the same way researchers do.

Downloads: Report - Final Video