People behind the scenes: marine biologist Petra Pohjola

Hi, I’m Petra. I’m an adventurer and nature lover. I’m also a Finnish marine biologist working in Sweden. How did I end up in Sweden? We can start with where I came from.

8 years I worked for Metsähallitus, most of that time in the eastern Gulf of Finland. I was a field worker and planner and did pretty much anything that involved underwater marine inventories and processing inventory data. As I’m enthusiastic about nature exploration, especially so in the sea where so little is explored, I have been somewhat non-compliant to shift to a pure desk job, as so many in my field of work do with time. One spring I was looking for a job, as you often are forced to do if you want to work on the field. I felt I wanted a change in scenery. So, I just started to look for jobs on the other side of the Baltic sea. Then I ended up in Luleå, to work for the County Administrative Board. It has ended up being one of my best adventures so far.

As a Swedish speaker, luckily language has not been a barrier, only a small obstacle as the language is somewhat different in our countries. Also, because my working language in the past years has been Finnish. I have made use of my bilingual upbringing, as Finnish is a surprisingly common language in these parts of Sweden and of course also because of the collaboration that we do with our Finnish colleagues. I can be a better translator than google. I have also had a few laughs over all the ways my surname can be spelled.

Petra and Kajsa standing behind a table filled with samples for public on a jetty.
As a part of our communication, me and my colleague Kajsa reach out to the public in Piteå during sea festivities. We understand each other surprisingly well, considering I come from Finland and she comes from Skåne. (Photo by: Linnea Bergdahl, County Administrative Board of Norrbotten)

My work here is quite similar to what I did in Finland, only more. It’s amazing how many different projects I have had the possibility to take part of and how many different work tasks I have had. I have found myself snorkeling in the crystal clear fell lakes and I have done fish inventories of many different forms. The most satisfactory part of my work here has been taking part in projects from the start until the end. I have not only done and planned field inventories, I have also taken part in the initiation of projects and seen and prepared the results of projects, both large and small, and reached out to people and presented results. The only thing I miss is scuba diving, which we here hire consultants to do for us. Still I have probably spent more time in water than I have ever before during our field seasons, free of bulk and with a snorkel in my mouth.

On a special mission after the charophyte Tolypella canadensis we marine biologists got the chance to take a dip into fell lakes. The visibility was unbelievable! (Photo by: Linnea Bergdahl, County Administrative Board of Norrbotten)

As for the underwater nature in the Bothnian bay versus the Gulf of Finland, I never thought I would say this, but I love both equally. There is something ruggedly beautiful with the Baltic sea and specially so in the north. Here the water has an uninviting brown tint, but the visibility is often surprisingly good, especially in the inner archipelago as some of the huge rivers that run out here clearly have their source in fells and forests. Some of the best visibilities I have experienced in the Baltic sea have been here. I hold a special place in my heart for sheltered bays and I have years ago learned that the harder it is to get there, the more the place holds. Some of the bays I have visited here have been like huge diverse aquariums, only you can swim in them… or then drag your stomach across their muddy shallow floors. I seldom go anywhere without a camera and I have done my best to capture what I have seen, so I can show these amazing places to you.

Petra ready to drop a video camera from a boat.
Happy nature inventories! Although methods differ somewhat between our countries, dropvideo works the same everywhere. Photo by: Linnea Bergdahl, County Administrative Board of Norrbotten

Written by Petra Pohjola, County Administrative Board of Norrbotten

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