My time in Konnevesi Research Station for my master thesis

I am Arjane Kerkhoven, a master student from Wageningen University in the Netherlands. I came to Finland because I wanted to research the bank vole and its behaviour.


What I wanted to find out was if there is any effect of predator presence on the pups of our test voles. In short: we put a group of test voles in large enclosures in the field, where they could live a free life. Twice a day we checked the traps that were in the enclosures, and if there was a vole in it we would expose it to either clean sawdust, sawdust with weasel poop or sawdust from a vole that was scared by a weasel.

After a few weeks we caught the voles again and took them back to the station. There, we checked the females for pregnancy twice a day and as soon as there were pups born, we weighed them weekly. After 30 days we started behavioural experiments. The pups from each type of treatment were divided again in three groups each, which were again exposed to one of the three treatments. These sub-treatments were the types of sawdust that the pups would be exposed to during the behavioural experiments. All vole pups were put in an open field arena to see how much they would move and where they would spend the most time (corner, wall, centre etc.)

What amazed me the most

I met many new people during my stay and I have visited a lot of nice places. My favourite place to visit regularly was Jyväskylä, it was a really nice city with beautiful views, nature areas, nice shops and famous buildings. However, when I think again of my time in Finland, it’s mainly Lapland that comes to mind. There was some time for a small holiday, and I spent an amazing time there while camping and driving around in the most amazing landscapes I have ever seen. All my best experiences are from Lapland and also from north Norway, and there are too many to count: we hiked from Kilpisjärvi to the place where Finland, Norway and cabinit.jpgSweden share a border and took the boat back. We visited Tromsø and Övertorneå, we camped among the rocks and slept in the car after we got soaked in the nightly rain. We spent hours looking for a dry place to sleep the next day and found a small hut on a camping area in the most amazing place I’ve ever seen, right next to the mountains. I touched the Ice Sea for the first time and went to the most northern place I’ve been so far, just north of Tromsø. Every time that we reached a special place we had some Lakka to celebrate!

Finnish food

Of course I also needed to eat, and that’s an experience that I enjoyed a lot! Finnish food is different from (traditional) Dutch food, in the sense that it is more creative. In the Netherlands, the standard food is boiled potatoes (sometimes mashed) with one type of boiled vegetable and a piece of meat with gravy. Sometimes the mashed potatoes are mixed with the vegetables. In Finland we also had a lot of boiled potatoes and vegetables, but there was much more variation and the combinations of foods were often unusual to me. Therefore I want to give a big compliment to the kitchen ladies, that managed to cook a delicious meal every weekday. Also when I wanted to have a ready-made meal in the weekend, I could be sure that whatever I’d pick in the supermarket would be very tasty. In the Netherlands I rarely buy them because they’re less tasty there. I think in Finland it’s slightly more expensive, but the quality of the Finnish products is better.

Daily fun activities

Other things that I did were going to the cinema in Jyväskylä, eating awesome food in the Kota and of course lots of sauna! We also enjoyed watching movies in our apartment and jyvaskyla_kaupunki.jpgeating lots of snacks. We occasionally went on hikes from the station, and once we spent the night in a hiker’s hut. We also went to a tent-sauna that stood next to it, which was unlike any sauna experience I’ve ever had. I’m sure that people from the station know where to find it! I also really liked watching the lake every day, because it’s something that we don’t have in the Netherlands. Almost all our lakes are much smaller and usually artificial. In Finland there’s much more “raw” nature, and I love it!