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The only place in the world where you can drive a car into the Arctic

Pedro Rodrigues - Rif Research Centre

In spring 2021, a new director, Pedro Rodrigues, was appointed to work at the Rif Research Station in Raufarhöfn. Pedro, originally from Portugal, is an educated marine biologist with a doctorate in avian genetics and evolution. He moved to Iceland three years ago and now dreams of buying a house in Raufarhöfn.

With a background in biology and ornithology

Pedro grew up in the Azores. He obtained a doctorate in phylogeography, a field of study that examines the genetic, geographic, and temporal aspects of organisms.

After completing his studies, he moved to Chile with his wife, where he conducted research on birds and bird diseases. Three years ago, they moved to Iceland, and Pedro's wife works for the Southwest Iceland Nature Agency in Sandgerði. When the position of director at Rif was advertised in April, she encouraged Pedro to apply for the job, despite the considerable distance it would create between them.

The Rif Research Station

The Rif Research Station was formally established in 2014 as part of the development project of the Icelandic Regional Development Institute. Rif is part of an international cooperation network called INTERACT, which includes research stations worldwide that work on Arctic issues, ranging from wildlife to social matters. Rif's focus is on monitoring vegetation and animal life in Raufarhöfn and Melrakkaslétta. "My daily work at the research station involves overseeing activities related to Arctic affairs. I work a lot with birds but also study plants and other animal species found in the area," says Pedro.

Assists students in research

Occasionally, both students and scientists visit the Rif station in Raufarhöfn for research expeditions. They often explore the diverse ecosystems of the Arctic, such as Arctic foxes, bird migrations, and permafrost. Pedro considers Raufarhöfn to be the ideal location for studying Arctic ecosystems. One of Pedro's main tasks is to attract more foreign scientists to come here and facilitate collaboration. "If you want to see Arctic ecosystems, whether it's plants or birds, this is the place to be because it's so easy to reach," says Pedro.

"Because the research station is like an unwritten page, I can, to some extent, decide what I want to focus on regarding the Arctic and climate impact. Nature conservation has always been close to my heart, but now, in this role, I feel I have the opportunity to make a real impact. Melrakkaslétta and Raufarhöfn offer the best locations in the world for studying Arctic nature due to a large part of the area being uninhabited, making it possible to observe changes, including climate effects. Moreover, there are no other places on Earth where you can drive to an Arctic location. To find similar locations in Siberia, Alaska, or northern Norway, you would need to fly, but in Iceland, people can drive!" says Pedro.

The future

When Pedro applied for the job, he made a plan for the next five years of the station's activities. He expresses his desire to involve the residents of Raufarhöfn and its surroundings more in the station's work. "One thing I want to do is provide the people of Raufarhöfn with opportunities to participate in the station's activities, whether it's for a day or a weekend per year. I believe it is important for the locals to feel that Rif is part of their community and that it is not just for me, but for everyone," says Pedro.

Pedro also wishes to buy a house in Raufarhöfn and become part of the community. "When I arrived here in the spring, I immediately had the feeling that I had come home."

Pedro Rodrigues

"If you want to see Arctic ecosystems, whether it's plants or birds, this is the place to be because it's so easy to reach."