Antarctic Flags Project 2020-2021 Round-up

On December 1st 1959, 12 nations signed the Antarctic Treaty, a document declaring that Antarctica would be off limits to military activity and setting it aside as a place for peace and scientific discoveries. Since 2010, December 1st has been celebrated each year to mark this milestone of peace and to inspire future decisions.

Sixty years on, the Antarctic Treaty has expanded to include 54 countries and is a rare example of international cooperation. The Treaty governs much of the politics, activities and responsibilities within the Antarctic continent and waters south of 60 degrees latitude. For example, all scientific observations should be made freely available to all researchers, no military bases or weapons testing are allowed, and the dumping or burning of any rubbish is prohibited.

Every year since 2015 we have organised an outreach project – the Antarctica Day Flags Initiative – with the aim to spread the word about this world-wide collaboration and to inspires future generations.

As Antarctica does not have its own official flag, we ask participating schools to design one which they believe symbolises this continent. We at the UKPN (UK Polar Network) then pair the flags with researchers and station staff that are heading down to Antarctica for the Austral Summer (November-January). The flags are then transported all the way to Antarctica with these “flag bearers”. Upon the flags return, schools receive proof of travel with a certificate and photos of their journey.

Alongside designing the flags, we encourage schools to learn about Antarctica, its governance and the Treaty in their lessons. This year we received a diverse range of flag designs, from penguins (by far the most popular!), orcas, icebergs and mountains to designs representing peace and international cooperation.

A selection of flags designed by schools across the globe to celebrate Antarctica. Credit: UK Polar Network

A selection of flags designed by schools across the globe to celebrate Antarctica. Credit: UK Polar Network

 ‘Our student was so chuffed to see their flag in Antarctica, they are now researching how to become an Antarctic Scientist’! (Danielle Bate, Worcestershire Secondary School teacher)

It is truly great to see how the unique environment of Antarctica is inspiring the flag makers and the next generation of polar researchers!

This year presented its own challenges, with Covid-19 meaning Antarctic research programs reduced the number of scientists and staff heading South. We were nevertheless delighted at the involvement in our initiative, and sent 122 flags to Antarctica from 106 schools in 13 countries, including UK, Poland, Ireland, China, Germany, Cyprus, Singapore, Uganda, USA, Abu Dhabi and the Netherlands! Most flags have now made their journey back from Antarctica to the schools eagerly awaiting their return.

Some of the flags in Antarctica with research scientists, field assistants, station staff and research ship crew members!

Watch this space for more beautiful flags and more global connections between science, schools and Antarctica. Look out for details on how to take part in our next Antarctic Flags project in October 2021!

Jenny Arthur and Fiona Old (2020-21 Antarctic Flags project coordinators)


Twitter: @UKPolarNetwork, @AntarcticJenny, @fiona_616

Polar Horizons 2021 – apply by 25th January!

It’s time for the next Polar Horizons! The team over there sent us the following to share with our members:
The Polar Horizons 2021 scheme aims to bring more diversity to UK Polar Science.

The Diversity in Polar Science Initiative is running the successful Polar Horizons program again in 2021. In 2020 we reached out to UK students from underrepresented groups including, BAME, LGBTQ+ and Disabled students, to show them how fantastic UK polar research, engineering, and operations are and why they should be looking poleward in their future career.

In March 2021 we are doing it all again and this year the scheme is moving fully online, opening it up to the entire UK polar research community.

We invite early career researchers & students in STEM subjects from groups currently underrepresented in Polar Research (including BAME, LGBTQ+ & Disability) to be paired with Arctic & Antarctic scientists and engineers and join us for our program. If you are available in office hours, between the 2nd and 5th of March 2021 and want to learn about Polar Research, please apply here.

We have organised a four-day programme where we will introduce students to polar research through presentations, workshops, and conversations with individually selected and matched virtual hosts who are currently working on polar subjects!

If you have any questions, please find more information here on the British Antarctic Survey website.

If you are BAME/BIPOC, LGBTQ+ or have a disability and are interested in Polar science, engineering, technology (including AI), maths, policy, museum studies or operations in the polar regions, please apply here.


UKPN Survey Results – Winter 2020

During November 2020 we released a survey to try to understand the demography of the UK Polar Network. 106 people responded, and herein we present a brief summary of these results. 

Understanding the demography of the UKPN enables us to support members of the UKPN in their scientific endeavours. Collaborations between differing backgrounds and perspectives encourage innovation and lead to better science,. A lack of representation or appropriate support for researchers from minority groups leads to individuals dropping out of the field,,. Conducting this survey has enabled us to work out where to focus our efforts and support of our whole community.  

Figure 1: Distribution of Members – A) by age, B) by occupation

Our membership base spans from undergraduate students to senior academics, from field guides to teachers, researchers and retired scientists (Figure 1b). We span an age range from 18 to over 65 (Figure 1a). Approximately half of survey respondents are PhD students in the polar sciences. The UKPN membership base speaks at least 24 different languages on top of English, as shown in the word cloud below.  

Figure 2: Languages spoken by UKPN members other than English

The majority of survey respondents are female (Figure 3), and this is likely the case for early career scientists in the UK Polar research community when considering the very female make-up of our committee. Well-known phenomena such as the leaky pipeline, would suggest that these gender ratios do not transfer to the higher levels of the polar science hierarchy or career ladder, but the data we collected did not include enough people at senior levels to confirm or deny this. 

Figure 3: Gender composition of the UKPN 

22% of survey respondents identify as LGBQ+ (Figure 4), though less than 1% describe themselves as transgender. This is a larger proportion than UK academic STEM community, and governmental estimates of the UK population at large. Queer representation in science is limited but improving, and although 75% of LGBT physical scientists report feeling broadly comfortable in their workplace, there is still more that needs to be done to make Polar Sciences a place where LGBT individuals can thrive, especially given the particular challenges they face from field research in isolated and sometimes hostile locations

Figure 4: LGB self-identification within the UKPN

Only 6% of the UK Polar science community (as represented by respondents to our survey, Figure 5) come from Black and Minority Ethnic Backgrounds, compared to 16% of the UK STEM community, and between 14 to 18% of the UK population as a whole. Less than 1% of Professors and only around 2% of academics at UK universities are Black,

Figure 5: Ethnicities within the UKPN

As per the definition of a disability as a “a physical or mental impairment which has a substantial and long-term adverse effect on their ability to carry out normal day-to-day activities”, 15% of survey respondents identify as having a disability. Mental health conditions were the most widely reported disability.  

Thank you very much to everyone who completed this survey and aided us in better understanding the demography of the UKPN’s members. As a result of this survey we are working on several projects to support UK Polar researchers, to help foster further diversity and inclusivity within our field. Further information of our upcoming schemes and events will follow in the new year, so watch this space

[1] Nature, 2014. (

[2] Seag et al, 2020. (

[3] Ulricksen et al, 2011. (

[4] Grogan, 2019. (

[5] Dutt, 2020. (

[6] Goulden et al., 2011 (

[7] Equality in higher education: students statistical report 2019 (

[8]Equality in higher education: staff statistical report 2019 (

[9] Office for National Statistics, 2017. (

[10] Exploring the Workplace for LGBT Physical Scientists: A report by the Institute of Physics, Royal Astronomical Society and Royal Society of Chemistry, 2019. (

[11] Olcott & Downen, 2020 (

[12 Equality in higher education: students statistical report 2016 (

[13] UK Census, 2011

[14] The Guardian, 2020 (

[15] Higher Education Staff Statistics 2018/19 (

[16] Equality Act, 2010. (

Survey to understand the impacts of COVID-19 on the Svalbard science community

To anyone with research interests in Svalbard, please find below information about a survey to understand the impacts of COVID-19 on the Svalbard science community.

This survey will be used to make a strategy for the upcoming (2021) field season in Svalbard. Svalbard Integrated Arctic Earth Observing System (SIOS) invites all those who are associated with Svalbard science community including researchers/scientists, research management staff, logistics operators, academicians including students (PhD/Masters/Bachelors), and research station/facility/infrastructure staff, to respond to this survey. You can find more information and survey link here:

It will take approximately 15 minutes to complete this survey. The survey will be closed on 7 January 2021.


How will we use the data and disseminate results from this survey? How will you get benefitted from this survey?

 (1) SIOS will host a dedicated online workshop ‘SIOS responses to COVID-19 and the new normal – adapting our strategy for the future’ on 13 January 2020 (09:30 Am to 12:00 Pm CET) as a part of its annual Polar Night Week (PNW) event (11-15 January 2020). More information is available here: Registration to PNW is open: Your inputs to this survey will help us to shape and formulate the programme of this workshop. Preliminary results of this survey will be discussed during the workshop. We encourage all the participants of this survey to attend this workshop.

(2) Since the pandemic is still ongoing, your response will be used to develop new services and strengthen existing services at SIOS-KC to support your fieldwork activities during 2021.

(3) Finally, responses from this survey and the PNW workshop will be analysed by SIOS-KC, RSWG and authors from the Svalbard science community. We may produce a manuscript based on the response from the community to be published in a peer-reviewed journal. If we do so, all the responses will be used anonymously without revealing the personal identity of anyone responding to this survey. If you are willing to analyse resulting data and provide inputs to the planned manuscript as an author, please respond to all questions of the survey and do not forget to mention your name and email id on the question 1 and 2.


Anti-colonialism & Antarctic research: The insidious nature of the Antarctic Treaty

When we think about being anti-colonial in Polar research, we often defer immediately to the Arctic, owing to its presence of Indigenous peoples. While the colonial origins of Antarctic exploration (of which science was a key part) are reasonably well-known, the ongoing nature of colonialism in Antarctic politics and research is not. Here, I build on the works of some inspiring Antarctic researchers to highlight these lesser-known issues, which we should all be concerned with.

Science has never been separate from colonialism. When explorers in the 1750s from Great Britain and France travelled to Antarctica in the name of science, they were simultaneously working towards goals in which they could lay claim to land. Today, with the signing and celebration of the Antarctic Treaty, colonialism is better hidden but still persistent. As Alejandra Mancilla excellently writes, Antarctica is the one continent where colonial powers are still preserved, a continent that is still largely run by colonial and wishing-to-be colonial powers that claimed wedges of it, or reserved their rights to make a claim in the future under the auspices of the Antarctic Treaty. Today, it is an accepted trope in Antarctic humanities and social sciences that Antarctica is a fundamental part of the colonial project at the global level.

Although Antarctica is often thought of as a global commons, the reality is that most countries are not signatories of the Antarctic Treaty. Although the Antarctic Treaty’s membership has grown, amongst signatories 53 signatories only 29 states have the power to vote and therefore shape Antarctica’s legal framework. This led Prime Minister of Malaysia, Mohammed bin Mahathir, to denounce the Antarctic Treaty as, “an agreement between a select group of countries [which failed to] reflect the true feelings of the members of the United Nations or their just claims”.  Indeed, the Antarctic Treaty is largely composed of “who was there first,” thus rewarding prior attempts at occupation. Similarly, new members are forced to replicate colonising behaviours of earlier parties through the establishing scientific bases to prove that scientific research activity is being conducted.

As researchers, particularly those outside of the social sciences, we like to view research and science as objective practices when they are in fact deeply political. While membership of the Antarctic Treaty is theoretically open to all, having decision-making power is predicated on the ability to conduct substantial research activity. This position was not negotiated amongst states, but rather imposed by original, self-appointed signatories. As such, a huge group of states are left voteless when it comes to Antarctic affairs. It is therefore no surprise that many have viewed the rhetoric of universal science as a cover-up to ensure that only some (“developed”) states are the only ones to actively partake in Antarctic politics. By no means do I suggest that science is ‘bad’ in Antarctica, but, following arguments made by Mancilla, having it as the basis for privileged decision-making rights is problematic.

This is a substantial body of Antarctic research, and perhaps one of the key concerns amongst social scientists and humanities researchers in Antarctica, yet this perspective is seldom represented. One thing we can do is engage with alternative narratives and viewpoints  about Antarctica and its seas, something that Charne Lavery and Meg Samuelson discuss here. However, it is an important first step to acknowledge these power structures as an issue, to acknowledge that we are embedded in them (whether we like it or not!), before we can know how to contest them.


Batten, R. 2014. How the Antarctic reframes the context of class and Empire. Imperial and Global Forum <>

Hemmings, A. D. ‘Security beyond Claims’, in Alan D. Hemmings, Donald R. Rothwell and Karen N. Scott (eds), Antarctic Security in the Twenty-First Century: Legal and Policy Perspectives (Abingdon: Routledge, 2012), 70–94, at 77

Lavery, C., 2019. Antarctica and Africa: Narrating alternate futures. Polar Record.

Mancilla, A. (2020). Decolonising Antarctica. In: Philosophies of Polar Law. <>

Antarctica Day Quiz registration now live – 1 December 7pm!

Dear All,

We are happy to announce that the UKPN has an exciting Antarctica Day Quiz running this year!

Antarctica Day has been celebrated since 2010 to commemorate the signing of the Antarctic Treaty on 1st December 1959. So, grab a pint, a penguin, and some pals and join us on 1st Dec at 19:00 GMT on zoom.

You can register with a team of max 5 people (all participating virtually, one registration per team):–_HvuCw0k

Photo courtesy Stas Zakharov

Arctic sessions of MaresEdu conference 30 October

Join us next week at thr Marine Research and Education conference (online) that has a strong Arctic focus this year, see the sessions details below:

  1. Special session on the UN Decade of Ocean Science with a focus on the Arctic region

The session will feature guest presentations from Dr. Grigorii G. Akhmanov (UNESCO-MSU), Dr. Vladimir Ryabinin (IOC-UNESCO Executive Secretary), Dr. Sandy Starkweather (Sustaining Arctic Observing Networks), Christian Riisager-Simonsen (Danish Centre for Marine Research), and Evgeniia Kostianaia (Center for Coordination of Ocean Research, P.P. Shirshov Institute of Oceanology), followed by the group discussions focusing on one of the seven key societal outcomes of the Decade and their implementation in a context of the Arctic region.

Event registration form:
2. UK-Russia joint session on marine expeditions in the Arctic
Understanding Marine Biology and Biogeochemistry of the Changing Arctic Ocean: CAO and Russian Arctic marine research programmes. This session will discuss on-going projects in the Arctic such as the UK/Germany Changing Arctic Ocean Programme (CAO) and comparable Russian marine research programmes to provide a platform for improving UK-Russia bilateral science cooperation. There is also an opportunity to present an e-poster to highlight your own Arctic research as a part of this session.

Locked into ice: my scientific journey across the Arctic (live-link session 23 October)

Another exciting ooportunity below – the MOSAiC live-link session is scheduled for 23 October (17:00-18:00 UK time)

What does it feel like to be locked in ice, drifting across the Central Arctic Ocean in the middle of the polar night? Why is it both fascinating and challenging to do scientific research from a frozen ice-breaker? How do you build an ice camp on a moving Arctic floe? What mysteries does the Central Arctic Ocean hold, and in what way are Arctic researchers helping to solve them?

Join us for a live-link with Dr. Markus Frey from British Antarctic Survey who has just returned from the MOSAiC expediton, the largest year-round multinational expedition in the Central Arctic Ocean. Get an insider view into the life and work of an Arctic researcher.

Direct link for the English-speaking audiences

Webinar alert! UK-Russia Arctic Science Links webinar with Tomsk State University (22 October)

On 22 October, 10-11:15am UK time, SIN Russia and the NERC Arctic Office are organising a UK-Russia Arctic Science Links webinar jointly with Tomsk State University “A journey along the Siberian mega-transect: Discovering Tomsk State University and environmental research“. This is a unique opportunity to hear directly from Russian researchers on their ongoing and future scientific projects linked to Arctic research and climate change as well as learn more about their research infrastructure and explore potential for joint work.

From environmental monitoring in the Arctic and sub-Arctic regions to Siberian rock glaciers to research into the Northern Hemisphere’s largest swamp system (the Great Vasyugan Mire) – Tomsk State University covers it all and much more! We will take you on an exciting journey to discover the University’s BioClimLand multidisciplinary research centre, environmental research across Siberia’s mega-transect and opportunities for fieldwork and networking across Siberia through the Siberian Change Network (SecNet).

For more details on the webinar, including registration, please visit