Report on the UKPN Workshop: Modelling In the Polar Sciences

The UKPN Modelling in the polar sciences workshop ran from the 2nd to the 4th of April 2012 in the Geography department at the University of Sheffield. It was attended by 30+ masters students, PhD students and early-career researchers all interested in learning about mathematical modelling and how it is applied in the polar sciences. Participants enjoyed talks and practicals covering topics from ice ages to ice divides delivered by a range of highly respected academics. Felix Ng, Sheffield, began the workshop with an introduction to mathematical modelling providing a useful summary of the different types and uses of modelling, and sharing his love of the subject by describing the links between hydrodynamics and horse locomotion. Next, Michael Griffiths from the Sheffield computing department introduced us to the Sheffield supercomputer which we used to compile and run models during the rest of the workshop. Andrew Fowler, Limerick, then ran a computer practical where participants gained experience of modelling ice ages. Later in the afternoon participants got a chance to present their work in a poster session. Judges Felix Ng, Iestyn Barr, Queens Marys, and Ian Rutt, Swansea, chose Edward Gasson’s poster entitled ‘Modelling the onset of Cenozoic Antarctic glaciation’ as the winning of the poster prize which was presented at the end of the workshop.

Participants enjoying modelling ice ages during Andrew Fowler’s computer practical. From left to right: Jonathan Day, Leeds; Christopher Williams, Leeds; Eleanor Darlington, Loughborough; Aisling Dolan, Leeds.

The next day began with talks about the GLIMMER-community ice sheet model from Ian Rutt and Stephen Livingstone, Sheffield, and a practical run by Ian aimed at teaching students how to compile and run GLIMMER for themselves. That afternoon Richard Hodgkins, Loughborough, gave a talk and ran a practical on the modelling of the glacier hydrology using linear reservoir and time-series approaches. That evening the conference dinner was held at a local restaurant called The Milestone. The next morning Grant Bigg, Sheffield, and Pete Nienow, Edinburgh, presented interesting talks about the Arctic’s contribution to Heinrich events and hydrological observations in West Greenland. These were followed by a talk and practical run by Richard Hindmarsh, British Antarctic Survey, about ice divides and grounding line stability. The workshop provided an opportunity for young scientists to interact with each other and with some of the most respected and established academics in their respective fields. Everyone who attended took a huge amount from the event both academically and socially. I would like to thank all the people who helped organise the workshop, including but not limited to: Iestyn Barr, Jeremy Ely, Stephen Livingstone, Sarah Wrathmell, Tom Hurst, Amir Levy, John Owen. I would also like to thank Sheffield University for use of the Geography Department and supercomputing facilities and Foreign and Commonwealth Office for funding that made the workshop possible. Jonathan Kingslake, University of Sheffield.

UKPN and APECS at AGU Fall 2011

Prior to the American Geophysical Union Fall meeting held in San Francisco at the beginning of December 2011, APECS and POLARTREC ( hosted a Polar Information Station as part of the public engagement session undertaken at the conference. UKPN representatives Matthias Kunz, Sian Henley, Aisling Dolan and Allen Pope all helped out at the Polar Station. There was a display of Arctic tundra, a demonstration of how to make your own ice core and the gear so that children could feel what it would be like to become the next generation of Polar explorers! Over 250 people visited our Polar Station and much fun was had by all!  

Enthusing the next generation in San Francisco at AGU Fall


Summary of UKPN at RGS Explore 2011!

In mid-November of 2011, Laura Hobbs and Thomas Perriment from the UKPN committee attended the Royal Geographical Society’s annual Expedition and Fieldwork Planning weekend – Explore. Set in the heart of London, the theme of the conference could not have had a less city feel to it; and with every lecture and workshop, it felt as though the doors to the world were opening a little more. After their own expedition-worthy journey from Plymouth to London, Laura and Tom set up their poster that would inform delegates and speakers about the UKPN, its aims and its benefits to early career scientists. Throughout the weekend, they were inundated with questions about the Polar Network, and people were amazed to find that this resource and wealth of information was available to them. They had a lot of interest in the workshops and outreachevents coming up this year, and I think it is safe to say that this interest will grow as word spreads throughout the expedition community. Laura said, "It was a pleasure to be part of such an exciting and inspiring event, and also great to meet many UKPN members, both new additions and those who have previously been involved." So what can we takeaway from Explore for the UKPN? Although predominantly explorers and adventurers, many delegates were interested in getting some scientific information to support their expeditions which may not have a research theme at their core. Thomas said, "The support available to expeditions and research trips in both physical and life sciences, as well as anthropology is vast, this is where the UK Polar Network can assist you and your team." Would you like to assist with expeditions and inform the team about research in the area? The interest in outreach work was quite frankly overwhelming… Let’s run with this and really put the UKPN out there in terms of engaging the future generation in Polar research. The Explore weekend is a great way to go about designing your own Polar expedition or research trip. The RGS and the staff are brimming with information, and their breadth of knowledge is incomparable and seems never-ending. If you have any ideas that you would like to discuss, please contact the RGS or contact the UK Polar Network can get you in contact with the right people

Summary of biology and ecosystems workshop

The workshop ‘High latitude biology, ecosystems and the future; A multidisciplinary approach’ organised by Coleen Suckling ran for 2 days mid November in the British Antarctic Survey. This was the first biology based workshop from the UK Polar Network’s career development series which saw twenty-three early career stage participants arrive to network in Cambridge. Excellent talks were provided by keynote speakers discussing multi-disciplinary science and future insights for the Arctic (Ray Leakey; Scottish Association for Marine Science), Antarctic (Andy Clarke; British Antarctic Survey) and acclimations and adaptations on the polar regions (Melody Clark; BAS). Some of which will soon be available to view on the APECS website ( The participants were given opportunities to network through producing media aimed talks on their fields. Using information generated from the talks and the skill sets of the participant’s mini-mock grant proposals were generated on mutually agreed important polar questions. Future insights on these questions were discussed to determine how approaches proposed to answer them today may change over the next decade. Interestingly the participants drew to similar conclusions – molecular and satellite applications will become increasingly important in the future! Participants also presented their work to each other through a poster session. Alan Rodger (Science Leader, BAS) closed the meeting with his inspirational talk ‘Where is environmental science going?’. He informed the participants that the 21st century is the century for biologists due to the urgency to understand the repercussions of rapid climate change on ecosystems and highlighted the importance on utilizing a multidisciplinary approach. The organizer would like to thank everyone who helped and participated in the workshop, particularly to the British Antarctic Survey.

Keynote speaker Andrew Clarke


Remote Sensing for Polar Scientists Summer School

We are proud to report the successful conclusion of the Remote Sensing for Polar Scientists summer school. This, the second of two UK Polar Network events supported by the Earth Observation Technology Cluster, was arranged in conjunction with the National Centre for Earth Observation (NCEO) and hosted by the NCEO at the meteorology department, University of Reading.
The aim of the summer school was to bring together ~30 students who were early in their research careers and introduce a variety of applications & techniques for the use of remotely sensed data in Polar & Cryospheric Science.
All students were invited to bring a poster detailing their own work, and almost all attendees took advantage of the opportunity. Displayed throughout the school in the room where refreshments were served, the posters inspired many lively discussions. A poster prize was awarded to Catharine Walker from University of Michigan for her clear & concise presentation on “Ice sheet dynamics applied to global ice shell of Enceladus.” Honorable mentions went to Rachael Turton for the most creative poster introduction any of us had ever heard, and to Tom Cowton for his poster on “Drainage system structure and evolution of a Greenland outlet glacier.”
Our first keynote, Andrew Shepherd, University of Leeds got the school off to a flying start with a lecture on Greenland & a practical introducing the use of feature tracking in optical satellite imagery (with Aud Sundal, University of Leeds). This session was complimented by a session from Seymour Laxon & Katharine Giles (Centre for Polar Observation & Modelling, University College London), about the Croyosat mission & remote sensing of Arctic sea ice. It was inspiring to hear about the design, implementation & now validation of the first results from Cryosat from people who have been involved in the story from start to finish.
The second day of the school saw presentation on the remote sensing and modeling of snow cover by Nick Rutter (University of Northumbria), Debbie Clifford (NCEO), and Mel Sandells (University of Reading); a related practical gave students a better understanding of the satellite-derived measurements of snow water equivalent. This was followed by a presentation by Pauline Miller (Newcastle University) on the use of LiDAR in building digital elevation models and some glaciological applications. Pauline also led a practical where students were able to use and interact with LiDAR data from a glaciated area in Svalbard. These sessions really gave students the opportunity gain familiarity with many new data types and their applications.
Paul Hardaker (Chief Executive, Royal Meteorological Society) spoke at dinner about the importance of sharing our science with a wider audience. This tied into a groupwork session run through the school in which students put together a modular presentation that aimed to introduce the use of Remote Sensing in different areas of Polar Science to those following us up the career ladder. The completed presentation aimed at early undergraduate / A-level will be available in the near future through APECS and the EO Tech Cluster.
The final day of the school included a practice presentation of the outreach materials created by the students, an introduction to European Space Agency (ESA) satellite data and open-source software to interact with it (Chris Stewart, ESA), and a final keynote delivered by Stephen Briggs (Head of ESA’s EO Science, Applications & Future Technologies Department). His wide-ranging talk on how Earth Observation can, has, and will contribute to a better understanding of the Earth and its climate gave a terrific capstone to the whole course.
Attendees shared that they appreciated the ability of the instructors to link together fieldwork, remote sensing & modeling in a variety of ways. The organizers (Debbie Clifford, Jen Hall, and Matthias Kunz) would like to extend a huge thanks to all the sponsors and instructors who made the school so enjoyable and educational. Based on the success of this event, the UKPN hopes to run another remote sensing summer school in the coming years.

Science Communication Workshop A Great Success

The latest in the UK Polar Network’s acclaimed career skills workshop series was held at the University of Aberdeen, on the 12th – 14thJanuary.  The theme of this workshop was “Science Communication”.  Around twenty early career researchers came from across the UK to take part in active and lively discussions, as well as dynamic and entertaining practical sessions.

Focussed discussions were held on many topics over the course of the workshop.  These took an informal style, with an external speaker giving an introduction to their work, then fielding questions and contributing to an open discussion.  Antony Jinman, polar explorer and founder of Education Through Expeditions, gave a talk on the outreach work of his organisation, which includes videocasting and other interactive elements giving school groups the opportunity to experience expeditions from the classroom.

Andy Kerr, director of the Edinburgh Centre on Climate Change, gave a session on the relationship between scientists and policymakers, drawing on his experience in working with the Scottish Government on its climate change related publications.  The way in which scientists interact with the TV industry was de-mystified by Mark Brandon, an Open University senior lecturer and consultant on BBC programmes such as Planet Earth and Blue Planet, using examples of his work at all stages of programme production.  The many ways to get involved in public outreach work through opportunities such as the STEM ambassador scheme were described by Ken Skeldon, from the University of Aberdeen’s Public Engagement with Science Unit.  All of these sessions provoked insightful and absorbing conversation, both during the sessions and afterwards, over coffee and, later, a pint.

Practical activities were an integral part of the workshop, and a great deal of training was offered in this area too.  Athena Dinar, PR and Communications Manager at the British Antarctic Survey, led an exercise on press release writing which saw groups attempt to effectively summarise a study about satellite images of penguin poo, and conducted mock radio interviews, allowing volunteers the chance to practice these skills and receive feedback from the room.  Sian Henley from the UK Polar Network committee took everyone through two demonstrations previously carried out with school groups: one showing the working of the polar vortex around Antarctica and its effect on atmospheric ozone, that involved people linking arms and dancing in a circle, and the other illustrating the problem that penguin mothers have trying to find their hungry chicks after a hunt, which saw everyone walking slowly around the room, honking and clapping at each other until (almost) all of the mother / chick pairs were re-united.  Richard Morris, also from the Polar Network committee, led an exercise in which groups analysed newspaper articles, podcasts and short films on scientific issues for differences in tone, style and effectiveness.  Rounding off the workshop, Stuart Monro and Christine Angus from Our Dynamic Earth in Edinburgh introduced their work with schools using puppets and props, gave some interactive demonstrations of different methods of communication, and led a discussion on the different styles employed by TV presenters.

All of our speakers and attendees are warmly thanked for their efforts and enthusiasm.  Events such as this enhance the skills and abilities of Network members to communicate their science to the wider public, assisting them in becoming ambassadors for their fields, for the Network and for science more generally.

This event was made possible through generous grants from the Natural Environment Research Council, the Royal Astronomical Society, and the International Glaciological Society.

UKPN at the British Science Festival 2010

Members of the UKPN spent last week at the British Science Festival teaching 8-10 year olds about glaciers, from how they form to their impact on the world and us. We had a great team, with Antarctic scientists, postgraduate students, lecturers and recent graduates taking on the role of education. We all managed to bring something different to the classroom and our wide range of backgrounds gave the students a variation of knowledge from the fields of glaciology, biology, meteorology and paleoclimatology! Held in Birmingham at Aston University, the festival was a chance to teach potential future scientists about the research that is being undertaken in the Polar Regions, excite them, and inspire them to choose a future in science. During the week our workshop “The Polar Meltdown” was visited by over 350 pupils, many of whom had never heard of a glacier before but we hope they left informed and inspired about the Polar Regions! We also managed to speak to many people involved in education, and get the UKPN better known in these fields. It was great to see not only children, but also adults interested in current Polar research. A big thanks to all the team; Allen, Martin, Tamsin, Nicola and Iestyn, and also the event organizers. And a massive thanks to all the schools that attended and made our week so enjoyable!

UKPN at the IGS British Branch 2010

During the annual IGS British Branch meeting, held at Aberystwyth University by the Institute of Geography and Earth Science, the UKPN held a mentoring session for early career scientists concerning career paths and future employment. The session was held at the end of the first full day of the conference and was attended by over 45 delegates including Masters students, PhD candidates, post-doctoral researchers and others in full-time employment. The panel consisted of four leading scientists in cryospheric research; Dr Robert Bingham (University of Aberdeen), Dr Neil Ross (University of Edinburgh), Dr Nick Rutter (Northumbria University) and Maarten Krabbendam (British Geological Survey), all with various backgrounds and career paths.

Lessons from the session; as scientists in glaciology we must be flexible; be prepared to follow research around the world. Prove to yourself and to others that you are the right person for that job, or for that research grant. Be confident in your own abilities, and do not give up if you fail to get the job or funding. The same goes for getting your work published; you will receive criticism, but use it as a positive and not a negative… even the best academics get work rejected! Staying within your comfort zone or expanding your research areas, the choice is yours, as long as you can prove to future employers that it has benefitted you. Network; building good relationships within the glaciological community will improve the chances of getting employed. And finally, follow your ambitions.

Feedback from the session was extremely positive, from both the delegates and the panel. We wish to thank all of those who attended, those who posed questions and to Robert, Neil, Nick and Maarten for proving a wealth of information to budding cryospheric scientists.

Investigating Variability in Polar Climates: Past, Present and Future

As a great start to the Career Skills series this year, the University of Leeds hosted a multi-disciplinary workshop Investigating Variability in Polar Climates; Past, Present and Future.  The workshop took place on the 8th and 9th of April and saw over 30 PhD, Masters students and Post-Docs gather to discuss the latest topics surrounding variability in Polar environments.

The workshop was organised by PhD students at the University of Leeds; Aisling Dolan, Amber Leeson, Sarah Monks, Thomas Pleavin, Jo Browse and Abigail Clifton.

Two keynote talks were given by leading scientists from the British Antarctic Survey.  Dr. Anna Jones gave a presentation on ‘Air/snowinteractions and its influence on polar tropospheric chemistry’ and Dr. Adrian Jenkins gave a talk on oceanic forcing on the West Antarctic Ice Sheet.  Other speakers included Prof. Jane Francis and Prof. Piers Forster (IPCC Author) looking at the past and future evolution of Polar Climates.  Technical sessions included An Introduction to Modelling Polar Climates, Polar Meteorology, Polar Atmospheric Composition and Cryosphere Remote Sensing.  A speed researcher networking session was given by Dr. Andrea Howarth (Skills Training, Leeds) and anintroduction to Science and the Media was given by Hannah Isom; a Senior Press Officer at Leeds.  Practical sessions on ice sheet modelling (Dr. Daniel Hill, BGS) and a Q&A panel on fieldwork also provided an interactive learning environment.

Many researchers gave a poster of their current or projected research and all posters were of a very high standard.  Three posters were chosen by a panel of senior academic judges as outstanding; Kathryn Nye (Durham, best overall poster), Carys Cook (Imperial College, highly commendable) and Daniel Grosvener (Manchester, highly commendable).  The poster session and conference dinner offered a valuable networking opportunity and allowed for many in depth discussions about current Polar research.

We feel that the workshop was a huge success and we hope that early career researchers found the event of value and that it may have sparked off future collaborations.  We would like to take the opportunity to thanks all of the participants and presenters who made this event as enjoyable as it was.

Particular recognition must also go to our sponsors – the Natural Environment Research Council, International Polar Year International Programme Office, the University of Leeds (Institute of Climate and Atmospheric Science, Earth System Science Institute and the Sellwood Group for Palaeo-Climatology) and the Royal Meteorological Society - for making this event financially possible.

Aisling Dolan (UKPN Committee)