School outreach opportunities in India!

In November 2011, UKPN member and Sheffield-based PhD student Sonal Choudhary visited her native India to enlighten young people at three different schools about the opportunities in polar science. Sonal’s inspiring campaign reached several hundred Indian schoolchildren, their teachers and representatives from Indian media organisations. Sonal informed her audiences in presentations on her research work and the broader importance of polar science, entertained with stories of living and working in polar regions, and answered questions from many newly-inspired polar enthusiasts about how to take up a polar science career, her motivation for choosing an unusual career and how she travelled from their small town, via the UK, to the high Arctic. We thank the UK Foreign and Commonwealth Office for funding these school visits. If you would like to run a schools visit, get in touch!

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


Polar outreach day in Leeds

On Monday 28th November 2011, UKPN member and University of Leeds PhD student Chris Williams educated and enthralled sixty children aged 7-8 about science and exploration in the Arctic region. Chris treated the budding polar enthusiasts to a fascinating photo presentation, lively discussions, real-life displays and interactive exercises to show the wonder and challenge of living and working in the Arctic environment. Feedback from the children and teachers was excellent and all participants went away with an appreciation of and fascination for the polar regions, and many future explorers were inspired!

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


ISAES XI and Outreach at Our Dynamic Earth

The 11th International Symposium on Antarctic Earth Sciences in Edinburgh, UK, was a resounding success for the UK Polar Network, APECS, all those in attendance and polar science as a whole!

A record number of delegates attended ISAES XI, with over 500 registrations for the five-day conference. This conference was such a success for early career researchers as we made up almost a quarter of all participants and represented over 30 countries!

ISAES awarded partial funding to over 40 early career scientists to enable them to attend the conference. Enormous thanks to SCAR and the ISAES XI Steering Committee for this generous financial support.

Alongside the impressive and varied ground-breaking science at the ISAES XI conference, there was an exciting programme of events for early career scientists…

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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.

Career mentor panel at IGS-BB 2011

The UK Polar Network will be hosting a Career Mentoring Panel at the British Antarctic Survey during the IGS British Branch Meeting (7-8th September). In addition to the scientific program, the panel will be a great opportunity for early career researchers to ask mentors questions about taking the next steps in their careers. This is open to all early career scientists registered at the meeting: The IGS British Branch Annual Meeting is an informal two-day meeting at which presentations are welcome on all aspects of ice and snow research. Postgraduate students in particular are welcome to attend and present their work. The meeting will consist of both oral and poster presentation sessions. Registration closes on Wednesday 6th July.  

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 Member Featured on Science Careers Website

Tamsin Gray, a former member of the UK Polar Network committee, has recently been featured on the UK science careers website FutureMorph. This site is a great resource for people looking to see exactly what careers in the sciences can be - they might be research, but they might be a lot more! Feel free to use FutureMorph and Tamsin's profile in future education & outreach events you may be planning.