Image of Sir David Attenborough research ship

Funding success. UKPN and APECS Iceland were awarded funding from the NERC Arctic Office to help ECRs gain scientific cruise experience.

UKPN and APECS Iceland collaborated on a successful grant application to obtain funding from the NERC Arctic Office. This funding will be used to host a networking scheme tailored towards UK and Icelandic Early Career Researchers (ECRs) on board the RRS Sir David Attenborough for a week passage from the UK to Madeira. The aim of the scheme is to provide ECRs with limited fieldwork experience the opportunity to participate in a mock scientific cruise. Participants will receive training and familiarisation with ship instrumentation and learn about oceanic and atmospheric sampling from British Antarctic Survey scientists. An insight into the practical and theoretical logistics of cruise will be provided with hand-on experience and a guided session towards writing a cruise report.

Stay tuned for your chance to apply.

Photos: Sam Hunt (@samwise_adventure)


UKPN committee members at the Foreign, Commonwealth & Development Office

UKPN and the UK Arctic Policy Framework

UKPN committee members at the Foreign, Commonwealth & Development Office

Members of the UK Polar Network (UKPN) were invited down to the Foreign, Commonwealth & Development Office, London to mark the one-year anniversary of the UK’s Arctic Policy Framework – Looking North: The UK and the Arctic. The event took place on Thursday 29th February in the Grand Locarno Room and was a fantastic evening to celebrate the important of the UK’s involvement in Polar science. Attendees included the minister for the Polar Regions, David Rutley and the Minister of State for Science, Research and Innovation, Andrew Griffith.


Polar Pride celebrate at Westminster, November 2023

UKPN celebrates Polar Pride at the Palace of Westminster

Polar Pride celebrate at Westminster, November 2023

On the 20th November 2023 the All Party Parliamentary Group for the Polar Regions (APPG) and the Government of the British Antarctic Territory held a Polar Pride celebration at the Palace of Westminster, London for the first time. The event brought together individuals from the Polar science community who are actively involved in Polar Pride, Polar science, and those from Parliament who were interested in Polar affairs. Millie (EDI Officer), Louise (EDI Officer), Chloe (VP), and Dylan (Member at large) were kindly invited to travel down to London to take part in the event.

Polar Pride is celebrated every year on November 18th as part of an ongoing effort to celebrate those who are LGBTQ+ in Polar Science. This was started by the British Antarctic Territory and South Georgia & the South Sandwich Islands governments with the Diversity in Polar Science Initiative (DiPSI) in 2020, with responsibility for promoting and organising the day later taken on by the UK Polar Network. A recent blog post by Dr James Lea highlighted why Pride is still important for LGBTQ+ Polar scientists and allies. Each year the EDI Officers at UKPN work hard to raise awareness of Polar Pride around the world and encourage organisations/individuals to join the UKPN celebrating on November 18th. 

It was fantastic to see the work of UKPN and Early Career Researchers being recognised at this prestigious event. The day provided a welcome opportunity to catch up with those the UKPN continues to work closely with including DiPSI, the UK Antarctic Heritage Trust, and the British Antarctic Survey (BAS). The event enabled us to make new connections with a wide variety of people and policy makers involved in environmental and polar policy at Westminster. The honourable James Gray, MP, led the proceedings and Jane Rumble (FCDO), Camilla Nichol (UKAHT), James Lea (University of Liverpool) and Pilvi Saarikoksi and Huw Griffiths (BAS) gave very poignant speeches about why Polar Pride is so important to the Polar community and how we can all work together to provide a more welcoming and inclusive environment.

There were a range of important takeaway messages from this event for individuals and at the organisational level. Moving forward, the UKPN will continue to work on making Polar Science more inclusive through a variety of means. We will be hosting a town hall event and participating in the EDI session at the 2024 Arctic Science Summit Week (Edinburgh, Scotland). The EDI and Training teams within UKPN are continuing to actively work towards better understanding how we can continue to make our training activities (e.g. field courses and international travel) more inclusive. Finally, we will continue to work closely with DiPSI to continue to build these strong partnerships. 

We would like to thank the APPG for Polar Regions for putting on the event that brought together the Polar community and Parliamentarians to celebrate Polar Pride 2023.

 


Polar Family Day 2023 at the National Maritime Museum

Polar Family Day 2023

On 25th November 2023, UKPN’s annual polar families day at the National Maritime Museum in Greenwich gave dozens of young children and adults a chance to explore the world of polar science for themselves. Volunteers from our network across the country travelled to London to offer a unique hands-on experience, including the chance to interact with 3-D table maps of the polar ice caps, dress up in polar field gear, learn about polar animals through crafts, and more!

Polar Family Day 2023 at the National Maritime Museum

Education about threats to the polar regions was a key theme of the day, with members from the British Antarctic Survey showing off samples and giving visitors the chance to examine them under a microscope, to learn about the problem of microplastics in polar oceans. Meanwhile, the event was the first public outing for the exciting Climate Change: It’s in Our Hands board game, developed by researchers at Northumbria University, in which children (and adults!) learned how to take on responsibility for tackling climate change and saving the planet.

Polar Family Day 2023 at the National Maritime Museum

Finally, a number of great talks were given, both by UKPN’s own early-career scientists, on their research into melting glaciers and adapting seabirds, and by the museum’s own facilitators, who brought into focus the experiences of Arctic indigenous people and threats to ocean life in the face of ongoing social and environmental changes. All in all, the day was jam-packed with fun and learning, not just for the young visitors, but for all those involved. A massive thank you to everyone who attended and everyone who helped out from UKPN and the National Maritime Museum – we look forward to seeing you all again next year!

Edmund Lea, UKPN Festivals Team


UK Polar Network 2023 wrapped

The UK Polar Network (UKPN) have had a very busy 2023, so we felt it would be worth mentioning some of what we’ve been up to this year! Our outstanding committee members have been hard at work over the last 12 months delivering all of the work UKPN offers. 

The start of 2023 saw UKPN organise and deliver ‘Polar Pint of Science’, an event which brought scientists out of the lab/field/office and into the pub to chat about all things polar with budding members of the general public. Closely followed the Cardiff Science Festival which the UKPN were present at, providing scientific outreach to children in the capital of Wales. 

The middle of 2023 included the planning for upcoming events later in the year which would include: field courses, written evidence for an inquiry, conference and family events. August would soon come around, and the UKPN would become the focus of BBC News articles and stories which focussed on the Clean Planet Peninsula Dartmoor Training Course which was supported by the Clean Planet Foundation and UKPN. The training course would bring together early-career scientists to discuss and experience research projects and of course, the great British weather on Dartmoor!

By this point of the year, UKPN’s events were beginning to ramp-up with a new committee in place for September of 2023. At the same time, our Equality, Diversity and Inclusion (EDI) team were running a session at the Arctic Science Conference hosted at the British Antarctic Survey while preparing for an event in Durham in October. Later in November, our EDI team would be leading Polar Pride celebrations, a day to recognise our LGBTQ+ colleagues and reinforcing the message that polar science is open to everyone, every day. This would be later followed with UKPN committee members being invited to the ‘All-Party Parliamentary Group for Polar Regions’ lunch which discussed the Polar Pride initiative and diversity in polar science.

The Autumn of 2023 also saw the publication of the Environmental Audit Committee’s inquiry into the UK and the Arctic Environment which UKPN had submitted written evidence towards. The evidence submitted was included in the final report, citing our evidence on multiple occasions which we hope will influence funding opportunities, particularly for early-career researchers in the future!

Our annual Antarctic Flags programme was bigger than ever in 2023, with over 1000 flags from 290 schools going down south with scientists to Antarctica. This scheme invites schools to deliver lessons about Antarctica and once completed, students design a flag of what Antarctica means to them and what they have learnt. These flags are then forwarded to UKPN and distributed to scientists headed to the poles for a field-season and are pictured and sent back to the schools and their students (as pictured below).

At the end of November, UKPN returned to the National Maritime Museum, Greenwich to deliver polar outreach to families visiting the museum. The day saw UKPN volunteers engaging with museum visitors with our polar maps and climate change board game, as well as bringing along polar field gear, giving the visitors a taste of fieldwork and the kit involved!

All in all, 2023 has been a tremendously successful year for UKPN! Who knows what 2024 holds, but we have some exciting announcements to come next year which we look forward to sharing with you.

Everyone at UKPN wishes you all a very Merry Christmas and Happy New Year!


Antarctic Flags Project 2022-2023 Round-up

2022 was our biggest year yet for the Antarctic Flags Project which pairs schools with scientists and support personnel travelling to Antarctica, who carry copies of flags designed by students to fly on the continent, returning photos and certificates to the schools upon the conclusion of their expeditions.
We sent over 300 flags to Antarctica from 230 schools in 13 countries, including UK, Kazakhstan, Turkey, Spain, USA, Portugal, Thailand and Peru! All flags have now made their journey back from Antarctica to the schools eagerly awaiting their return.

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

This was the eighth year of the project, and more flags were sent to us this year than ever before. We could call it a record-breaking year!

The project takes place as a celebration of Antarctica Day, which marks the signing of the Antarctic Treaty on December 1st 1959, 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.

Students are given free reign to design their flags, taking into account the flora, fauna and landscape of Antarctica as well as the flags of the countries which have signed the Antarctic Treaty. It is clear that students of all ages put a lot of thought into their flags and we had an incredible range of beautiful designs using a range of mediums.

The flags were taken on board RRS Sir David Attenborough and Polar Stern and to a range of Antarctic research stations including Rothera, Halley and King Edward Point. The volunteers who helped to display our flags hailed from the British Antarctic Stern, The Alfred Wegener Institute and Oregon State University.

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

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.
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.

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 2024!

For more information about the Antarctic Flags project, read Chapter 11 of ‘Antarcticness: Inspirations and Imaginaries’, published by UCL Press and available at: https://www.uclpress.co.uk/products/180737.

Fiona Sheriff and Ainsley Hatt, UKPN Antarctic Flags Co-ordinators 2022-2023
Email: antarctica-day@polarnetwork.org
Twitter: @UKPolarNetwork, @fiona_616, @HattAinsley


Thale Damm-Johnsen reviews 'Ice Rivers' by Jemma Wadham

Thale Damm-Johnsen

Durham University
@ThaleDammJ

A letter to the ice

I remember the first time I sat foot on a glacier. The thrill of knowing that I was standing on something massive, crevassed, that also moved slowly under my feet left me with a sense of awe-inspiring fear. For me that was a feeling that filled my whole torso, made my knees go weak and made every trivial thought I had in my head to vanish. There are few other things that can forge that feeling, but Jemmas Ice River manages to recreate it, through a glistering language and with a mesmerizing talent for storytelling , that manages to connect the world of humans to the world of glaciers.

But if you thought Ice Rivers is a book solely about glaciers, you are mistaken. It is also a book about a girl finding her path in life, after a challenging childhood in north of Scotland. As a master student, she is almost by coincidence brought on a field expedition to the Swizz alps and she experiences a love at first sight, not just for the moving mass of ice hanging down the mountain sides, but also to the work, the people and to the millions of questions that it is unavoidable to pose, when catching a glimpse of a glacier.

Throughout the book we follow her on daring expeditions to Svalbard, Greenland, Himalaya, Patagonia and Antarctica, and woven into these glacier-meetings are stories from Jemmas personal and scientific life, and there are rarely much divergence between the two. As we increasingly get to know the glaciers she is researching, and their cause and effect on the surrounding environment, we get to know Jemma. Her honesty about the ups and downs in her life is inspiring – as a reader you immediately feel trusted, as a good friend. She vividly describes great friendships and the feeling of reward after a great field season is over, however she attempts in no way to rose paint how difficult it sometimes can be. The physically exhausting fieldwork, how endeavoring and sometimes right-out dangerous glacier research can be. She also describes how she ventures into a workaholic-lifestyle, that takes her to Antarctica at a time when her mother gets sick and eventually is close to killing her.

I dare say, whether you are a senior glaciologist or just locked eyes on the book because of its striking turquoise cover: when turning the last page of this book you will have a better understanding of the world of glaciers than you did when opening it. How vital and diminishing glaciers can be to life both in the ocean and on land, and also about the secret life within and underneath the glacier itself.

Alt ending 1 (have I taken this from the book?)
What dawned on me after reading the book, is that glaciers are a bit like people: conditioned by a certain set of physical and chemical laws, influenced by a changing environment, as well as consisting of billions and billions of microorganisms. Whether or not this metaphor was Jemma Wadhams intention is hard to say, but what it does, is creating an immediate connection to the wild world of ice.

Alt end 2.
Earths glaciers are, with very few exemptions, shrinking, changing and disintegrating at a massive rate by the rising global temperatures, and there is a prominent possibility that they won’t be around for future generations to witness. If the future of glacier is as grim as we suspect and we are exceeding a global temperature window where glaciers no longer will be present on this earth, at least we’ll have Ice Rivers – giving a glimpse of a feeling only a glacier can create.

Ending alt 3.
If you are an aspiring climate scientist and find yourself on a normal and potentially stressful weekday, in doubt about why you are studying glaciers. Ice Rivers provide as an excellent reminder, and I would recommend to have a copy with in close reach at your desk

 

 


Now taking applications for the UKPN Committee 2022-23

It’s that time of year again! We are looking for new members on our 2022/23 committee. The following roles are available: 
Outreach Officer (Events) - See https://tinyurl.com/3ra3p3z8 for more details.
Co-head of Education and Outreach (Outreach team) - See https://tinyurl.com/2p9aafn8 for more details.
Outreach officer (Antarctic Flags) - See https://tinyurl.com/y8989hp4 for more details. 
Social media officer - See https://tinyurl.com/z767r5ea for more details.
Webmaster (Social media team) (New role!) - See https://tinyurl.com/23ma4f5s for more details. 
EDI Officers - https://tinyurl.com/2s4h2yc6 for more details 
Training Officer (New role!) - See https://tinyurl.com/2p9byyen for more details
Along the top of the poster, headshots of 3 of our current committee members wearing hats with the UKPN polar bear and penguin logo in Antarctica, Svalbard and Greenland. In the center, the UKPN logo on a black background with white text reading 'UKPN Committee 2022-23 - Applications Open'. Along the base, 4 smiling UKPN committee members in front of trees and rainbow bunting. The background of the image is the Northern Lights.
This could be you!

We welcome a diverse range of people and all you need is enthusiasm! PhD students, post-docs, masters students and non-academics are all happily accepted. Most of the roles have handover notes from the previous volunteers, and the committee is on hand to support. 

 
Being part of the UKPN is the perfect way to expand your polar network, hear of unique opportunities first, develop your skills, help other early career researchers, and – of course – it’s a load of fun. The UKPN is present at national and international events alongside local officials, governments, and leading scientists.
 
Please apply for one (or few) of the available positions via the form https://tinyurl.com/4fux6rpy by Sunday, 25th September 2022. Please email president@polarnetwork.org if you have any questions.
 
We are looking forward to receiving your applications!
 
Best wishes,
Floor and Saule
UKPN co-presidents 2021-2022

 

 

 

 


Antarctic Flags Project 2021-2022 Round-up

It is has been another great year for our ‘flagship’ international outreach project, which pairs schools with scientists and support personnel travelling to Antarctica, who carry copies of flags designed by students to fly on the continent, returning photos and certificates to the schools upon the conclusion of their expeditions.

2021 marked our tenth anniversary of the project, and we were delighted again this year with the interest and involvement we received! Most Antarctic research programs were up and running again post-Covid-19, meaning there were plenty of scientists and operations staff heading South. We sent 176 flags to Antarctica from 138 schools in 9 countries, including UK, Greece, Portugal, Hong Kong, Spain, Romania, Poland, Uganda and Thailand! Most flags have now made their journey back from Antarctica to the schools eagerly awaiting their return.

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

 

The project takes place as a celebration of Antarctica Day, which marks the signing of the Antarctic Treaty on December 1st 1959, 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.

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

63 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.

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.

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 2022!

For more information about the Antarctic Flags project, read Chapter 11 of ‘Antarcticness: Inspirations and Imaginaries’, published by UCL Press and available at: https://www.uclpress.co.uk/products/180737.

Jenny Arthur and Fiona Old (2021-22 Antarctic Flags project coordinators)

Email: Antarctica-day@polarnetwork.org
Twitter: @UKPolarNetwork, @AntarcticJenny, @fiona_616


Polar Week: Reflections on UKPN Festivals

Background to festivals

The last 2 years have been somewhat uncertain with the pandemic, but the UK Polar Network (UKPN) festivals team have been busy as ever organising online events, as well as gradually returning to in-person ones. There are multiple reasons for UKPN hosting festivals, including delivering scientific communication to the general public and providing a platform to early career researchers to develop their networks and experience.  

UKPN at the National Maritime Museum

In October 2021, coordinators Chloe and Connor organised a festival facilitated by the National Maritime Museum (NMM) in Greenwich, London, with around 10 UKPN volunteers delivering science talks, hosting workshops and guessing where the Titanic sank over a 4-day period. The talks included the volunteers discussing their career as a researcher and polar impacts in a changing climate, with workshops incorporating polar adaptions, glacier flow (cornflour and water!) and dressing up as a polar scientist in field kit. 

 

Each day started at around 9 am and ended at 4 pm with events running simultaneously. At any one time, the UKPNs 3D polar maps were being adored on the ‘Great Map’ section of the museum, while downstairs talks were taking place, glaciers constructed and animals were being forged by children with some rather interesting adaptions! Seeing the children engaged with the events left us with a ‘this is why we do this’ kind of moment and hopefully, some will remember their experience and be encouraged to continue the passion we saw over the 4 days.

This was our first in-person event since the pandemic struck and we received fantastic feedback from the museum saying visitors returned each day for our activities, bolstering their numbers as well as increasing our visibility to the general public. It would be remiss of us to highlight this event without a mention of our fantastic volunteers who developed materials and ideas prior to the event, as well as delivering the content. We had a range of people, including undergraduate and postgraduate students, PhD and postdoctoral researchers and teachers. For a lot of our volunteers, it was their first experience delivering outreach and they took to it like a duck to water! The reason we’re mentioning this is because we offer volunteering positions all year round to help with science festivals and if you’re interested, please do get in touch and/or keep an eye out on our mailing list for opportunities.

Upcoming festivals for UKPN

Just recently, we hosted 3 online events over 2 days at the Cardiff Science Festival in February 2022. In June of this year, we’re headed down to the Cheltenham Science Festival to deliver 5 polar workshops to both school and home-schooled children, including albedo experiments, Antarctic food webs and a changing Arctic.

Due to the success of the NMM event, we are currently working on making the event an annual one where UKPN can utilise the fantastic space of the museum and have a permeant base for delivering outreach, so stay tuned!

Some of the previous events we have hosted activities at:

  • British Science Festivals (Birmingham, Aberdeen Newcastle)
  • Regional Science Festivals (Dundee, Southampton, Cardiff, Edinburgh)
  • Blue Dot Festival
  • World of Music Arts and Dance

Get in touch

We strongly encourage organisations who are interested in UKPN delivering outreach to their audience to get in touch with us (festivals@polarnetwork.org). As said previously, our volunteers are often the highlight for both the festival and the general public delivering superb scientific communication, so if you are interested in any opportunities, once again get in touch with us, we would love to hear from you!