UK-Russia Arctic Research ECR collaborations

The UK Polar Network invites applications from UK-based early career researchers (from PhD level to 10 years post-PhD) to participate in and foster research links through collaborative workshops in the Russian Arctic.

These events are in collaboration with the UK Science & Innovation  Network, APECS Russia, NERC Arctic Office and Lomonosov Moscow State University.

Workshops will be held at Moscow and Cambridge with travel and accommodation support available.

Application deadline is 5th January, 2018 and any additional enquiries can be addressed to the NERC Arctic Office:

Download application form and return with a 1 page CV to

Early Career event at UK Arctic Sciences

On Wednesday 20th September, during the UK Arctic Sciences Conference, the UK Polar Network will host an early career panel event. The theme will be “International Collaboration” to tie in with the theme of this years Polar Week, organised by APECS.

The panel will be held between 18:30 and 19:30 in the Oban Inn (Stafford Street, Oban). We will be at the venue from 18:00 to 20:00, and food will be available to order at the bar.

Panellists include Dr Jon Cohen (University of Delaware), Dr Helen Findlay (Plymouth Marine Laboratories), Dr Tom Brown (Scottish Association for Marine Science), Dr Jo Browse (University of Exeter), and Henry Burgess (UK Arctic Office).

Please join us for this early career event (generally undergraduate to post-doctorate level, but we’re not very exclusive). Contact Laura Hobbs (laura.hobbs at for more information.

Sounds of Change: Greenland Ice Sheet Melt – A Science Outreach Project

During the recent BAS workshop in Cambridge the UKPN facilitated a competition for a polar science outreach proposal. The project “Sounds of Change: Greenland Ice Sheet Melt” was picked for it’s original idea. We wish to congratulate Heather Bell (Durham University), Joseph Nolan (Netherlands Organisation for Scientific Research), and Zuzanna Swirad (Durham University) for this achievement and we are looking forward to support their efforts realising the proposed project.

The project aims to produce an open access digital soundscape documenting the melting of the Greenland Ice Sheet. The project organisers plan on using mostly ambient noise which has already been recorded and is available in archives and from polar researchers who undertake fieldwork in Greenland. The soundscape will travel from the interior of the ice sheet following researchers in the field, on a route out to the ocean with the sounds of rivers in flood, iceberg calving events and the impacts that the melting of the Greenland Ice Sheet is having on local inhabitants. They hope that this resource will be used in schools and alongside museum or art exhibits.

Please get in touch with the UKPN or the project leaders if you have some interesting recordings you wish contribute to this exciting project or would be willing to document some soundscapes during your upcoming research trip.

Post by Julia Feuer-Cotter

ICE – Making in Transit Event Series and Exhibition Opening

This event, which was coordinated by artist Jennifer Crouch, was the first in a series of unique and diverse evenings that explore the topic of ice. Jennifer’s Arctic Circle Residency in the Norwegian island group Svalbard was inspired by indigenous craft in action and her acts of making and interacting with the land, and ice in particular. The event was hosted at the Cube in Shoreditch, London on the evening of December 08, 2016.

The evening was kickstarted by a hands-on painting session using a variety of frozen inks and salt to create an on-going collaboration between the visitors and Jennifer. The artist exhibited a variety of pieces that reflected on her time in Svalbard and amongst others utilised maps, textiles, and wood to engagement with experiences of ice.

During the evening geographer Julia Feuer-Cotter (UK Polar Network & University of Nottingham) discussed the geographical realities and imaginings of the Arctic using smell and sensory memories and especially focused on the perception of environmental change through odours. The theoretical physicist Gabriele Cesare Sosso (UCL & London Centre for Nanotechnology) explained the exciting microscopic differences that are responsible for various forms of ice we engage in the Arctic. A completely different pole, and interestingly one that appears in a hexagonal shape, was introduced by Ellie Armstrong (Oxford University). Her talk focused on the pole of the planet Saturn and it’s unique cloud pattern.

The event was accompanied by an ice-cream-making demonstration that not just made the place smell fantastic, but also explored the physics of crystallisation and the historic production of ice cream in England. After learning that in eighteenth century England ice was brought from glaciers and icebergs to create the treat, tasting the created ice cream was much encouraged.

Find out more about Jennifer’s event series at

Post written by Julia Feuer-Cotter




Poster Workshop at the Challenger Conference for Marine Science 2016

At the Challenger Society for Marine Science conference in September 2016, the UK Polar Network ran a workshop for early career scientists on making and presenting good scientific posters. The event was attended by over 50 people and we had a panel including Dr. Yvonne Firing (National Oceanography Centre Southampton) and Dr. Sian Henley (Univ. of Edinburgh).

The workshop began with a few hints on what makes a good poster; attractive, clear visible title, easily readable without large amounts of text, clear diagrams and not overcomplicated. We then showcased some examples of winning posters. Sian Henley bravely slipped her poster into the session for anonymous criticism. It became clear during this that while there are many different opinions on what makes a “great” poster, there was aspects which people didn’t like. It is important to consider the type of conference you are at (Is your poster up all week?) and your audience.

The UK Polar Network also provided two poster examples, one which was obviously “bad” and the other which was an improved version of the same (fake) research about moving polar bears to the Antarctic to cope with a declining sea ice environment and loss of food. You can see both of these examples below, hopefully which one is bad and improved is obvious to you.



Before our panel discussion we went through a few other ideas for making a great poster, some of these are:

  • Keep text to <800 words
  • Have handouts available (also if you print your poster on A4 you should be able to read it)
  • Avoid dark backgrounds and consider colour blindness!
  • Use other media tools, if you have a video think about having a tablet

There were also some good tips for presenting a poster, a few unique suggestions also:

  • Keep hands out of pockets and don’t chew gum
  • Talk to your audience, not to the poster (it doesn’t care)
  • Keep sweets or chocolates with you, it will draw people in
  • Make a t shirt advertising your poster, or even put your most interesting figure on it
  • Don’t wear sunglasses inside, people will assume you are hungover, high or both

During the panel discussion a lively debate occurred on the consumption of alcohol during poster sessions. Some were in favour, some were not, however everyone agreed that over-consumption was bad, and you shouldn’t be slurring and spilling drink on your poster (or worse your audience)!

Overall, the event went well with plenty of discussion and participation from the audience. We hope that people take away some of the hints and tips provided, and we look forward to seeing some excellent posters at the next Challenger Conference!

For further information please contact

Join us for Antarctica Day 2016!

This year sees the return of the collaboration between the UKPN and Our Spaces to lead the Antarctica Day (1st December) festivities. As part of the events, we are inviting individuals, pupils, classrooms and schools to participate in celebrating Antarctica Day by designing a flag for the Antarctic.


Handprints for peace from Cape Henry Collegiate School, USA

Design your flags on an A4 size, using pencils, pens, the computer or any other materials. Send your flags to us (, and the flags will hitch a ride all the way to the Antarctic with our flag-bearers. Your flags will be displayed around the Antarctic, and you will receive a photograph of your flag, along with a certificate for proof of travel, and to tell you where they ended up!

Why are we doing this? Why celebrate Antarctica Day? The Antarctic treaty was signed in 1959 by twelve countries who were active in science research during the International Geophysical Year in 1957-1958. The treaty includes statements such as ‘Antarctica shall be used for peaceful purposes only’, and ‘Scientific observations and results… shall be exchanged and made freely available’. The treaty celebrates a milestone of peace in our civilisation with hope and inspiration for future generations.

This year, we want to continue to expand Antarctica Day, and expand our flag project. Last year we had over 35 schools and 200 flags. Can we do better this year?


Antarctica Day 2015 at UKAHT’s Port Lockroy, Western Antarctic Peninsula

For researchers travelling to the Antarctic:

You can help!

Are you heading down to Antarctica or any of the surrounding Antarctic Islands this Winter (November – January)? If so, please let us know! All we ask is for you to help bring down some of these flags, which will be sent to you in pdf or jpg format (however many you are willing to help with!) and photograph them on Antarctica as proof of them having made the journey down south. However you do so is completely up to you – you can be as creative as you want.

For teachers and parents:

A penguin-themed flag from the British International School in Cairo, Egypt

We’ve uploaded many school resources, including class plans and PowerPoints on how you, as an educator, can introduce Antarctica and Antarctica Day into your classroom, and have your students create flags to be sent down to Antarctica. We would like to emphasise that submissions to us can only be up to 5 flags per school – if you would like to submit your flags to us, please contact us on

The idea is for your students to design flags for the Antarctic. You can either get all students to design flags, and then chose your ‘top five’ or you could design a couple of flags as a whole class/year group. Digital pictures of the flags are sent to us, and we then print off these picture and send them down to the Antarctic with our scientists and engineers in November and December. A picture of your flags will then be taken within the Antarctic, and the student/classroom will receive a certificate to say where their flag was displayed. There is also a chance that a competition will be run for the best flags to be hung up around the British Antarctic Survey and Scott Polar Museum.

We can provide a large number of resources and lesson ideas. We would also like to maintain a relationship with the school afterwards, either by a visit to the school from a scientist, or an online Q&A session for your students with a scientist. This is an international activity, and so far we have schools from over 20 countries taking part. The UKPN would love to have your school participate in this exciting event.

To help you implement this activity within your classroom, we’ve attached a sample class plan for Antarctica Flags that has been most popular over the last couple of years! If you would like this class plan in another language, please let us know by replying to this email.


Researcher Christine Dow and her team display a flag at South Korea’s Jang Bogo Research Station.

This year, our deadline for submission of Antarctica Day flags will be slightly earlier, on the 1st November
(exactly 1 month before Antarctica Day!), because we’d like to get your flags to be photographed in Antarctica on the 1st December. 

Lastly, to keep updated and involved in the Antarctica Day festivities, please follow us on Facebook (UKPN and Antarctica Day) and Twitter, where we will be regularly posting your flag submissions and other relevant items counting down the days to December 1st.

Please get in touch at if you have any questions.

Sustainable research: Cycling forward

Sustainable research: Cycling forward

185 miles, 8 counties, 3 ‘road closed signs’,1 ford, 1 muddy track and 1 squished banana…what an excellent ride! The carbon cutting cycle is complete!

On Friday evening, I set off from my home in Basingstoke, heading north on my trusty steed ‘Merlin the Brave’ to cycle to the UK Antarctic Science conference in Norwich. The plan was to reduce my carbon footprint and choose one of the most environmentally friendly forms of transport – my bike!

Day 1 saw 40 miles from Basingstoke up to High Wycombe, some great country roads and lots of ladies in large hats at the Henley Regatta. Pretty sure all the bunting they put up was for us! It was just a shame that someone put urban Reading smack bam in the middle of the route! A celebratory veggie pie from the supermarket at Morrison’s devoured sat on the curb in the car park saw day 1 to a classy end.


A well deserved pie for dinner!

Awaking to sunny skies, time to hop back on Merlin and head off (straight up a long hill!) out of High Wycombe and up to Cambridge. 75 miles of fantastic riding, albeit not all on road with a few unexpected swampy mud tracks for bridleways and 1 ford! Merlin had a great adventure! Somehow managing to dodge pretty much all the rain showers on the forecast, we arrived in Cambridge having cycled 75 miles.

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Merlin the Brave goes off road!

Day 3, and time for the last leg to Norwich. Joined now by fellow oceanographers Cecilia, Heather and Vicky, and with legs fully refuelled from some excellent Spanish themed dinner the night before (thanks to Cecilia and her housemates), I was looking forward to another day out on the bike. No muddy bridleways to sludge through today and only one slight navigational error that resulted in a near miss of the A14! Again the weather and the elevation (or lack of it!) treated us well, and we enjoyed a good 70 miles of peddling through the very British countryside. We arrived in Norwich early evening for a well deserved drink in the sun, what a great ride!

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Team cycle depart from Cambridge on our trusty steeds

So if you’ve managed to read this far, you’re probably thinking, wow sounds like a lovely trip, nice cycling, nice scenery and good exercise, but what has this got to do with sustainability. Well you’d be right in a way; it was a fantastic weekend, and certainly felt more like an adventure holiday than any kind of carbon cutting sacrifice. So it goes to show that reducing your carbon footprint doesn’t haven’t to be stressful or make life difficult, it can in fact be fun and even better for you (and your research).

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Vicky gets excited as we arrive in Norfolk

As scientists, we are constantly travelling around the world for meetings and conferences, and although this is important to progress some really vital science that will ultimately (we hope) help reduce world carbon emissions, I think it is important to remember that our research too has its own carbon footprint. There are of course times when international travel can’t be avoided – I’m not sure I’m capable of rowing to my next conference in the USA – but where we can, we should think about holding Skype meetings, and there is definitively is scope within Europe to reduce our airmiles.

I really think that we should be ‘practicing what we preach’, and that we need to continue to strive towards more sustainable research. What about introducing meat free days at the canteen of your research institution, what can we do in the lab to make sure we recycle used sample bottles, and whilst away at sea can we think more about alternatives to those endless plastic cable ties? I hope that our little sustainable cycle might encourage us all to think more about what we can do day to day to reduce the carbon emissions of our research, and I hope we have shown you how fun and easy it can be!

So thanks to everyone for a great few days! Thanks in particular to the International Polar Foundation for funding my attendance of the UK Antarctic conference and to Unilink at Southampton for all their support with bike repair kit pre-cycle. And of course, thanks to my fellow cyclists, Steve for accompanying me up to Cambridge, and Vicky, Heather and Cecilia for joining me with fresh legs from Cambridge to Norwich – a long journey is always easier, and lots more fun with good friends. Now to start the real work at the conference!

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A celebratory drink at our final destination in Norwich!

Anna Belcher

UKPN at the UK Antarctic Conference, July 2016

UKPN at the UK Antarctic Conference 2016!

UKPN are holding a meeting of Early Career Researchers on 4-5 July 2016 at UEA in Norwich, immediately preceding the 2016 Antarctic Sciences Conference on 5-7 July 2016.

For more information, please email Cecilia Liszka ( The full agenda can be seen below (NOTE: there are 2 pages).

Registration has now closed.



Studying the Antarcic Seafloor – My first trip to the South


Author:  Madeleine Brasier

Me and the Sea

I have been studying marine biology for nearly 7 years now. During my undergraduate I became particularly interested in the deep sea as well as Antarctic marine biology. Why? Because they are the most isolated, challenging and hardest places to study in our planet. During my masters I studied the reproductive biology of Antarctic seastars and I also got the chance to ‘go to sea’ on a research cruise in the North East Atlantic where I learnt all about life on a ship and how to sample the deep-sea. I am now half way through my PhD at the University of Liverpool and the Natural History Museum, London. I am investigating the genetic diversity, biogeography and trophic traits of deep-sea Antarctic polychaete worms. My PhD has taken me to many places for international conferences and on another two research cruises, but this year I was lucky enough to finally head south to Antarctica.


About a year ago one of my supervisor was invited to join the SOAntEco project led by British Antarctic Survey (BAS) The aims of this trip were to collect and document the marine animals living on the seafloor around the South Orkney Islands associated with a Marine Protected Area. This area is protected from commercial fishing activities, its purpose is to prevent damage to diverse habitats allowing marine animals to live and reproduce without human disturbance. This project will provide insight into the presence, abundance and distribution of marine animals that are indicative of vulnerable marine ecosystems i.e. habitats that would be easily damaged and slow to recover from fishing activities. The current position of the South Orkney MPA is based our knowledge of the topography of the sea floor and that it is a penguin foraging area. The data we collect will indicate whether the size or position of this MPA should be altered in order for it to be of most benefit to marine animals.


Figure 1 The RRS James Clarke Ross


The research cruise was aboard the James Clark Ross or ‘JCR’, one of the BAS research vessels. Although most research ships are quite similar, comprised of cabins, mess rooms, laboratories, computer rooms, a gym and so on each ship has its own charm about it which is maintained by its crew for whom the ship is there home for about half the year. We joined the JCR in Stanley Harbor, Falkland Islands, where we spent the day orientating ourselves with her decks, unpacking our belongings into our cabins and claiming our laboratory space. We also learnt some of her traditions including that in the main mess you had to dress for dinner, collect and return your own napkin to the rack at the start and end of every meal and no matter how rough it may get in the Southern Ocean the catering staff would always serve soup!

Marine Life in the Southern Ocean

As well as the samples we came to collect being at sea can also allow you to observe larger marine animals. On our journey to the South Orkneys MPA we got the chance to visit BAS base on Signy Island. Once on the island, and after we had restocked the base with fresh food, the base staff took us on a short walk, introducing us to some of the other island residence including fur and elephant seals as well as chinstrap and gentoo penguins. It was an amazing day documented by plenty of wildlife photos. Leaving Signy and heading south to our sampling site I saw my first iceberg, shortly followed by my second, third, fourth until I lost count. After about two weeks at sea we were woken up during the day (I was on the night watch so slept during the majority of the day) because we were surrounded by humpback whales, seals and penguins. Again another amazing photo opportunity and stunning wildlife.




Figure 2 Chinstrap penguins on Signy Island


Figure 3 Humpback whales and icebergs (Photo credit Susie Grant)

Sometimes I need to remind people that despite the term research ‘cruise’, sailing from exotic places and marine mammal sightings scientists’ do work very hard at sea. As mentioned I was on the night watch, working from 7pm to 7am each day. Our biological sampling regime consisted of three main bits of equipment including a downward facing camera to observe the seafloor and two pieces of towed gear which were trawled along the seafloor to collect animals; the Aggasiz trawl and an epibenthic sled. On a few occasions high winds and swell prevented us sampling but we deployed these in the middle of the night often in the wind and snow. Once the animals were on deck and in the laboratory we sorted them into groups, it was my job to identify, photograph and preserve the polychaete worms we found. Some of the most numerous polychaetes we collected during SOAntECO were scale worms, including large species such as Laetmonice and symbiotic species living on sponges and octocorals. Other animals we collected included seastars, brittlestars, sea cucumbers, shrimps, fish, octopus, anemones and many more!



Figure 4 The night team unload the trawl (Photo credit Claudio Ghiglione)

 All the SOAntEco scientists have now returned to their home institutions and our samples will be back in the UK later this year. Not only will these samples be used to investigate the management of the South Orkney MPA, individual researchers on board will use their new material for genetic, physiological and ecological investigations. I have just been awarded a £4000 research grant from Antarctic Science to investigate the functional relationship between symbiotic worms living on several coral species. The data complied from these studies will contribute to the growing understanding and monitoring of life in the Antarctic Ocean and how it might be influenced by future climatic change and human activities as well as aid data driven management of this vulnerable marine environment.


Figure 5 A selection of animals collected in the South Orkney MPA. (Photo credit Helena Wiklund, Claudio Ghiglione, Cath Waller and Camille Moreau)

UKPN at the Leeds Science Festival

The UK Polar Network (UKPN) members for the very first time conducted an education and outreach event at the University of Leeds as a part of the Leeds Science festival on the 21st of March, 2016. We conducted an exciting 1 day workshop titled ‘Pole to Pole: Life at the ends of the Earth’ for school students aged 12-15 years.

The workshop was divided into two sessions of 2 hour slots each. Small scale experiments were set-up in order to educate and create awareness on various aspects of climate change in the polar regions such as ocean acidification, sea level rise and the changing albedo. In each of these aspects, the vulnerability of the polar regions to increased emissions of carbon dioxide, industrial pollution, deforestation etc. was stressed on.

Students at the workshopStudents at the workshop


Students were first introduced through a continental jigsaw puzzle to the similarities and differences between the Arctic and Antarctic with regard to ocean/wind circulation, temperature, sea ice extent, flora and fauna. This set a good backdrop for the rest of the cool scientific experiments that were to follow!

Once the students were aware of terms such as ice sheets, glaciers, difference between land ice and sea ice, they were run through with a sea level rise experiment. Here they placed ice on a rock (representing land ice) and ice floating in water (representing sea ice) in two separate tubs. Both the tubs were filled with water and ice was melted using a hair dryer. The students were then asked to guess which tub would show a rise in the water level and also the reasons for it. Herein sea level rise was brought into the picture and the impacts of such melting on especially coastal inhabitants discussed. Second part of the experiment was based on thermal expansion using a tube filled with blue liquid placed in a tub with boiling water. The rise of the blue liquid in the tube was used to explain that as water temperature rises, it expands, also contributing to sea level rise.

In sync with the above experiment was the concept of albedo. Students recorded the difference in temperatures between a white and black tile heated by a light bulb. They also measured reflectance of different ‘land types’ – open ocean, snow, sea ice, forest etc. and were asked to place the albedo of these in an increasing or decreasing order. The students were enthused to learn of these differences which led to interesting discussions on the effects of changing albedo in the polar regions on sea level rise and the vicious positive feedback that it sets into motion.

To show one of the major and increasing impacts of climate change, an experiment on ocean acidification was also conducted. Students used vinegar on sea shells to see the corrosive effect of acid on marine organisms. They also tested using a pH indicator and by blowing into beakers containing warm water and ice cold water, the higher solubility of carbon dioxide in the ice cold water and thus the change in acidity. Students were encouraged to seek answers to these observations and come up with a hypothesis to explain this phenomenon. Ocean acidification especially in the polar regions was thus explained and the experiment on sea shells made them realize some of the harmful effects of ocean acidification.

What really intriguIMG_20160321_142931_HDR[1]ed the interest of the students at the end of the workshop was the introduction to heavy polar clothing worn by researchers in the Arctic and Antarctic! Volunteers from among the students were picked up and dressed for the audience to see. This led to several interesting questions on survival in such extreme conditions and the UKPN members shared their memorable experiences of having worked in these harsh conditions with the students.


The aim of the session was thus to educate the students on polar regions and most importantly create an interest in the scientific activities conducted by researchers worldwide at these remote locations. It was thus a day well spent both for the students and UKPN members as the students left more enthused and it served as a great interactive learning experience for the members as well!

–Written by UKPN Treasurer Archana Dayal