Seals of Antarctica

It is only two days left before the Antarctica day and today we want to share beautiful pictures of most amusing marine mammals by talented wildlife photographer Stas Zakharov: the Antarctica seals. There are 6 species of seals in Antarctica, including Antarctic Fur Seals, Leopard Seals, Ross Seals, Crabeater Seals and Weddell Seals, and these 6 species apparently make up the majority of all seals on earth. 

Weddell seals Leptonychotes weddellii at the Lemaire Channel

Antarctic fur seal Arctocephalus gazella, South Shetland Islands

Check out our Instagram;Twitter and Facebook for more posts and definitely check out @stas_zakharov_photo for more seals! 

The race to the pole – glance into history of Antarctic exploration

Today’s  post features history of exploration of the South Pole – fascinating and dramatic story of rivalry between the two expeditions.

“I am just going outside and I may be some time – he went out into the blizzard and we have not seen him since” From Scott’s diaries, 1912

Amundsen’s South Pole expedition. Image from: https://nationalpostcom.files.wordpress.com/2016/12/8-5_amundsens_group_at_pole_flag_flying1.jpg?quality=80&strip=all&w=780

Beginning of the 20th century was an era of polar exploration also known as Heroic Age of Antarctic Exploration. One of the key figures in the world’s history of polar exploration undoubtedly is Roald Amundsen who first reached the South Pole by land in 1911 and also led the first expedition that first reached the North Pole by air in 1926 (on-board the airship Norge).  Amundsen and Oscar Wisting were the first men to have reached both geographical poles. But behind this simple date stands complicated and dramatic history of numerous attempts to be the first to reach the center of either hemispheres, history that carried away lives of many noble researchers, including Robert Falcon Scott’s entire party who died on their return journey from the South Pole where they found Norwegian flag deployed 34 days before Scott’s expedition arrival. The rivalry between British and Norwegian expeditions, led by Scott and Amundsen respectively, is perhaps one of the most dramatic events in the history of discoveries.

Read more about the race to the pole, details and differences between the two expeditions at: 

Antarctic Treaty

Antarctica day: Antarctic Treaty

Map of Antarctica with the flags of the Antarctic Treaty nations. Photo from: https://www.bas.ac.uk

The Antarctic treaty is an international agreement that sets aside the entire Antarctica continent as a scientific preserve devoted to peace and science “forever to be used exclusively for peaceful purposes in the interest of mankind”. The treaty ensured freedom of scientific investigation and ban of military activities on the continent. It was the first nuclear-arms agreement and the first institution to govern all human activities in an international region with no sovereign jurisdiction. The treaty remains a unique and inspiring example of international collaboration and implementation of the common heritage of mankind principle. 

Signed on December 1, 1959 in Washington, D.C., United States it came into force in 1961 and currently has 54 member parties 29 of which, including all 12 original signatories to the treaty, have voting status (the latest status list as of April 2019 is available via the link). The twelve countries that were the original signatories are: Argentina, Australia, Belgium, Chile, France, Japan, New Zealand, Norway, South Africa, the Soviet Union, the United Kingdom, and the United States. All member parties implement the articles of the Treaty through their national laws. The Antarctic Treaty System holds yearly Antarctic Treaty Consultative Meetings (ATCM) and has an Antarctic Treaty Secretariat that facilitates and supports the ATCMs.

The treaty consists of 14 Articles and is available in English; French; Russian and Spanish.

Read more about the Treaty on the website of the British Antarctic Survey: https://www.bas.ac.uk/about/antarctica/the-antarctic-treaty/  

#AntarcticaDay2019_UKPN 

 

Antarctica Day 2019

Antarctica Day is celebrated on the 1st of December every year since 2010, when it was established to commemorate the signature of the Antarctic Treaty on 1st December 1959.

Antarctica Day was initiated by the Foundation for the Good Governance of International Spaces (www.ourspaces.org.uk) with aims of building global awareness of this landmark institution, and celebrating this milestone of peace in our civilization with hope and inspiration for future generations.

Flag of the Antarctic Treaty, source: https://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/thumb/6/68/Flag_of_the_Antarctic_Treaty.svg/400px-Flag_of_the_Antarctic_Treaty.svg.png

Antarctica Day 2019 will mark the 60th anniversary of the Antarctic treaty. To celebrate this we launch the #AntarcticaDay2019_UKPN media campaign with a series of historic overview posts, photos and insights from current fieldwork in Antarctica.

Follow us on Instagram: @ukpolarnetwork;Twitter: @UKPolarNetwork and Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/ukpolarnetwork/ for more updates! 

UK-Russia science session at Arctic Science Summit Week

UK-Russia Arctic Scientific Cooperation: Towards a Better Understanding of the Changing Arctic
Time: Friday, 24 May, 14:00 – 15:30
Venue: Northern Arctic Federal University, Room 11220 (Academic Board Room, 2nd floor, Arkhangelsk, Russia
Organisers: UK Science and Innovation Network in Russia (SIN Russia) & the NERC Arctic Office

The UK and Russian science communities have long-standing research cooperation on climate change in the Arctic. Over the past two years this cooperation has been marked by exciting new developments: dynamic bilateral projects, workshops, conferences and initiatives, with a special focus on early career links and institutional partnerships. These scientific partnerships are helping to advance our understanding of the changing Arctic and the global implications of these changes: from northern forests and palaeoenvironmental studies to terrestrial and marine ecosystems, to adaptation of local communities. Join our session at Arctic Science Summit Week 2019 to learn more about recent UK-Russia scientific work and explore what further wider collaborative research opportunities might look like.

Co-Chairs
• Henry Burgess, Head of the NERC Arctic Office, IASC Vice-President
• Dr Marina Kalinina, Adviser to the Rector, Northern Arctic Federal University (NArFU), Arkhangelsk; Vice-President on Interregional Cooperation at the University of the Arctic

Speakers
• Prof. Mary Edwards, University of Southampton, UK-Siberia scientific working group (DIMA)
• Dr Marina Kalinina, Adviser to the Rector, Northern Arctic Federal University (NArFU), Arkhangelsk; Vice-President on Interregional Cooperation at the University of the Arctic
• Dr Rachael Turton, Scott Polar Research Institute, University of Cambridge
• Dr Olga Tutubalina, Faculty of Geography, Lomonosov Moscow State University
• Yulia Zaika, President of the Association of Polar Early Career Scientists Russia (APECS Russia)
• Saule Akmetkaliyeva, UK Polar Network, Manchester Metropolitan University

Polar Software Workshop and Hackathon

Training the next generation of polar scientists in software sustainability

Organised in collaboration with the UK Polar Network and the Centre for Polar Observation and Modelling (CPOM) UCL, more than 20 early career polar scientists were given the opportunity to improve their software skills during an interactive workshop. As with many scientific disciplines within polar sciences we have our software heroes with the opensouce code stored in github… and we have those who would never dream of sharing their code. There are, however, many who would like to fit into the first category and to be more open but are concerned about sharing their code. It was this group that we aimed to help, as well as those who would like to learn better practices in writing and developing their software.

The UCL Earth Sciences deinonychus ready to welcome participants to the workshop.

Several SSI fellows provided invaluable help on the day, not only through delivering their own sessions but also staying around and helping participants through the other practical sessions. Adam Jackson kicked off the day with an introduction to open science and sustainable software, and David Perez-Suarez and Yo Yehudi ran hugely successful workshops on testing and open scientific code through github respectively.

SSI Fellow Adam Jackson kicks off the day with an introduction to open science and sustainable software.

In addition to this training we had two speakers from industry who demonstrated that their software skills have transferred to careers outside of academia: Ruari Rhodes (Hiscox) spoke to us and Sam Thomas (Zopa) shared some of his wisdom from his previous work in academia. We were also fortunate enough to have an interlude from the coding from UCL’s Professor Chris Rapley who shared his extensive knowledge on climate change communication, setting us up nicely for the following day’s hackday.

Workshop particpants get to grip with David Perez-Suarez’s testing session.

The UK’s First Polar Hackathon?

Following the training workshop, many of the participants returned to participate in (as far as we are aware!) the UK’s first polar science hackathon. We were joined by participants from Airbus and other departments from UCL (physics and geography) to work on a variety of problems, including machine learning, shipping routes through the Arctic and extreme events in Greenland.

Projects were judged by popular vote, with a focus on open science, collaboration within the team, as well as results found during the day. Prizes for the hackathon were generously provided by Indorse.

A welcome pizza break from coding during the hackathon.

We will share results of this workshop with the international earth sciences community at December’s American Geophysical Union Fall Meeting. We would like to thank the Software Sustainability Institute for providing funding for this workshop through my fellowship fund as well as the Association for Early Career Polar Scientists for additional travel support and endorse for sponsoring our Hackday. 
 
The resources from the workshop are available here: 
 
Adam Jackson (UCL)- Open science and sustainable software presentation source files
 
David Perez-Suarez (UCL)- Testing, Testing, One, Two… slides repository 
 
Ruari Rhodes (Hiscox)- Multi-lingual workflow and spatial data resources 
 
Yo Yehudi (InterMine, University of Cambridge)- Open Scientific Code using Git and GitHub materials slides 
 
Chris Rapley (UCL)- Climate Change- Delivering Value slides

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 www.makingintransit.com

Post written by Julia Feuer-Cotter

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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.

ukpn-bad-poster-example
ukpn-better-poster-example

 

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 kyle.mayers@soton.ac.uk

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.

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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

Studying the Antarcic Seafloor – My first trip to the South

Link

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.

SOAntEco

About a year ago one of my supervisor was invited to join the SOAntEco project led by British Antarctic Survey (BAS) https://www.bas.ac.uk/project/so-anteco/. 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.

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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.

 

 

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Figure 2 Chinstrap penguins on Signy Island

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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!

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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.

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