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.

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

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

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)

Antarctica Day 2015!

About the Author: Jenny Turton is the education and outreach head on the UKPN committee. She co-ordinated the UKPN role in the Antarctica day flag activity. She is a third year PhD student with the British Antarctic Survey and the Univeristy of Leeds. Her research focuses on Foehn winds over the Antarctic Peninsula, and how they impact on the surface of the Larsen ice shelf.

Antarctica Day 2015


December 1st 1959 marks the day when 12 countries signed the Antarctic treaty. The Antarctic treaty is an internationally recognized legislation that protects and promotes the natural environment of the Antarctic and the surrounding Southern ocean. Similarly the treaty regulates international actions including nuclear explosions, and gives freedom to scientific investigations.

In more recent years, December 1st is now acknowledged as ‘Antarctica Day’ to celebrate the signing of the treaty, and to promote the continued political friendship surrounding the pristine continent. Antarctica Day was established and is organized by ‘Our Spaces’ which is a ‘Foundation for the Good Governance of International Spaces’. This charity focuses on advancing education and promoting research within the Polar Regions, and also coordinates events for Antarctica Day, directed by Dr Julie Hambrook Berkman.

In 2015, the UKPN had the pleasure of being involved with a big part of the promotion and celebration of Antarctica Day. Being part of the education and outreach team within UKPN, I had a large part in co-ordinating a particular event for the day; the Antarctic flags.


For the last 5 years, an event has been coordinated internationally for school pupils and students to design flags for the Antarctic. The task can form part of the school curriculum, be carried out as additional homework, or form part of a visit to the school from scientists and researchers. A number of the UKPN committee visited schools and highlighted this exciting opportunity. One school in Egypt had the chance to Skype with a lab technician and past Antarctic winter meteorologist, Richard Warren.

As a group, school or class, the pupils were asked to design and create a flag for the Antarctic. The pupils were encouraged to try and capture some of the features of the Antarctic treaty, the environment of the Antarctic, and the species living there (including visiting humans!).  Similarly, bright colours were encouraged, to highlight the variety of colour within the Antarctic, and to produce a stand-out flag

My role was to communicate with interested schools, contact schools that may be interested and send information to teachers. As part of the event, Our Spaces provided teaching resources and booklets in numerous languages to send to the interested schools. Many members of the UKPN committee reached out to their previous schools, teachers, friends and family to engage as many schools as possible. This event was not just a UK wide event. Designing flags for the Antarctic was an international event, with many countries taking part.

Designing the flags was not the final step in this event. These flags were about to embark on a 10,000 mile journey (if travelling from the UK) to the Antarctic.

Once the schools had the resources and knowledge, it was back to the UKPN committee to find flag-bearers. The flag-bearers were volunteer researchers, scientists, engineers, winterers (staff who remain on the Antarctic bases during the harsh winter months) and other Antarctic travellers who would shortly be leaving their warm homes and travelling to the Antarctic. These people kindly offered up their precious luggage space to pack in the (sometimes 80+) flags, and take them to the Antarctic.


When the flags were designed, they were sent to myself, Julie (ourspaces) or TJ (UKPN Co-President) via post or scanned email attachments, and assigned to travelling flag-bearers. As the flags arrived at different times, and the flag-bearers departed at various times, it became quite an organizational effort to ensure that all flags were sent south.

As not all flag-bearers were travelling to the same place in the Antarctic, the flags have been distributed around a large proportion of the continent from Port Lockroy on Wiencke Island, to the UK’s Halley research station, to the American McMurdo station, and deep in the field. One set of flags is even circumnavigating the continent on the JCR ship travelling around the Southern Ocean, as this blog is posted!


Once the flags had arrived at their destination and been unpacked from their bearer’s luggage, they were displayed at the various locations. The flags were hung with pride around the various stations, attached to posts in the deep snow and even plunged into the freezing waters (after being thoroughly waterproofed of course!). A selection of photographs below show some of the amazing flag designs and their distribution across the Antarctic. Not all flags have yet reached their destination, but by March 2016, all designed flags will have been to the Antarctic

Parliament Hill Antarctic Flag 3 of 5

Along with the flags, the flag-bearers were provided with certificates for each school that participated. These certificates provided proof of the flag travel, and gave information on their end destination, the traveller who kindly took the flags and the name of the school. These certificates will be making their way back to the schools once the researchers return.

In total over 40 schools were located, had flags designed and were assigned flag-bearers by myself and other members of the UKPN. These schools include 18 from the UK, 8 from America, 5 from China, as well as flags from Australia, Vietnam, Spain, Egypt, Saudi Arabia, Uruguay, South Africa and France. All these schools gave a grand total of 284 flags, and those were just on the UKPN side of things!


This has been such an exciting and important event, and I feel very privileged to have had the opportunity to help promote Antarctica Day, and encourage participation from so many young people. This was the largest number of flags this event has seen, and we want Antarctica Day 2016 to be even bigger! So spread the word, December 1st is Antarctica day!

If you would like to get involved with the Antarctica day events for 2016 please email me at We would love to hear from potential flag-bearers, volunteers to help with the organization and promotion of the event, and schools/teachers with an interest in having their flags sent to the Antarctic.