Report on the SCAR biology planning meeting, Castiglioncello, Italy, 27-28 May 2010
APECS representative on the SCAR EBA Committee
PAGES International Project Office, Bern, Switzerland
Given the current rate of species extinctions and the projected changes in future climate, a solid understanding of both the natural and current state of the Antarctic environment is imperative. The extent of research required to achieve this understanding, and the logistical challenges facing researchers, necessitate that this be a coordinated international effort. Since 2005, the SCAR program “Evolution and Biodiversity in Antarctica” has facilitated, supported and driven international biological science in Antarctica. This successful program is, however, due to conclude in 2013, leaving SCAR without a focused biology program.
On the 27 – 28 May 2010 leaders in Antarctic life sciences, and SCAR and APECS representatives, gathered at the small Italian coastal town of Castiglioncello (co-funded by SCAR and the Italian National Antarctic Research Program (PNRA)) to brainstorm on the future direction of Antarctic biological science and determine the best programmatic structure required to achieve the desired direction and goals. The ultimate goal of the workshop was to produce draft proposals that are to be presented to the SCAR Life Sciences Standing Scientific Group in Buenos Aires, and then to the SCAR Delegates' Meeting for approval. The workshop had a very open structure, allowing for much discussion and debate. It was agreed by all that two biology programs were required to address the key Antarctic biology issues of the next decade. The remainder of the two-day workshop was spent drafting proposals for programmatic support.
At present, no calls are being made for comment or feedback on these draft proposals, however, if both proposals are approved, two Program Planning Groups will be formed whose responsibility, over the next year, will be to develop more structured proposals for consideration initially by SCAR's EXCOM, and then be put out to external review. During this period there will be plenty of opportunity for the Antarctic biology community to comment on and input to the PPGs developing the new program proposals.
The role of Early Career Researchers in the new programs is still being defined, however it is expected that, if approved by SCAR Delegates, both programs will involve an ECR in the program planning stage and in the resulting program committees. Further, ideas were also discussed for APECS-led ECR Antarctic biology workshops to be held alongside the larger biology/SCAR meetings.
Of course, all these great ideas hinge on the decisions of the SCAR Delegates following presentation of the proposals! Lee Stanish, a PhD candidate from Canada, will be attending the EBA committee meeting in Buenos Aires in my absence, and between Lee and myself, we will keep you, the APECS community, informed on what the decisions are.