Association of Polar Early Career Scientists


© Ricardo Matias, Jukes Liu, Linde van Bets, Henrik Christiansen, Quentin Jossart (left to right)

APECS was hosting the International Polar Week from 19-25 March 2018. Polar Week is a series of international events with the goal of promoting the science that takes place in polar latitudes. This March, we focused on celebrating YOU, the members of APECS through a series of fun and professional activities. What better way to celebrate our members than to recognize the work of our wonderful volunteers on the Executive Board and Council. In the blog we highlighted the accomplishments of some of our outstanding leaders and members!

Christel Hansen: Gearing up #PolarPride in South Africa

Hansen_CD.jpgLooking out at the Naukluft Mountains of her home in Namibia, Christel Hansen’s curiosity about the colors and shapes of the rock formations grew. This led her to begin in pursuit of the study of geomorphology. Having received her Bachelor of Science degree in Geoinformatics from the University of Pretoria in 2009, she further pursued a BS (Hons) in Environmental Analysis and Management from the University of Pretoria in 2010. Following her extended undergraduate studies, she went on to Rhodes University where she received her Master’s in periglacial studies and her PhD on periglacial processes and landforms, active layer and permafrost dynamics, thermal-moisture dynamics of seasonally frozen ground, using remote sensing and GIS in cold climates, as well as arid climate studies (both hot and cold deserts). Having completed her graduate work, she has returned as an instructor at the University of Pretoria.

At the 2016 Scientific Committee on Antarctic Research conference in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia she learned about and joined APECS. Since joining as a general member, she has taken the initiative, along with colleagues, to form the first South African National Committee of APECS ( After helping to found APECS South Africa she has held the position of National Committee Chair and served on the APECS council. On the APECS council, she is the coordinator and organizer of the Webinar Project group.

When asked about her favorite role in APECS so far she said,

“It's great fun to meet other young researchers that are involved in Antarctic research from all over the world. It's amazing what people do, where they come from and what they are currently involved with. I have also made some good friends through APECS. Another thing that has been lots of fun is the annual APECS Online Conference. The first time I took part in this I didn't actually know that a conference could be held online. It was a great way of attending and presenting at a conference (without the usual cost implications and logistical nightmare it can be) and there are always so many interesting presentations to see!”

As APECS is a great networking organization, it is easy to make friends around the world. Christel also finds it useful that APECS keeps its membership abreast of conference and workshop information, as well as bridging connections between early career researchers and more senior organizations like SCAR and IASC.

Featured: Christel Hansen
Author: Sara T. Strey

TJ Young’s #PolarPride for UKPN, APECS, and Antarctica Day


Beginning with research on the foraging ecology and population dynamics of endangered seals and whales as an undergraduate at the Duke University Marine Lab, TJ Young developed a great interest in the polar landscape. During his time studying whales in the Western Antarctic Peninsula, TJ first joined APECS. Following his undergraduate work, he moved to the University of Cambridge’s Scott Polar Research Institute to complete his PhD work using a combination of radar and hot-water drilling techniques to monitor and constrain past and present changes in glacier dynamics. This methodology also gave insight into the processes occurring beneath the ice surface that induced such changes. Now that he is finished with his graduate work, he has been conscripted to complete a year of mandatory national service in his home country, Taiwan. Following his year of service, he hopes to return to a career conducting glaciological research.

While working diligently on his research, during spring of 2013, he first joined APECS through the UK Polar Network National Committee as their Webmaster. Subsequently, he served the UK Polar Network as President from 2014-2016 and Vice President in 2016-2017. Concurrent to his term as Vice President of the UK Polar Network, he served on APECS general ExCom.

One of his favorite projects was working on the Antarctica Day Flags campaign,

“Perhaps the most enjoyable and rewarding activity that I have been involved in was coordinating the Antarctica Day Flags Campaign on behalf of UKPN. For the project, we invite schools from all over the world to send in their renditions for a flag that represents the Antarctic Continent. These flags then get paired up with researchers and staff travelling south, and therefore make the journey to Antarctica as part of various expeditions! If you know any teachers that would want to be part of this exciting opportunity, please spread the good word, along with our website that gives more information:

Though it requires time management, APECS has served TJ as a great source of opportunity and growth,

“The pace at which APECS functions is so fast that you are continually exposed to new ideas and collaborations that ultimately filter down in amazing opportunities. For example, the variety of activities that I have been involved in while representing UKPN and APECS have spanned from running booths at science festivals to attending national and international policymaking committee meetings all over the world. Being on the leadership board of these two amazing organisations continually presented unexpected, and oftentimes amazing opportunities that, while keeping you extremely busy, exposes you to the entirety of polar research, whether that be research, policy and governance, project management, funding agencies, and other sectors. “

Featured: TJ Young
Author: Sara T. Strey

Connecting Northern Researchers with #PolarPride, Scott Zolkos

ScottZolkos_Peel_RTS.jpgThe University of Alberta is currently home to PhD Candidate, Scott Zolkos. As he studies the effects of thawing permafrost on carbon cycling in freshwaters, he is a great fit for his additional role as an International Arctic Science Committee Fellow in the Terrestrial Working Group. His interest in, and appreciation for, international collaborative polar research inspired him to join APECS in 2012, which has ignited his passion for education and outreach. From 2014-2017 Scott served on the APECS Council, taking up the position of Council Chair in 2015. Currently, he serves as the Ex-Officio has he has since 2017.

Serving as Council Chair was very rewarding for Scott. When asked about filling the role he said,

“This perspective gave me great appreciation for the effort APECS leadership contributes to run the organization, as well as the amazing diversity of projects run by Council members.”

Having found a need for connection between researchers from different northern research stations, Scott created and implemented Arctic Snapshots. This program allows networking, exchange of ideas, and informative summer online conferences during which researchers share their findings. Finding ways to connect researchers is exciting for Scott, as this is one thing he really enjoys about APECS,

“I’ve always been excited about the opportunities APECS creates by facilitating education and outreach and by connecting young researchers from diverse backgrounds and scientific disciplines. This is very valuable and exciting because it enables young scientists to step outside the “box” of their research and gain a broader perspective of polar research as a whole.”

Finally, Scott appreciates the role APECS has played in his career as much as we appreciate his work,

“APECS has been instrumental in growing my scientific knowledge and network, in part by enabling me to participate in and create education and outreach activities. Without APECS, my scientific career would not be as rewarding as it is today!”

Featured: Scott Zolkos
Author: Sara T. Strey

#PolarPride in Outreach with Mathieu Casado

10560304_10205618578324180_4125333431372955126_o-2.jpgAre you interested in what we can learn from water isotopes within ice cores taken from polar regions? So is Mathieu Casado. In fact, Mathieu has been preparing for such studies at several universities across Europe including Ecole Normale Supérieure Cachan, University Pierre and Marie Curie, Imperial College, and even the Institute of Geography of the Russian Academy of Sciences. In 2016, he completed his PhD at the Laboratoire des Sciences du Climat et de l'Environnement (LSCE). Following a year-long postdoctoral fellowship in France, Mathieu made his way to Germany to become a Humboldt Fellow at the Alfred Wegener Institute in Potsdam.

While studying in France, the APECS France National Committee president described how APECS worked, inciting Mathieu to join the APECS general membership in 2015. His beginning activities in APECS France included presenting a webinar and involvement in outreach events such as Les Savanturiers. As of the beginning of 2017, Mathieu took on the role of APECS representative in the steering committee of the PAIS research group within SCAR. Further involvement in APECS began as he became a 2017-2018 council member, leading the project group based on the IPCC review project. During March and April, he will help out on ExCom, filling in for a current member temporarily.

Working on outreach projects is where the excitement is for Mathieu, so he has been excited to participate. His favorite, however, is working on the IPCC review group project,

“… I have to say, the IPCC review group project is really exciting, even though the workload is sometimes quite heavy… I believe we are really part of a large -scale project, and it kind of feels quite important to get this kind of opportunity. Also, it's really interesting to exchange with IPCC staff.”

Not only has Mathieu been able to create contacts at the IPCC through his service on Council, he finds that APECS has been a vital organization through which he can network. Even polar researchers that aren’t directly involved in your field of research may hear about you through your work on APECS.

Featured: Mathieu Casado
Author: Sara T. Strey

Ruth Vingerhagen: #PolarPride in Continued Leadership and Service

Greenland 2009 170.jpgIn 2011, at the start of her first postdoctoral position, Ruth Vingerhagen (née Hindshaw), joined the ranks of APECS. With a Master’s degree in chemistry from Edinburgh University, and a PhD in geochemistry from ETH Zürich, Ruth’s research largely focuses on using metal isotopes to understand the temporal and spatial variations of river water chemistry, particularly rivers draining glaciated and permafrost-dominated catchments. All while completing three post-doctoral positions at NGU in Norway, University of St. Andrews, and the University of Cambridge, she also has two children.

As a representative on APECS Council, before the onset of our project group system, Ruth served as Co-Chair or the Research and Activities Committee from 2013-2014. Following her work on the RAC, she served two terms on the ExCom, including one as president from 2015-2016. From 2016-2018, she played an advisory role as the Ex-Officio. Currently, she is serving on the APECS Norway National Committee.

Though she has worn many hats in APECS, Ruth cites being president as her favorite role,

“I enjoy planning, organising and coordinating things! Organising in-person events such as a workshop or poster awards is always very rewarding. One of my favourite activities was at the start of my involvement with APECS when I helped review proposals for INTERACT. Through reading the proposals it almost felt like I'd been to some of the field stations!”

Currently, she and many others on the scientific organizing committee are excited to see POLAR2018 come to life. When asked about other projects of interest, Ruth described working on a paper about APECS,

“I'm also looking forward to get the reviews back for a paper I was involved in highlighting the achievements of APECS in soft-skill development and education, outreach and communication activities. In general, I think it's fantastic that APECS is widely recognised and that because of our work more and more organisations are contacting us to provide ECR opportunities and involve us in their projects.”

Though Ruth has definitely put in uncountable hours in dedication to serving APECS, the benefits have not been one-sided. Being involved in a diverse community has widened her perspective regarding career options outside of academia as well as keeping her up to date with polar research outside of her own field. This broadened perspective allows for a wider interpretation of her own research as well as consideration for the human element, all while adding a sense of motivation. Participation in APECS has provided a broad sense of learning and opportunity, specifically, Ruth describes

“I have also learnt about the 'behind the scenes' aspects of both international volunteer-led organisations and research itself, for example how funding calls are developed. More specifically, being involved with APECS has enabled me to attend conferences and meetings that I would never have been able to attend otherwise. I can safely say that my involvement with APECS has been extremely rewarding.”

Featured: Ruth Vingerhagen
Author: Sara T. Strey

Jennifer Cooper and her #PolarPride for APECS Leadership

Jennifer_Cooper.jpgJennifer Cooper began her studies investigating questions regarding Geophysics, Astrophysics, and Archaeology at Cornell University, finishing her undergraduate degree in 2014.

Later, she narrowed her focus to volcanoes around the world, including those in Antarctica for her M.S. Research. Jennifer then reached a new way of life as she considered a new position: Self-Graduate Fellow at the University of Kansas in the Department of Physics and Astronomy pursuing a PhD studying the evolution of galaxy clusters using the Hubble Space Telescope and the detection of cosmic neutrinos from Antarctica with the ARA and ANITA groups.

Jenn, as she is known to her fellow volunteers, joined APECS as a council member in 2015. Not only has she served as a member of the council for 3 years, she has been serving as the Council Co-Chair for one year. Even while dedicating time to APECS she has been serving as an APECS representative for SCAR Astronomy & Astrophysics since 2015.

During October 2016, Jenn and others on her APECS team began planning with the World Summit Planning Committee. This committee will meet during the World Summit in Davos, Switzerland just before the POLAR2018 conference. Of the conference, Jenn said,

“We started planning in October 2016, and I can’t wait to see how it will turn out in just a couple of months. We’ve had a great group of people planning it, so I’m hoping that it will be a wonderful event for APECS … I can’t wait to see how it will turn out in just a couple of months. We’ve had a great group of people planning it, so I’m hoping that it will be a wonderful event for APECS.”

Joining APECS leadership led Jenn to meet people from a variety of disciplines who all share a common interest. Working with new people, and even getting to meet some live and in action, has been gratifying for her as well as for many of us that work for APECS. Because of this, Jenn says,

“APECS has given me a better understanding of fields other than my own and how to effectively work in a group that spans the entire world. It’s also great to work towards a common goal of education and outreach and realize the importance of it on the larger community. I’m always looking forward to meeting up with fellow APECS members wherever life may take me.”

Featured: Jennifer Cooper
Author: Sara T. Strey

#PolarPride for Jilda Caccavo: Dedicated to APECS ExCom, You, and Biology

jilda_caccavo.jpgSince Jilda Caccavo was 9 years old, she considered marine biology as a potential career. After exploring neurobiology as an undergraduate, she began graduate studies toward a PhD in studying the molecular mechanisms of drug dependence. Becoming disillusioned with various aspects of biomedical research, Jilda turned her attention explored other passions, including interning on a farm, bartending, being a yoga instructor, and finally leaving New York, NY, USA to obtain her M.S. in Aquatic Ecology in London. There, she found that her nascent love marine biology (her first childhood toy was a penguin named Penny), was more than just skin-deep. She is now pursuing her a PhD at the University of Padua, Italy, investigating population connectivity in Antarctic fish.

Jilda first joined the ranks of APECS in 2016, after registering for an early career researcher workshop hosted by APECS at the SCAR conference. After meeting some great APECS members like Alex Thornton and Gerlis Fugmann, she decided to apply to the APECS Council. Of the experience, Jilda says,

“I was still in Malaysia at the time, traveling after the conference, when I decided to put together an application for the Council on a plane from Langkawi to Singapore. A week later, back in an AirBnB in Kuala Lumpur prior to returning to Europe, I was being interviewed by Gerlis. As it would happen, I was accepted to the Council (as most enthusiastic applicants are), and started to put meeting dates in my calendar.”

Meanwhile, Jilda became involved in APECS Italy, working to reinvigorate their National Committee.

Shortly after this, after only recently joining APECS Council, Jilda was voted by the council to be a National Committee Coordinator. This means that she was responsible for coordinating between the many local branches of APECS and the international organization. During this time, she was also responsible for leading a Project Group tasked with gathering information for Non-Academic polar Careers. As an individual Council member, she also assisted in planning for Antarctica Day festivities and assisting in the IASC Fellowship review of applications. Of these times, Jilda remarks,

“Throughout my tenure in those roles, I continued to learn, to get to know the APECS leadership, embody that APECS tenet of engagement, and do what I could to help the organization and my fellow ECRs. It was these roles that led me to apply to be a member of ExCom for the 2017-18 term, and thanks to my fellow Council members, here I am today.”


While her roles on the Council and as a National Committee Coordinator, along with her role in her local National Committee, APECS Italy were enjoyable, she finds being on the Executive Committee to ultimately be the most rewarding experience. Being on the Executive Committee (ExCom) allows for involvement in a greater number of projects on the managerial level. Since joining ExCom, she has met more ECRs and helped to enhance the activities of Project Groups, allowing for our Council to more closely reach its potential.

Even while going above and beyond doing volunteer work with her time, Jilda finds that during the stressful time of completing her PhD the company of her fellow ExCom members has been helpful. On working with ExCom, Jilda comments,

“Hanne, Alex, Gabriela and Jean are awesome, not to mention the great Gerlis. I’m finishing up my PhD, and am often home alone with my cats in front of a computer screen, writing for hours. Being part of the APECS leadership, having these positive interactions, and being able to turn small efforts on my part into large output on the side of Council member activity in Project Groups, is a welcome reprieve!”

When Jilda was asked what she was most excited about, she said:

“Giving back to the community, and helping out. Sure, we’re helping ‘da earth’ with our work, but this is sand grain-size incremental. Sure, we help our bosses with grunt work, and we help students by training them, but this is part and parcel with the job of an ECR, be they a Masters, PhD or post-doc. And we’re often islands in these roles, give or take the more active student groups, or cohesive labs. But being part of APECS is above and beyond what is expected of an ECR, and participation in APECS is the veritable definition of symbiosis. You - members, leadership - we turn a bunch of independent organelles into a multi-faceted eukaryote, and we’re all the better for it.”

APECS serves as well as it is served by its volunteers. Jilda has some great ideas about this:

“To belabor the cell metaphor towards the end of my previous response - what’s in it for the chloroplast? Well, the cushy intracellular environment, that’s for one: the community of like-minded, friendly fellow ECRs with whom to communicate and collaborate on projects. Then there’s the facility of communication of opportunities. Depending on what level you’re involved in APECS, you may not just hear about all the latest opportunities for ECRs in the polar sciences, but you may be adjudicating who gets to receive those opportunities, or even creating them yourself. I got to take part in the most recent EPB meeting as rapporteur because of an APECS-announced call for this position, as well as departing for Tasmania for the MEASO conference in a few weeks to be an ECR session organizer, another opportunity awarded by APECS. But the way in which APECS helps you is not just with application opportunities. You know IASC, SCAR working groups, CCAMLR, EPB, any number of abbreviated bodies? All these groups work just like APECS. They bring like-minded experts with diverse backgrounds together to achieve discrete goals. I just remember being so starry-eyed at the EPB meeting with all the polar glitterati of Europe, and hearing them talk about ‘action items’ amongst their ‘ExCom’ and following their ‘agenda' and ‘voting'.. It sounds banal, but it makes a huge difference having actually participated in a group like this to understand, and eventually one day participate in ‘big kid’ organizations like these, and APECS prepares you for that, without a doubt.”

Featured: Jilda Caccavo
Author: Sara T. Strey

#PolarPride for our APECS Leadership

Leadership photos updated Seite 2Before we celebrate some of our outstanding members for their service to APECS, it is important to remember our leadership structure. The APECS leadership is comprised of early career researchers that are interested in and committed to furthering the activities and the future directions of the organization. Project initiation and management, whether web-based or in-person events, are carried out by a number of member-initiated working groups and committees made up of both members and mentors.

APECS leadership is largely comprised of passionate scientists that volunteer their time. Those members of the APECS council, specifically, dedicate their time to project groups that organize events and outreach opportunities for the general membership. These members are either nominated by organizations or self-nominated and approved by the Executive Committee.

The Executive Committee not only assists with project groups but also manages the organization including major decisions regarding the future of the organization. We also have our International Directorate to thank for not only coordination but also general maintenance of APECS records.

During this celebration of International Polar Week, consider firing up your #PolarPride by continued exploration of our organization’s website.

Photo: APECS Executive Committees from the APECS leadership terms 2010-2011, 2011-2012, 2013-2014, 2014-2015, 2015-2016, 2016-2017

Contact APECS

APECS International Directorate
UiT The Arctic University of Norway
Huginbakken 14
9019 Tromsø
Email: info(at)

Our Sponsors

APECS Directorate Sponsor
Further Sponsors and Partners for APECS projects, activities and events