Association of Polar Early Career Scientists


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

Canada Gooseapecs logo webAPECS and the manufacturer of extreme-weather outerwear, Canada Goose®, teamed up to highlight the work done by polar early career researchers and to keep them warm during the Where does your Goose take you? program.

A competition was organized in Spring 2014 where APECS and Canada Goose® were looking for APECS members doing field work in the Arctic or the Antarctic during 2014/15. In total APECS received 56 applicants for the 'Where does your goose take you' program. Each selected Where does your Goose take you? participant were given a Canada Goose® Expedition Jacket. The winners were:

  • Lydie Lescarmontie (Australia/France)
  • Marc Oliva (Portugal)
  • Pierre Dutrieux (UK)
  • Pamela Wong (Canada)
  • Andrian Vlakhov (Russia)
  • Emily Stevenson (USA)

Their task was to write two blog entries throughout the year, highlighting their polar research (science program, field sites, travel, workshops, field courses etc.).

Pamela Wong - Arctic Bay, Arviat, and Kimmirut

pw1My research integrates Inuit traditional knowledge and genetic techniques to develop novel techniques in monitoring polar bears. This work includes documenting Inuit methods of identifying polar bear population characteristics such as sex, age, body size, and health of individual bears. This work also involves genetic methods of measuring telomeres—protective sequences at the ends of DNA that shorten with cell division—as an indicator of ageing in polar bear tissues collected by Inuit hunters during harvests. In this manner, partnerships with Inuit communities are critical for my research.


pw2Last spring, in March and April 2014, I visited Arctic Bay, Arviat, and Kimmirut communities to initiate interviews with elders and hunters. This meant 56 cups of tea and over 300 hours shared over stories about hunting experiences, methods of identifying and distinguishing polar bears, and perspectives on research and monitoring programs. This February, I re-visited each community to re-cap my findings and seek insight for new directions in my work. I learned that despite my research plan, there are unanticipated themes and priorities that emerge upon arrival in each community and that the wisdom and expertise elders can share with me—within and outside of the context of my research—offer unique ways to acquire knowledge and interact with the world.

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For one, community members stressed the importance of learning by experience. It was important to spend time on the land to understand the information and knowledge that the elders share. I have camped out on the land in M’Clintock Channel in the past which tends to be quite flat and, during foggy weather conditions bears a striking resemblance to the scene from the Matrix where Morpheus introduces Neo to the Matrix in the “loading stockroom”—a room of infinite emptiness against a backdrop of perpetual white with an indistinguishable horizon. Appropriately, these weather conditions are called “white outs”. However (and to return from my nerdy detour), Baffin Island is blessed with a sprinkle of mountains, which paints an entirely different picture. This became clear to me when local community members took me out in their trucks to point out key hunting areas and stories about the land that differed across communities:

pw6smallArctic Bay “Ikiaparjuk” means “pocket’, because it is situated in an inlet. A local hunter showed me areas to find seal and, as one might expect, hunt side by side with polar bears.

Kimmirut, on the other hand, means “heel”, because it is situated across from a rock that resembles the bottom of one’s foot. Here, hunters are less interested in hunting polar bears but still participate in sample collection when the opportunity presents itself.





 Arviat was named after bowhead whale, and was formerly referred to as Eskimo Point. This community experiences polar bears on a daily basis in the fall and avoiding potentially aggressive bears is an ongoing priority in the community. Unfortunately, my time in Arviat was dominated by a blizzard—40 to 60km/hr winds, zero visibility, and down to -56C temperature at times—which kept me in the north 5 days longer than I had originally planned for. On the positive side, this allowed more time to chat with community members about their polar bear experiences and gain some insight into new research directions. I also got to participate in a traditional feast run by a local group of women, and got a tour and brief history of the town with a local Inuit RCMP officer. This experience allowed me to practice adaptability in challenging, unpredictable environments. I am full of gratitude for what initially seemed like a “negative” turn in events.

pw8smallSome would argue that rapidly growing social media is not necessarily the best for our culture but with growing access to Facebook in the north, I am grateful for being able to keep in touch and in contact with my northern friends. I continue to learn and develop new research ideas through our interactions until my next visit. Stay tuned for more updates!


Emily Stevenson - Columbia Icefield

ES3 1My next adventure takes me to the Columbia Icefield – situated in the Canadian Rockies. The Columbia Icefield is a 'hydrographic apex', which means it is the meeting point of three continent wide watersheds. Its six major glaciers release melt water to three different oceans - reaching the Arctic, Pacific, and the Atlantic Oceans, and it significantly contributes to the fresh water supply of Canada and North America. Most glaciers here are remote and not easily accessible except by helicopter, but some are close to roads or established hiking trails. Notable among these are Athabasca and Saskatchewan glaciers in the Alberta Rocky Mountains.

Myself and two students (Mark Robbins and Anna Clinger) from the University of Michigan Glaciochemistry and Isotope Geochemistry Laboratory are here for three months (August to November) studying the melt water outflow from the Athabasca and Saskatchewan glaciers. We arrived here after the summer 'peak melt' to study the effect of the onset of winter freezing on the chemical composition, as well as the discharge and volume of water released from these glaciers, in particular that of the subglacial discharge.

ES3 2The subglacial environment is the small area that exists between the base of the glacial ice and the bedrock it rests on. In this small area melt water and ice interact with, and break down (i.e. physically and chemically weather) the bedrock releasing and transporting elements, nutrients and sediments out of the subglacial environment into downstream environments. Glacially fed streams have unique biological, chemical, and physical traits, which are carried out and passed on to downstream aquatic systems, including the ocean. These processes can have a significant impact on global biological and chemical cycles; understanding how glacier runoff interacts with downstream environments is critical for predicting the ecological effects of glacier change from the Columbia Icefield. Investigation of subglacial hydrology forms an important branch of glaciology as (a) this water exerts a strong influence on the motion and speed of ice masses through ice-water-rock interactions; (b) represents both a resource and hazard due to the release of chemicals on short and long term time scales, delivering nutrients and contaminants to terrestrial and aquatic environments, and (c) water may be stored for long periods in isolated subglacial lakes, allowing distinctive microbiological forms to evolve which are then released downstream; despite the wealth of information about chemical records in snow and ice, little information exists on the microorganisms.

ES3 3As temperatures drop from summer into autumn and winter the amount of melt water generated at the surface of the glacier decreases and with the onset of freezing, the surface (supra glacial), inner glacier (englacial) and sub (base) channels which carry melt water through the glacier to the toe begin to freeze and contract. The effect of the hydrologic network closing at the end of the melt season is an aspect of glacial hydrology and chemistry that is currently insufficiently addressed. The timing of water delivery from glaciers is uncertain as climate change will fundamentally alter glacial recession rates and melting. For example, glacier recession in western Canada has led to changes in melt water pulses in the late summer with negative consequences for populated downstream environments, such as the arid Canadian Prairies, that are now subject to an impending water crisis. In particular, the Athabasca Glacier retreated only about 200 m between 1844 and 1906 but receded over 1 km during the next 75 years and lost nearly half its volume. 

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It is implicit that we monitor and analyse the chemical and nutrient compositions of these vitally important headwaters of the Columbia Icefield. Over the next few months I intend to keep you updated with the exciting dynamic visual and chemical changes we are observing as we head into full on winter conditions and our daily sampling routine.


Lydie Lescarmontier - Amery Ice Shelf, Antarctica

Photo1Here I am, arrived in Antarctica. Even if it's the 6th time for me on the White Continent, it's still an extraordinary feeling to be here, like disconnected from the "normal" world.

We arrived at the Australian Base Station, named Casey, with the Airbus 319. A 5 hours trip over the Southern Ocean from Hobart in Australia. From there, we were meant to fly from Davis, a second Base Station located further West, and then to Enderby Land. But because of the bad weather conditions, we stopped our way in Davis, and decided to cancel the first installations. We then started the second part of the project, obviously called "The Plan B".

Photo2For that part of our work, we installed a series of GPS beacons around the Amery ice shelf: a first one close to Sanson Island (called Landing Bluff), a second one on Beaver Lake (on the Western part of the Amery) and a last one on the South of the ice shelf. These three locations have been chosen to continue the uplift records started about 7 years ago. These post-glacial rebounds signals are supposed to be around 1 to 2 mm/year in that region and are consequences of the melting of a previous Ice-Sheet during the last deglaciation (about 20 000 years ago). We can then expect to record uplift signals of about a centimetre over that period.

Photo3smallThe GPS beacons used are not autonomous stations, and are then not supposed to be recording for more than 10 days (approximately the autonomy of our batteries). This aspect complicates a lot our work, because it implies picking up the equipment 10 days later. So making two trips at the same place, and hence finding two weather windows to fly there. The flights are pretty long (from 1h30 for Landing Bluff up to 5 hours for Dalton's Corner) and imply the use of the helicopters and the Twin-Otter.



Photo4smallFor the first part of our install, we have set up the first GPS on Landing Bluff on top of a Russian station, plugging it into the GPS antenna which remained there during the past 7 years completely intact. The conditions are great: a lovely sunshine make us forget that we are in Antarctica...
Few days later, we managed to reach Beaver Lake, in the Prince Charles Mountains. The gear to install remains the same, but the landscape is completely different. To get to Beaver Lake, we make a first stop to Sanson Island, where the helicopters have to refuel. Then we start our journey inland, in the whiteout. The white landscape which scares so much the pilots.

Photo5smallAfter three hours of flying, a first peak appears in front of us: The Prince Charles Mountains. We put us deeper into a gorge and after few minutes we spot our GPS antenna.

Working there won't be easy because of the weather conditions: a lot of wind and the squirrels flying over our heads. And in that case I'm very glad to have my Canada Goose jacket to fight the cold. But after few minutes our GPS announces the verdict: 8 satellites are visible!

Marc Oliva - Livingston Island

This year I arrived in Antarctica in January 2015. The study area of mys research is focused on the ice-free environments of the Byers Peninsula (Livingston Island) and Fildes Peninsula (King George Island). Both areas are located in the South Shetland Islands, an archipelago located in the northwest fringe of the Antarctic Peninsula.

M. Oliva 4smallByers Peninsula constitutes the largest ice-free area in the South Shetland Islands. It is a protected area in Livingston Island, with the largest biodiversity in Antarctica. Research activities are regulated by the Management Plan for Antarctic Specially Protected Area No. 126 (Byers Peninsula, Livingston). Byers Peninsula has a relatively flat relief with more than 110 lakes/ponds, some of which have been studied within the HOLOANTAR project ( During the first part of the campaign in Byers we stayed in a Chilean camp. The camp was close to the Spanish igloos, which facilitated field work activities and our daily stay in the area. Fildes Peninsula is the second largest ice-free environment in this archipelago. Several bases and facilities are distributed across this area. Between the February 2nd-11th we stayed at the Chinese base, Great Wall. From this comfortable station, we went across all the Fildes Peninsula conducting our field work activities.

The scientific purpose of the expedition is to analyse the relationship between permafrost, geomorphology and the process of deglaciation in Byers and Fildes peninsulas. The recent decades have seen a strong warming in the Antarctic Peninsula region (+2.5ºC in almost 60 years), with very significant impacts on maritime and terrestrial ecosystems. The reconstruction of the process of deglaciation in these two ice-free areas will allow understanding if the rapid glacial recession has been also recorded in the past. The chronology of the retreat of the ice caps during the Holocene is also crucial to understand the distribution of permafrost and associated geomorphological processes occurring today in these areas.

In the Byers Peninsula in January 2014 we installed equipment for monitoring air, soil and the interface air-ground temperatures as well as snow thickness in order to assess the role of topography in permafrost distribution and active layer dynamics. The altitudinal limit of permafrost in the Byers Peninsula has been also examined through geophysical surveying. In both peninsulas we have collected soil samples to characterize the physical, geochemical and cryogenic processes affecting the active layer of the permafrost along transects from the glacier to the coast of the peninsulas. Besides, we have also collected tens of samples across the peninsulas from moraines, polished surfaces and erratic boulders for cosmogenic dating. These samples will provide the age of deglaciation in different sites of Byers and Fildes peninsulas, which will be very useful to better understand the rate of glacial retreat in these areas as well as the type and magnitude of processes affecting the ice-free terrestrial ecosystems in the Maritime Antarctic after their deglaciation (geomorphology, permafrost distribution, colonization of vegetal species).

The Canada Goose Expedition Parka has been very useful during the field work in this archipelago, where rain and snow, intense cold and extreme winds condition our daily research activities in the field.

Many thanks to APECS and Canada Goose for supporting my research!

Marc Oliva with the Canada Goose Expedition Parka in Byers Peninsula, Antarctica

Emily Stevenson - Juneau Icefield

EMily 1 1

Spring is approaching, and for me this isn't time for beaches and swimming pools, instead I'm off with my Canada Goose gear up into the cold glaciated regions of the Northern Hemisphere to conduct my research – and I couldn't be more excited. The summer months mark the time of Northern Hemisphere glacial melting and pose an ideal time to study how glacial discharge is changing with temperature. Glaciers contain about 75% of the fresh water on Earth, and with the significant decline of temperate and alpine glaciers predicted to occur within the next 20 years, impacts from the loss of both water and associated chemical and sediment fluxes from glaciated terrains will have a major impact on human infrastructure and fragile ecosystems. And the challenge here is not only to understand the impact of these changes but also to how to disseminate this new knowledge to a wider audience, in particular in the context of science education.

Emily 1 2

With the latter in mind, my first trip this summer is to teach and inform high-school to graduate level students about my research on subglacial environments. Subglacial environments are unique and have been described as 'natural macrocosms, isolated from the weather, seasons, and celestially controlled climatic changes that establish fundamental constraints on the structure and functioning of most other Earth environments', but yet these isolated, and important environments are not measurable via remote observation. Out of all glacial environments, subglacial systems are probably least understood and are extremely difficult to access and study. Yet it remains that an essential prerequisite for understanding both mathematical and conceptual modeling of glacier dynamics is the validation of any model results with genuine field data, in which glacial geochemistry, where my techniques are focused, can play a prominent role.

Emily 1 3For the next couple of weeks I am joining the Juneau Icefield Research Program (JIRP) , which provides an unrivaled educational and expeditionary experience in the Coast Mountains of Alaska and British Columbia and give students a wide range of training in Earth sciences, wilderness survival, and mountaineering skills. Students learn from leading scientists in a wide range of disciplines, including glaciology, geology, climatology, and biology.


Emily 1 4The classroom is the Juneau Icefield, situated in the Coast Mountains of the Tongass National Forest and Atlin Provincial Park. During the trip students, staff and faculty traverse this terrain, conduct research, participate in a curriculum of lectures and research projects, and live in this amazing landscape – thus the need for durable, weatherproof and warm gear from Canada Goose! And I feel privileged to be able to contribute this year to what has been described as "... the best – and grandest – Earth Sciences classroom in the world." — Dr. Benjamin Santer, JIRP Faculty; Investigator of Climate Change, Lawrence Livermore National Labs; Member U.S. National Academy of Sciences. The ability to stimulate cross-disciplinary collaboration among students from the United States and around the world with scientists engaged in all aspects of Earth systems science greatly benefits glaciological research in the long run as it encourages interdisciplinary research and interpretation, a goal that's a priority with the Association of Polar Early Career Scientists (APECS), and one I'm proud to be associated with.

Will update again when I'm back from the Juneau icefield!


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