Association of Polar Early Career Scientists

Polar Week logo2 01It’s Polar Week between September 18 and 24! For this upcoming Polar Week we are specifically highlighting how we are living in a #PolarWorld, where issues happening in the poles affect everyone on the globe. To help promote #PolarWorld, and polar research in general, we will release a series of blog posts during Polar Week. We want to discuss some of the key issues happening in the poles that are affecting the globe, talk about international collaborations and conducting research internationally, and help raise awareness about some of the international activities APECS is a part of. Many thanks to the authors of the blogs for contributing to this series, including many APECS National Committees! Look for a release of one blog post a day during Polar Week!


E&O, polar explorations and women in science: The 1st Homeward Bound Expedition

In December, 2016, I took part in the inaugural voyage of the Homeward Bound expedition. Seventy-six women in science from around the globe were selected to be a part of this leadership initiative and spectacular journey. Women in all areas of science, (not just polar science), and of all age groups and types of scientific backgrounds boarded the MV Ushuaia for a 20-day expedition to the Antarctic Peninsula. As part of our program, we formed teams in the months prior to the voyage.

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Being a life-long educator, retired after 35 years of classroom teaching experience, teaching science methods at the university level, and three Antarctic deployments with the U.S. Antarctic Program as an education outreach specialist for three geologic research grants/projects, the obvious fit for me was the “Education Outreach” team for Homeward Bound. Each member of our team brought a unique perspective to Homeward Bound and how we can disseminate polar science to students of all ages around the world.

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Each day was full of learning, leadership, science symposiums at sea (presentations by each of the 76 participants), and zodiac trips to islands or the Antarctic Peninsula to learn more about the plant and animal life both on shore and in the marine environment. With each shore landing I learned more about this amazing continent and the ocean surrounding it, and how I can convey the importance of our polar regions to diverse audiences of all ages.

As part of my own individual education and outreach goals for this voyage, I actively blogged each day and posted the photos, daily blogs, and video clips once we returned to Ushuaia, Argentina. Engaging learners in polar science has been my passion since 1998, when I first traveled to Antarctica as part of the Teachers Experiencing Antarctica and the Arctic (TEA) Program. I hope to keep inspiring students to pursue science careers and particularly to encourage girls to stay in science. I want to keep influencing the polar scientists of tomorrow. Homeward Bound was a great step toward fulfilling these goals.

Please check out my blogs from the Homeward Bound expedition and also the WISSSARD Project at

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How to Get Involved

The theme of this International Polar Week is “Polar World” and its purpose is to show the world the planetary importance and relevance of these unique areas and, at the same time, to show to the general community that there are people working with the Polar regions all around the world.

If you’re a person that is interested to work with polar science or if you just want to know more about these fascinating remote areas of our planet, there are plenty of opportunities for you. If you’re already someone that’s working with polar science there is always something more to discover. First, as many of you realize, we have the Association of Polar Early Career Scientists (APECS). Since you’re here on our website, looking at our blog we’ll assume that you’re somewhat familiar with the role of this exquisite community.

APECS is only the first stepping stone for many with long and fruitful careers in polar research. There are several other organizations like Polar Educators International (PEI), APPLICATE, and so very many others that it isn’t possible to list them all! There are a few larger organizations you might have heard of like the International Arctic Science Committee (IASC), the European Polar Board (EPB), and the Scientific Committee on Antarctic Research (SCAR). Not only are these some of the largest polar science organizations, they also provide opportunities for early career researcher fellowships (IASC, SCAR) and to serve as a Junior Policy Officer (EPB). To accompany our webinar, we interviewed some of these fortunate scientists.

What are some projects you have worked on as part of your fellowship role?

“I am a first year Fellow (2017) so I am just getting going. I have assisted in drafting the minutes from the 2017 MWG business meeting and drafting the MWG 5-year work-plan. As a co-lead I secured funding to run a workshop on "Improving our understanding of extreme events in the Arctic using a cross- disciplinary approach" at the Polar 2018 conference in Davos, Switzerland. The workshop aims to bring together a group of scientists to discuss and report on the impact and our understanding of extreme events in the Arctic system, using a cross-disciplinary approach.”
-Tom Armitage, IASC Fellow

“My SCAR fellowship supported me to travel to Villefranche-sur-Mer, France to study the trophic biology of the Antarctic silverfish with relation to population structure in the Weddell Sea in Antarctica, using the lipid analysis to gauge nutritional condition and prey consumption.”
-Jilda Caccavo, SCAR Fellow

“I have been involved in various projects since joining the EPB, including organising sessions at international conferences, communications, helping with the development of the EPB Strategy 2017-2022, and organisational finances.”
-Joseph Nolan, Junior Policy Officer EPB

“I received the 2016-2017 SCAR Fellowship to investigate how higher trophic levels influence the growth of phytoplankton in the Southern Ocean. Briefly, the Southern Ocean is anaemic - so when you fertilise it with iron, you can expect phytoplankton to grow. But the ecosystem is really complex, and there are other key processes that can also influence how iron stays at the surface. My SCAR Fellowship gave me the opportunity to look at how whales recycle iron through their diet, and how that influences the microbial community (phytoplankton and bacteria)”
-Lavenia Ratnarajah, SCAR Fellow

What benefits do you get from being an IASC or SCAR Fellow?

“The principle benefit is the opportunity to attend two annual Arctic Science Summit Week meetings, at which there is the opportunity to meet and network with a very diverse set of Arctic scientists, from all over the world working across every facet of Arctic science. This experience will be enhanced in 2018, with the co-location of the annual meeting of SCAR, and the opportunity for "bi-polar" collaboration. The opportunity to hear about work across all disciplines in polar sciences, especially outside of your own specialisation, is great, and allows you to fully contextualise your work within the broader picture of polar research.”
-Tom Armitage, 2017 IASC Fellow

“Being awarded a SCAR fellowship allowed me a huge amount of flexibility and independence in my research project. Rather than having to worry about support from my university or host institution, I could take care of all of my own research budget, as well as not worrying about how to pay for living expenses. This allowed me to arrive at the laboratory in Villefranche-sur-Mer less like a student, and more like post-doc or early faculty member who manages their own research project. Of course, I was extensively trained to learn the new techniques necessary to carry out my project, but I did not have to worry about limitations in the extent of the project based on lack of funding from either the host or home institution.“
-Jilda Caccavo, SCAR Fellow

“As a recipient of the SCAR Fellowship, I was able to conduct novel research, and shed some light into how whales can influence the marine ecosystem. Travelling to the Pierre and Marie Curie University in France allowed me to network with other scientist working in complementary fields, thus bridging the knowledge gap.”
-Lavenia Ratnarajah, SCAR Fellow

How can people get involved with IASC, SCAR, or EPB?

“The best way for early career scientists to get involved with IASC is to apply to the IASC fellowship program. You have the opportunity to attend two annual Arctic Science Summit Week meetings attached to one of the IASC Working Groups. You are encouraged to get involved with working group activities as well as to develop and lead your own initiatives through IASC funding procedures.”
-Tom Armitage, 2017 IASC Fellow

“Check out the SCAR website. And/Or sign-up for the monthly SCAR newsletter. The SCAR website has a plethora of resources, including more study area-specific groups and mailing lists which once could become a part of, as well as funding opportunities and relevant course and workshop announcements. And of course, the best way to become involved in SCAR is to attend a SCAR conference!”
-Jilda Caccavo, SCAR Fellow

“Join our webinars, organised jointly with APECS - there are two upcoming: "The Antarctic Treaty and the protection of the environment" by Yves Frenot on 23rd October, and "An introduction to the Arctic Council" by Timo Koivurova on 2nd November. Also keep an eye out for cross-cutting, transdisciplinary EPB sessions at conferences.”
-Joseph Nolan, Junior Policy Officer EPB

“The SCAR Fellowship is an excellent fellowship awarded to early career researchers working in the southern ocean/antarctic. I highly recommend anyone interested to apply for the fellowship as it is a great stepping stone to becoming an independent research scientist.”
-Lavenia Ratnarajah, SCAR Fellow


Friday Fun

Today is Friday so time to have some Fun! We asked some Early Career Researchers to tell us some stories or write about how amazing their jobs are in the different fields of polar sciences. If you want to share one of your stories, go to our Twitter or Facebook and use #PolarWorld!

Drama seal, grumpy seal, happy seal!

My PhD project focuses on understanding mercury (Hg) cycling in Arctic seals, with special interest on mother-to-pup transfer, through the use of Hg stable isotopes. What I find amazing about working with seal pups is that you can see how each of them has his/her personal character: during sampling, we always have at least a drama queen, always screaming even when nobody is close to her, a grumpy one that no one can approach, and the happy curious one, which really likes passing time with you and learn about this strange human who is cutting my fur! My personal favorite, was a white coat (harp seal 25-days-old pup) who apparently really really liked me. I had to do an entire day of sampling with him following me around and putting half of his body (70 kg given or take) on one of my foot.

Marianna Pinzone
University of Liège

When you have to eat ice cream for Science!

My first voyage into the Southern Ocean was on the RV Investigator with the CSIRO in Australia. I had joined the team as a student volunteer but was very excited to be heading south for the first time. My cabin mate, Swan Li San Sow, were on the genomics team and were collecting biological samples from the sea floor right up to the surface using a piece of equipment called a CTD. Unfortunately, the head of the team Eric Raes was a bit unorganised and had forgotten to bring any containers for us to put our samples into. We searched the whole ship, as we couldn't just turn around to go to the nearest shop, and luckily found some of just the right size. They were however inconveniently FULL of ice cream! So, for 5 weeks everyone on board had to eat ice cream at least once a day so that we would have a plastic 20L container ready for the next day! When I got home I was so sick of ice cream I couldn't eat it for months!

Nicole Hellessey
University of Tasmania

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The daily adventures of a polar scientist!

I never could have imagined that part of my life as a scientist would involve boarding a ship for 6 weeks, sailing into the ferocious Southern Ocean, riding a helicopter from the ship’s deck to the shores of a remote sub-Antarctic island, finding myself surrounded by inquisitive penguins, donning my backpack full of tubes and bags and labels, skirting carefully around a ‘wallow’ of grumpy elephant seals, and setting out into some of the planet’s windiest terrain to search for enigmatic beetles living under rocks. On days like this, I don’t think there is a better job in the world!

Helena Baird
Monash University, Australia

A different kind of daily commute.

I have spent two seasons down at the British Antarctic Survey Rothera Research Station on the West Antarctic Peninsula. Life on station is certainly different to living at home! I remember during my first season that the weather at my home town of Groningen, Netherlands, was freezing rain, sheet ice, snow and strong winds, while we in the Antarctic had a week of bright sunlight, minimum winds and relatively warm 4°C! We were getting daily emails, warning that the University was shut due to the weather and not to travel due to the dangerous roads. Meanwhile our commute involved 20 minutes cruising through Ryder Bay on our boats to our sampling location, avoiding the ice and overheating in our boatsuits!
Despite our limited internet access, we sent a tweet to the university that despite the bad weather, the Dutch Antarctic team were still able to get to work in the morning.

Alison Webb
University of Groningen

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Diving with seals.

West Antarctic seas are rapidly changing and one of the big questions is how marine biodiversity will change due to climate change. The aim of my research was to develop a detailed understanding of how the shallow water biodiversity around Rothera Point varies through space and time. In the summer months, I was diving from boats but in the winter when the sea froze I was diving through holes cut in the sea ice using a chain saw. As Weddell seals need to make breathing holes in the sea ice using their teeth, they were often very grateful for our dive holes. One day after carrying out a research dive, we were on our safety stop at 6m when we were joined by approximately 30 Crabeater seals. They were very curios of us and rubbed their whiskers on our dive masks, amazing. Another great experience while carrying out Antarctic winter research is being present during the birth of many seal pups.

Terri Souster
Open University

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International Polar Organizations: Connecting the #PolarWorld

International policy and policymaking relevant to the polar regions comes in various forms, from different organizations, and with different purposes. International polar policy can be developed to protect the environment, manage resources, support research, address issues at all latitudes, support polar communities, and many other purposes. In this way polar policy connects the #PolarWorld!

There are various different organizations working on issues affecting or affected by the polar regions. This blog post gives a brief overview of some of them, what they do, and how early career researchers might be able to contribute. This is by no means an exhaustive list, and focuses only on polar-specific organizations – there are many more (perhaps too many) organizations working on Arctic and Antarctic issues at national, regional and international levels. The extensive and active ecosystem of polar organizations is symptomatic of the fact that we really do live in a #PolarWorld.

It is useful for researchers at all stages of their careers to have a good understanding of the various relevant polar organizations that exist. It is often difficult to make sense of many acronyms and abbreviations used by different organizations, programs, and projects. I hope this blog post will go some way to clarifying the prevalent confusion, and gives an insight into some of the ways in which early career researchers can get involved with, or benefit from, the international community working on polar issues in different contexts.


The Antarctic Treaty was signed in 1959 and came into force in 1961. It has as its main purpose to ensure "in the interest of all mankind that Antarctica shall continue for ever to be used exclusively for peaceful purposes and shall not become the scene or object of international discord”.

In 1991 the Protocol on Environmental Protection to the Antarctic Treaty was signed in Madrid. The ‘Madrid Protocol’, as it has come to be known, entered into force in 1998. The Protocol designates Antarctica as a “natural reserve, devoted to peace and science” and, among other things, sets forth basic principles applicable to human activity in Antarctica. The Madrid Protocol established the Committee for Environmental Protection (CEP) as an expert advisory body to Antarctic Treaty Consultative Meetings. To fulfil its advisory role, the CEP needs access to independent, relevant and up to date scientific advice on Antarctic environments and human activities in those environments. The Antarctic Environments Portal provides that resource, and allows researchers to submit papers for consideration.

Researchers can contact their national delegations to Antarctic Treaty Consultative Meetings and the CEP. For more information on the Antarctic Treaty System, and to find out about your national delegation, you can visit

Be sure not to miss an upcoming webinar, organised jointly by the European Polar Board and APECS on “The Antarctic Treaty and the protection of the environment”, given by Yves Frenot, Director of l’Institut polaire français Paul-Emile Victor (IPEV), on 23rd October – details will be available soon.

The Commission for the Conservation of Antarctic Marine Living Resources (CCAMLR) was established in 1982 in response to increased commercial interest in Antarctic krill resources. CCAMLR is a decision-making body with the objective of conserving Antarctic marine life. CCAMLR practices an ecosystem-based approach to management, and does not exclude sustainable harvesting in Antarctic waters, so long as the effects of fisheries on other components of the ecosystem are taken into account.

CCAMLR is responsible for establishing marine protected areas (MPAs) in the Southern Ocean, such as the new MPA in the Ross Sea – the 1.55 million km2 area will become the world’s largest MPA once it enters into force later in 2017.

CCAMLR has a Scientific Committee (SC-CAMLR), with all CCAMLR Members also being Members of SC-CAMLR. SC-CAMLR provides the Commission with the best available scientific information to help inform management decisions, including harvesting levels, for the Antarctic marine living resources.

Unlike Antarctica, there is no single treaty to guide policymaking across the Arctic as a whole. There is, however, the Arctic Council. The Arctic Council is an intergovernmental forum that promotes cooperation, coordination and interaction among the eight Arctic States, Arctic indigenous communities, and other Arctic inhabitants on common issues. Particular issues of focus include sustainable development and environmental protection in the Arctic.

The eight Members of the Arctic Council are Canada, the Kingdom of Denmark, Finland, Iceland, Norway, the Russian Federation, Sweden, and the United States. Additionally, six organizations representing Arctic indigenous peoples have the status of Permanent Participants. These are the Aleut International Association, the Arctic Athabaskan Council, Gwich’in Council International, the Inuit Circumpolar Council, Russian Association of Indigenous Peoples of the North, and the Saami Council. The Chairmanship of the Arctic Council rotates between the eight Arctic States every two years. Currently, Finland chairs the Arctic Council from 2017 to 2019.

The Arctic Council has six Working Groups, focused on different areas of work. They are the Arctic Contaminants Action Program (ACAP), the Arctic Monitoring and Assessment Programme (AMAP), the Conservation of Arctic Flora and Fauna (CAFF), the Emergency Prevention, Preparedness and Response Working Group (EPPR), the Protection of the Arctic Marine Environment (PAME) Working Group, and the Sustainable Development Working Group (SDWG).

One of the recent accomplishments of the Arctic Council is the Agreement on Enhancing International Arctic Scientific Cooperation, signed in Fairbanks, Alaska at the 2017 Ministerial meeting. The purpose of the Agreement is “to enhance cooperation in Scientific Activities in order to increase effectiveness and efficiency in the development of scientific knowledge about the Arctic”.

Be sure not to miss an upcoming webinar, organized jointly by the European Polar Board and APECS on “An introduction to the Arctic Council”, given by Timo Koivurova, Director of Arctic Centre, University of Lapland, on 2nd November – details will be available soon.

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The town of Longyearbyen, Svalbard. Norway is part of the Arctic Council!


There are several organizations focused on international Arctic and Antarctic research coordination and collaboration, advancing knowledge, and providing unbiased and timely advice to policymaking bodies on polar issues, based on the best available evidence.

The Scientific Committee on Antarctic Research (SCAR) works internationally to initiate, develop and coordinate scientific research in the Antarctic. SCAR also provides objective and independent scientific advice to the Antarctic Treaty Consultative Meetings, as well as to other organizations, on issues of Antarctic science and conservation.

The International Arctic Science Committee (IASC) is a non-governmental, international scientific organization, with a mission of “encouraging and facilitating cooperation in all aspects of Arctic research, in all countries engaged in Arctic research and in all areas of the Arctic region”. IASC works to support international Arctic research, and provides objective and independent scientific advice on issues of science in the Arctic to support policy and decision making by various bodies and organizations.

In addition to global organizations, several organizations with a regional focus also work to promote, coordinate and advance polar research. These include the European Polar Board (EPB), the Asian Forum for Polar Sciences (AFoPS), and the Reunión de Administradores de Programas Antárticos Latinoamericanos (RAPAL).

Furthermore, many discipline-specific international polar organizations are active around the world, working to advance and coordinate polar research. And, of course, there is the Association of Polar Early Career Scientists (APECS).

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Stålbas research vessel in Svalbard, Norway. Photo credit: Derrick Midwinter.


Further to organizations focused predominantly on polar policymaking, or the coordination of Arctic and Antarctic research, there are several organizations responsible for the management and coordination of logistics and infrastructures for research in the polar regions. These include the Council of Managers of National Antarctic Programs (COMNAP) and the Forum of Arctic Research Operators (FARO). Both COMNAP and FARO work to coordinate polar infrastructures and logistics to support Arctic and Antarctic research.

TheInternational Network for Terrestrial Research and Monitoring in the Arctic (INTERACT) is a network of Arctic field research bases in northern Europe, Russia, the United States, Canada, Greenland, Iceland, the Faroe Islands, and Scotland, as well as stations in northern alpine locations. INTERACT, initially funded by the European Union’s Framework 7 Research and Innovation funding program, seeks to build capacity for research and monitoring in the Arctic. Researchers from around the world are able to access the INTERACT network of research stations through its Transnational Access program.

This is a brief overview of some of the main organizations that help connect the #PolarWorld through international policy!


People of the Poles - Perspectives from APECS Canada

APECS Canada is uniquely equipped to discuss people living in polar regions as three of their board members are residents of the Canadian North! Below is a summary of insights from those living and working in the Arctic and sub-Arctic.

Vast territories cover both poles of the planet and encompass a diversity of people, including indigenous and non-indigenous communities, as well as high-level scientific platforms such as McMurdo Station. Cultures of the #PolarWorld are numerous and some have evolved with polar dynamics for millennia. Geopolitics of the #PolarWorld are complex, with multiple levels of governance, from local to global, influencing each other. The #PolarWorld is rapidly changing and multiple forms of knowledge are used and needed to address the complexity of those changes.

In Canada, our Arctic is greatly impacted by global climate change, and in particular sea ice loss. All northern people are impacted by climate change, but particularly those who live and depend on the ecosystem the sea ice creates. This is exacerbated by a lack of understanding of land-based pursuits, particularly when it comes to issues like the seal hunt. I recommend watching Inuit and Canadian film maker Alethea Arnaquq-Baril's 'Angry Inuk' ( In the Yukon, springs are earlier, summer growing seasons are longer, and permafrost is thawing with sometimes colossal masses of coastline eroding into the ocean. Not all wildlife is genetically prepared to adapt to these changes, and the ability for northerners to harvest their food is changing.

The Canadian Arctic is an interesting place to live and work. Knowing how to dress for the weather solves a lot of issues. Gear doesn't have to be fancy or expensive. I recommend asking northern residents who live in the climate year round how they keep warm. In the winter using skidoos or dog mushing it's important to keep skin covered, no gaps between jacket arms and your gloves or your coat collar and neck-warmer, to avoid frost bite. Understanding how to use your gear is important, particularly snowmobile repair so you don't get stuck far from town. Also being able to build a shelter and stay warm with a fire. Shelters can be built out of wood or snow. Quinzee's are different from igloos because rather than using hard blocks of snow, you shovel a huge pile of snow, put forearm-length sticks in to measure wall width, let it sinter (or harden) and then dig out a tunnel/cavity for sleeping. Summer's are hot to warm-ish, but can often be buggy. Mosquitoes can be thick and a bug jacket is sometimes the only thing that maintains sanity.

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Here is Meagan Grabowski of APECS Canada and her sled dogs!

Polar scientific collaboration is essential to building evidence of change, but it is also important for international researchers to understand that the Canadian Arctic is not an empty, remote place. It is full of vibrant communities and people and cultures that appreciate knowing what researchers are doing in their home. It is important to share results and communicate with communities you are conducting research in. Sometimes scientists forget that their projects are so specific and detailed that your average person might not want to hear everything about it. It is important to draw connections between specific work and broader work, share key messages of the general research question with communities and be willing to reciprocate sharing/learning. Sometimes seasonal or visiting scientists could do a better job of learning more about the people in the places they go, and spending time there. For example, listening to the local radio to get a sense of what issues local people are facing.

Similarly, researchers can use the Traditional Ecological Knowledge (TEK) from communities to help us understand the land we are studying. TEK is one of the big steps in Arctic science that opens new horizons for the study of climate change. There are a few quite simple facts about TEK and its utility in the Arctic:

  • TEK is the combination of Indigenous/local observations about wildlife and nature. However, you do not have to be born Indigenous to become a TEK keeper. Instead, if you are a local person who lives by traditional subsistence (Hunting, fishing, whaling etc.), you observe the local environment and accumulate TEK. TEK is also a very holistic and spiritual type of knowledge.
  • TEK has been synthesized with environmental science. By combining scientific data with local observations of nature, it has become possible to receive more accurate data on native environments such as patterns of animal migration.
  • The Arctic suggests many approaches of utilizing TEK in environmental science. The most well-known regime of TEK in the Arctic is called co-management boards (North America). Co-management boards bring together wildlife managers and Aboriginal TEK holders to discuss the wildlife governance. The Sami pastoralism in the Nordic countries (community-based reindeer herding management) could be considered a viable alternative.
  • The use of TEK is great in terms of tracking the effects of climate change. The TEK holders observe ice melting and changes in caribou migration more often than scientists.

TEK is a fabulous source of data that should be utilized in diverse ways. Each Arctic country suggests an authentic model of using TEK. TEK is the future of climate change study.

Thanks to APECS Canada for their great perspectives on people of the poles!

Scientists All Over the World

During this Polar Week we wanted to highlight how scientists from across the globe are working together to conduct polar research and combat issues happening in polar regions that are affecting the entire globe. As APECS is a huge network of early career researchers from all over the world, we are keenly situated to speak about these subjects! We reached out to different APECS National Committees (NCs) to get their opinions on international collaboration from the perspective of their country. This blog is a compilation of 16 responses from Belgium, Canada, Germany, South Africa, and the US.

We asked the NCs to touch on what international collaborations their home countries contribute to so we can get a better feel for who is working together conducting research in the poles. Polar research has a long history in Germany, that goes back to the early 20th century. However, due to the fact that it is not a bordering country to the Arctic (Ocean) it has to rely on collaborations for the majority of research undertakings in the North. While there are no exceptions from the Arctic countries, working together with Norwegian, Canadian, Danish and Russian researchers has presumably the longest history. However, with its research vessel Polarstern and a number of research stations in both hemispheres, Germany is also able to provide platforms for foreign researchers. Canada receives visitors from all over the world to study the North. Some examples include German permafrost researchers, Scottish vegetation change researchers, Austrian social scientists, Australian small mammal researchers, and many more. Belgium does not have the opportunity to send large, ice-breaking research vessels to polar regions. Therefore, Belgian researchers frequently collaborate with other countries for field work - e.g. Germany (AWI), UK (BAS), and France (IPEV). South Africa does not collaborate internationally as a country at large, but they have Principal Investigators with worldwide collaborators.

South Africa is at the fore front of Polar Research for the African continent - that is a privilege and is not to be taken lightly. Though we face other challenges as compared to our other international colleagues, we can both learn from and add value to their communities and that is what we should strive for.
- APECS South Africa

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A team of women conducting fieldwork in northern Canada.

International collaborations come with their own challenges, and we wanted to find out about some of the issues that come with conducting research internationally. There are things like language and cultural barriers, working with people in different time-zones, or different countries having different laboratory methods. Being conscious that words are full of meaning and that there could be strong beliefs and rituals associated with our area/subjects of study. It is important to assess whether a word used in the research you are conducting has a translation in the other languages and what cultural beliefs are associated with it. For example, the word "contaminant" does not have a translation in many indigenous languages, and one has to be very careful in how to explain what a contaminant is as it affects traditional foods that have high cultural value. If you are a scientist conducting research in a different country than where you living you need to deal with things like acquiring permits, transport of equipment, customs, calls during the night/early mornings due to time differences and sometimes the exchange of large data files.

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A group of researchers conducting fieldwork in the High Arctic.

There were a couple of times my colleague only spoke French to me, sometimes even without English explanation even though his English is perfectly fluent. So I started replying him in Korean, sometimes in Chinese to make a point. Now we are best friends. Yes, we speak both French and English in our conversation now.
- APECS Belgium

As early career researchers today we are working in a world that is more globally connected than in the past, which presents unique triumphs and challenges. Today, there are more opportunities to travel around the world to share and discuss results and also to take professional studies in other parts of the world. We have worldwide and easy exchange of data and information, experiences and knowledge, whether it is through conferences or online communication like email or social media. Social media has radically changed the ability to communicate regardless of geographic location. For example, there is a huge Facebook membership across Canada's North! With InReach and satellite phone technology, even locations that used to be outside social media can be messaged or posted. With the right networking between friends on social media, we can now connect someone on an icebreaker in the Northwest Passage to a town hall in Vancouver or a classroom in Florida. This means that change doesn't have to only be seen or heard about by people with boots on the ground, but can be viewed and shared all over the world. And vice versa, people who live where there aren't universities or public talks on science can now be connected into and participate in the conversation. With the advanced of internet and technology, everything becomes way more efficient. In the past, it was so difficult to generate data.

One challenge we face as ECRs currently that was different in the past is that the global market has made finding jobs slightly harder. We are now competing against every person in your field globally for jobs, postdocs, or research grants. Bursaries also are not as plentiful or sizeable as they used to be. We have to have a broader skillset than earlier scientists and this takes time. For example, if you want to be a good plant ecophysiologist you need a more than basic understanding of ecology, species distributions modelling, R, plant physiology, biophysics, computer science, climatology, mathematics, biochemistry, the list goes on! This makes finishing a PhD in 3 or 4 years more challenging than it used to be.

Thanks to all the APECS NCs for their insights and clear passion for collaborating internationally on polar issues! We are all living in a #PolarWorld, and it is important that we work together to overcome issues in the future.

Polar Issues Are Global Issues

We are all living in a #PolarWorld, and during this Polar Week we wanted to particularly highlight how everyone is affected by changes happening in the poles. Even if you live in a country at a southern latitude that doesn’t have any polar territory, polar issues still affect you! Sea ice loss, permafrost thaw, and melting glaciers (among other things) have impacts on the climate and oceans that affect the globe. To get an international perspective, we enlisted the help of APECS National Committees to get their opinions! This blog is a summary of fifteen responses from Belgium, Canada, Germany, and South Africa.

We asked everyone what #PolarWorld meant to them. The majority of responses touched on how the polar regions and the world are inextricably intertwined. Some said it was about sharing information and projects at a global scale. Some said it was a way of generating awareness about polar issues. Regardless, all responses had one thing in common – passion about living or working in polar regions!

#PolarWorld reminds me as a northern Canadian of the interconnectedness of global climate change. The circumpolar North is experiencing climate warming at faster rates than anywhere else on the planet, but the majority of causation is not by northern residents. There are only 114,000 people living in Canada's North, while the remainder of Canada's 35 million people live in the South. The decisions anybody makes in the world, from individuals to governments to multi-national companies, impacts northern Canadians. As polar ECR's we are often measuring and monitoring the impact of climate change on northern terrestrial and marine ecosystems, and #PolarWorld reminds me that these studies are not separate from the lives and people of the North.
- APECS Canada

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Melting of sea ice and glaciers will impact global oceans

As an early career scientist who has been fortunate enough to conduct studies in Antarctica, #PolarWorld pulls at my heartstrings. The hashtag is more than just a social networking tag. It's a mechanism for awareness that provides an easy link to what the world really needs to know - that the poles matter! The hashtag provides a savvy platform for international communication and gives the opportunity to both share information, and highlight the role that the Poles play in our earth system. It's a smart technique for today's technological society, which will hopefully take off and give the poles the attention they require.
- APECS South Africa

To fully understand #PolarWorld, you need to know what changes are happening in polar regions and how they affect the globe. The rate of warming has been greater in arctic regions when compared to the rest of the globe. The Arctic is warming at twice the rate as other parts of the globe, and in the last 100 years we have seen warmer air and sea surface temperatures. With warmer temperatures we are seeing more precipitation in the form of rainfall rather than snow, with impacts on the surface energy balance (albedo!) and hydrological system. Permafrost has been warming, and thawing of permafrost is predicted to make previously frozen carbon accessible for decomposition which is be a positive feedback to global climate change. We are seeing reductions in glacier mass, which increases input into and freshening of the Arctic Ocean and results in sea level rise. Positive feedbacks in the Arctic are an important part of global climate change. Increased runoff of freshwater into the Arctic Ocean due to increases in precipitation and reduced storage in glaciers and permafrost and permanent snow banks is resulting in a “freshening” of the ocean surface. Freshening of Arctic Ocean changes the density of surface waters which impacts thermohaline circulation, and changes in this circulation will affect global climates! Another important feedback is the ice-albedo feedback, where less sea ice results in more heat absorbed by the ocean, which results in less sea ice, and so on. As global ice cover decreases, the reflectivity of Earth’s surface decreases, more incoming solar radiation is absorbed by the surface causing more warming.

There are many changes occurring in polar regions that have wide impacts, but we asked everyone to summarize some of the impacts that are specifically being felt in their home countries. Changes in the dominant behaviour of the jet stream are predicted to have an effect on the weather patterns in Germany (and most of Europe). In South Africa, they are currently experiencing one of the worst droughts on record. In Belgium they may experience heat waves and stronger floods. Lower latitudes in Canada are affected by changes happening in the Arctic, for example sea level rise. Clearly, people all over the globe are being affected by climate change and especially those changes happening in the arctic!

#PolarWorld is.. The opportunity to spread information and projects about polar regions to a wider audience.
- APECS Germany

Blog Holloway Foto2

A group of international students at UNIS, Norway working together and learning about polar issues!

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