EU-PolarNet

Newsletter

April 2021

Welcome to the first quaterly EU-PolarNet 2 newsletter!

We are welcoming you to the first full quarterly newsletter of the EU-PolarNet 2 project. One of the key roles that EU-PolarNet 2 strives to play in the upcoming years is to increase the coordination of polar research activities at the European level, which also needs a better understanding of what is done at the national level. The EU-PolarNet 2 newsletter will thus provide news from the project and from the EU Polar Cluster, but our partners will also inform about national Polar programmes and research highlights, reflecting what is happening in Europe in Polar Research. We aim to ensure that the information presented herein is of great value to you.

Newsletter content

News from EU-PolarNet 2

As one of the first steps for setting the scene for the research prioritisation process – a key task of EU-PolarNet 2 – the project has set up its support panels: the Advisory Board and the Policy Advisory Board. EU-PolarNet 2 has also started the nomination for its Polar Expert Group which is the Expert forum for implementing European Polar research internationally, by specifying overarching priorities, research needs and specific actions.

The Advisory Board assists EU-PolarNet 2 in all its strategic decisions. We are looking forward to working with this exceptional group of international experts from all important sectors of the Polar community. Have a look here who is part of the EU-PolarNet 2 Advisory Board (deliverable D7.4).

EU-PolarNet 2 aims to play a key role in reinforcing the science to policy interface and will provide timely, evidence-based advice to decision makers. We already implemented our Policy Advisory Board and are looking forward working with these national experts on providing fast scientific advice to decision makers (deliverable D5.3).

The previous EU-PolarNet project developed recommendations and best practices for stakeholder involvement in Polar research and published it in a White Paper (D4.15 of EU-PolarNet 1). EU-PolarNet 2 will implement these recommendations in all its actions. We started the work with mapping all stakeholder activities from relevant Polar projects including the EU Polar Cluster through an online stakeholder survey. This survey revealed the need and will for better coordination of stakeholder activities (deliverable D2.2).

EU Polar Cluster News

The EU Polar Cluster has been gradually evolving and growing supported by EU-PolarNet 2 having a coordination role for the Cluster within its WP1. Since David Velazquez left AWI in December, Elaina Ford from UKRI-BAS has taken over the role as the Cluster Coordinator. We also have a new Task Group on Policy Advice now, led by Nicole Biebow and Gustav Sigeman (JUSTNORTH). Other ongoing Task Groups are Communications and Dissemination, Education and Training, Stakeholder Interactions, and Data Management.

The website at www.polarcluster.eu has several updates with details of the projects and Task Groups, and contact points. Please sign up to the mailing list (Task Group lists are already on) – for news updates from the Cluster activities and project activities, and follow us on the Facebook group. Please use #EUPolarCluster on your social media posts.

Two of the latest projects that joined the EU Polar Cluster in autumn 2020 are FACE-IT and PROTECT.

credits: Geir Wing Gabrielsen
FACE-IT: The Future of Arctic Coastal Ecosystems - Identifying Transitions in fjord systems and adjacent coastal areas.

Glacier fronts and sea ice are hotspots of biodiversity. Their retreat poses a threat to the function of Arctic coastal ecosystems and thus to the livelihoods of local and indigenous communities. The overarching goal of FACE-IT is to enable adaptive co-management of Arctic fjord social-ecological systems in the face of rapid changes in the cryosphere and biodiversity. In summer 2021, FACE-IT will conduct several parallel field campaigns for a comparative analysis of fjord systems under different degrees of cryosphere loss.

Find out more.

credits: PROTECT, Edwards et al., 2021
PROTECT: Cryosphere & Sea Level

PROTECT is a H2020 research project aiming at better anticipating the future evolution of the land-based cryosphere and related impact to sea level. A key feature of the project is the stakeholder’s involvement in the research design to make sure the produced projections of sea level rise meet their needs. New state of the art projections of sea level rise will be published on 6th May in Nature: Projected land ice contributions to 21st century sea level rise.

Find out more.

Arctic Science Summit Week 2021

With over 1400 participants, the Arctic Science Summit Week 2021 took place online from 19 to 26 March 2021. The conference included 5 days of business and community meetings and 3 days of science conference with 82 science sessions, 5 keynote lectures and two IASC medal lectures. A total of 168h of video were recorded during the science sessions. The event was organised by the Portuguese Science and Technology Foundation with support from the Agency Ciência Viva and the University of Lisbon College on Polar and Extreme Environments, with IGOT, a partner at EU-PolarNet 2 playing a key role.

Co-creating Arctic Research Together with Indigenous Rightsholders was the topic of a workshop co-organised by EU-PolarNet 2 at ASSW2021. In this workshop, the participants shared experiences and discussed how to improve the co-production of knowledge between researchers and Indigenous rights holders. The identified key ingredients are collaboration in all parts of the research process, working on new methodologies and decolonisation, reciprocity in relationships, allocation of sufficient time and funding, and capacity building (e.g., through the support of Indigenous PhDs).

Highlights in polar research

Polarstern expedition investigates massive calved iceberg

In February 2021, a massive iceberg calved from the Brunt Ice Shelf in the Antarctic. As the only research vessel nearby, the German RV Polarstern took the opportunity to enter the area between the iceberg and the Brunt Ice Shelf. The first images from the seafloor reveal an amazing level of biodiversity in a region that was covered by thick ice for decades. The sediment samples gathered are expected to provide more detailed insights into the ecosystem, while a geochemical analysis of the water samples collected will allow conclusions to be drawn regarding the nutrient content and ocean currents.

Link to article »

For further science highlights »

Polarstern in the Brunt Ice shelf A74 (credits: Tim Kalvelage)

25 years of ocean temperature monitoring between Tasmania and Dumont D’Urville, East Antarctica, reveal significant subsurface warming of the Southern Ocean

A consortium of scientists from CNRS, CNES, IRD, Sorbonne University and Toulouse University in France has recently performed a comprehensive analysis of the Southern Ocean temperature evolution over the last 25 years. Their analysis relies on a unique dataset which has been routinely collected during repeated crossing performed several times a year by the supply vessel Astrolabe between Australia and the Antarctic continental shelf off the French Antarctic station Dumont D’Urville. Based on what appears today as the longest time series of the upper 800 m temperature along meridional sections across the Southern Ocean, it has been possible to identify a robust warming trend in the subsurface subpolar waters of the region. This trend appeared to be of same order of magnitude as those reported in West Antarctica and was associated with a shoaling of almost 40 meters of the subsurface temperature maximum, a value 3 to 10 times larger than has been suggested by earlier studies. These recent findings highlight the invaluable contribution of systematic long-term ocean measurements to improved mapping of Southern Ocean changes, a prerequisite to adequately estimate the potential ocean water implication in the current and future evolution of Antarctic glaciers, including those in East Antarctica.

More information: Auger, M., Morrow, R., Kestenare, E. et al. Southern Ocean in-situ temperature trends over 25 years emerge from interannual variability. Nat Commun 12, 514 (2021). https://doi.org/10.1038/s41467-020-20781-1

For further science highlights »

PLV Astrolabe in the Southern Ocean (credits: © Lucie Maignan/IPEV)

4th National Polar Science Workshop organized by TÜBİTAK joins 800 participants throughout Turkey

Under the National Polar Science Program, Polar Science Workshops are held every year to evaluate the results of scientific projects, studies and expeditions conducted by Turkish scientists in the Polar Regions and to discuss the developments in priority areas. The fourth workshop was organised online on September 2020 by the TÜBİTAK MAM Polar Research Institute. The online workshop hosted over 800 participants throughout Turkey.

To raise awareness and inform the new generation about polar research and climate change in Turkey, the first Polar Science Festival was held online on 23rd of October 2020. 30 different presentations were given by polar scientists to over 2000 students across Turkey. Experts and researchers with polar experience talked about recent advances and explained their research to middle and high school students and teachers in a popular science language.

A special postage stamp by the Turkish Post (PTT) was issued on 1st of December 2020, Antarctica Day. The stamp represents the polar research of Turkey, with a photograph from the first National Antarctic Science Expedition held in 2017.

For further science highligts »

Special postage stamp by the Turkish Post (PTT) issued on Antarctica Day (1 December 2020)

Highlights in polar research in Sweden

The European Consortium for Ocean Research Drilling (ECORD), the Swedish Polar Research Secretariat (SPRS) and Arctic Marine Solutions (AMS) will jointly conduct an expedition for the International Ocean Discovery Program (IODP) in 2022. TheArctic Ocean Paleoceanography Research (ArcOP) expedition will represent a step-change in reconstructing the detailed history of climate change in the central Arctic Ocean over the last 50 million years through the collection of about 900 m of sediment cores at two sites along the Lomonosov Ridge.

Press release by ECORD

IB Oden on expedition to northwestern Greenland in 2019 (credits: Lars Lehnert)

Cultural Heritage Antarctica 2020 (CHAQ 2020) was an Argentinean-Swedish expedition to the historical remains of the First Swedish Antarctic Expedition 1901-1903 on the Antarctic Peninsula that took place in January-February 2020. The results explain why countries and people want to protect cultural heritage in Antarctica, how cultural heritage protection in Antarctica has been understood by different people and in different periods, but also what this means for the possibility of preserving the sites in the face of climate change.

A new study led by researchers from the Centre for Palaeogenetics (CPG) recently published in Nature has set a new record for ancient DNA. The DNA comes from mammoth teeth found in the Siberian permafrost with an estimated age of over one million years. This makes it by far the oldest DNA ever to be recovered and sequenced. Despite its fragmented state, the DNA reveals new important insights into the evolution of mammoths, including the discovery of a completely new genetic lineage. International media coverage has also been intense, and Stockholm University has released the news as a Youtube video.

Learn more:

Updates from the Swiss Polar Institute

The Swiss Polar Institute (SPI) has recently been selected as a “Research institution of national importance” for the period 2021-2024. This new status and additional funding by the Swiss Confederation will raise SPI to a new level to support and facilitate access of Swiss researchers to international infrastructure in Polar Regions but also to enhance the visibility and relevance of polar research in Switzerland.

On February 1st 2021 the SPI opened the call for proposals for a new and ambitious programme, the SPI Flagship Initiative. The SPI Flagship Initiatives programme aims to enable Swiss-led multi-annual and multi-disciplinary research programmes in polar or remote high-altitude regions. The funding will be focused on field campaigns (logistics, safety, etc.), data management, outreach, and programme coordination, thus providing temporary infrastructure for a Swiss-led polar research programme.

Read more about the SPI at www.swisspolar.ch and about the SPI Flagship Initiatives.

SPI invites you to the online event “New momentum for Swiss polar science” on the 26th May 2021. More information and registration at the webpage.

Antarctic expediction (credits: © Preben Van Overmeiren, all rights reserved)

The new Arctowski Polish Antarctic Station is being built - an implementation stage

The Arctowski Polish Antarctic Station (King George Island, South Shetland Archipelago) has been operating continuously since 1977, conducting interdisciplinary and international research throughout the years. The facility gained financial support from the Polish Ministry of Education and Science, and in the current season (2020/2021) the project of Station’s modernisation has been launched successfully. A geodetic survey for the new infrastructure location and environmental impact assessment of the investment was carried out by the expedition members returning to Poland during Easter. Machinery and construction materials for the building were delivered as well.

The implemented modernisation project (Arctowski Polish Antarctic Station) focuses on as minimal environmental impact as possible: energy system based on photovoltaic panels, a dedicated sewage treatment plant, building elevated 3 meters over the landscape on a steel lattice substructure, allowing water, wind, and snow to flow freely underneath, etc. The new infrastructure should be ready in 2024.

Model of the projected new Arctowski Polish Antarctic Station (credits: Pracownia Kuryłowicz & Associates)

Arctic sea-ice loss impacts on European heavy snowfall

Researchers at the University of Oulu, Finland have discovered that the long-term decline of Arctic sea-ice since the late 1970s is fuelling extreme heavy snowfall across Northern Europe. The research is the first of its kind to directly link sea ice loss with extreme snowfall.

Sea ice loss is one of the most visible indicators of Arctic change. Yet as the Arctic has warmed over the past several decades, a paradox has emerged: vast areas adjacent to the Arctic Ocean show increasing snow mass trends. A new study led by Dr Hannah Bailey at the University of Oulu sheds light on this phenomenon. The research, published in Nature Geoscience, shows how the gradual 50% reduction in Arctic sea-ice cover since 1979 has provided a new source of atmospheric moisture that directly fuels extreme snowfall across Europe. Dr Bailey and team tracked the event in Pallas-Yllästunturi National Park, discovering that water vapour and snowfall travelling south from the Arctic into Europe carried a unique geochemical fingerprint. “Using water isotope forensics, we were able to directly observe and trace that moisture back to its oceanic source. In this case the warm open waters of the Barents Sea”, says Dr Bailey. “This means that even though winter temperatures are warming, and average winter snowfall has decreased since the 1970’s… When Arctic outbreaks do occur, like in 2018, they are super-charged with moisture and can bring more snowfall compared to 40 or 50 years ago”, says Dr Bailey. The study concludes that a forecast ice-free Barents Sea in the coming decades will be a major a source of winter precipitation for Europe.

More information: https://www.oulu.fi/en/news/arctic-sea-ice-loss-impacts-european-heavy-snowfall

The Finnish Meteorological Institute’s Sammaltunturi Meteorological Observation Station, Pallas-Yllästunturi National Park (credits: Kaisa-Riikka Mustonen)

Highlights of Polar programmes

European Polar Board

The European Polar Board (EPB) is an independent organisation focused on major strategic priorities in the Arctic and Antarctic. EPB Members include research institutes, logistics operators, funding agencies, scientific academies and government ministries from across Europe. The EPB currently includes 28 Members  from 20 countries. The EPB Secretariat is located in The Hague in the Netherlands, hosted by the Dutch Research Council (NWO).

The EPB Strategy 2017-2022  sets out its vision of a strong and cohesive European Polar research community, wherein decisions affecting or affected by the Polar Regions are informed by independent, accurate, and timely advice from the EPB. The EPB’s mission is to coordinate, promote and advance the European polar research community. The EPB’s work is largely implemented though its various Action Groups, focused on issues such as infrastructure, international cooperation, policy advice and the environmental impacts of polar research and logistics in line with its Strategy. The EPB also participates in large-scale projects with European and international partners, with tasks focusing on coordination of polar research and communication with policymakers or other stakeholders.

The European Polar Board’s Spring 2021 Plenary Meeting, held online in April 2021 (credits: European Polar Board)

Within EU-PolarNet 2, the EPB is the lead of Work Package 6: European Polar Coordination Office (EPCO). With this, the EPB Secretariat coordinates input from all EU-PolarNet 2 partners and EPB Members to develop organisation plans for the planned EPCO and to collate tools for coordinating the European polar research community that are being developed across all EU-PolarNet 2 work packages. With the organisational plans and toolkit, the EPCO will be ready to implement as a physical office tasked with managing and maintaining the legacy of EU-PolarNet and EU-PolarNet 2 into the future.

The EPB co-leads the EU-PolarNet 2 task of coordinating the EU Polar Cluster, with UKRI-BAS. Recently the EPB has coordinated development of the Cluster’s terms of reference and organised a meeting to discuss and share experiences of COVID-19 disruption to Cluster projects.

In addition to EU-PolarNet 2, the EPB is a partner in the Horizon 2020-funded projects Southern Ocean Climate and Heat Impact on Climate  (SO-CHIC), coordinated by Sorbonne Université, France, and INTERACT III, the well-established circumpolar network of Arctic research stations, coordinated by Lund University, Sweden. Furthermore, the EPB has active collaborations with the European Space Agency (ESA), through a memorandum of understanding signed between the two organisations. Activities include the joint EPB-ESA project CHOICEe, led by LMU München, Germany.

Since November 2020, the EPB in cooperation with the 3rd Arctic Science Ministerial (ASM3) organisers Iceland and Japan, has been hosting the ASM3 webinar series. The webinar series explores the four themes of ASM3: Observe, Understand, Respond and Strengthen, as well as Indigenous perspectives on the ASM process. To register for upcoming webinars in the series, and to view recordings of earlier editions, please visit https://asm3.org/webinar-series/.

In 2020, the EPB celebrated its 25th Anniversary. Global events have meant that planned celebrations were curtailed, postponed or reformulated to be held online. In March 2021 the EPB held a 25th Anniversary celebration session at the Arctic Science Summit Week (ASSW2021), including invited research highlights and a virtual signing ceremony for the renewal of the EPB’s memorandum of understanding with the Scientific Committee on Antarctic Research (SCAR) and the International Arctic Science Committee (IASC).

The EPB’s communications activities include active Twitter and Facebook profiles, a regularly updated website, and a public mailing list.

Joseph Nolan

A glimpse on the Austrian Polar Research Institute (APRI)

The Austrian Polar Research Institute (APRI) is a consortium of Austrian universities, research institutes and private companies with focus on R&D engaged in polar research at the national and international levels. The foundation of APRI was marked by a ceremonial event at the University of Vienna in 2013. APRI takes the role of a coordinating and promoting polar research in Austria, though APRI does not finance scientific projects directly. In keeping with the holistic character of polar research, APRI’s research encompass all science disciplines from the natural to the social sciences, including inter- and transdisciplinary research. Based on its mandate, APRI nominates delegates to international organisations of polar science, such as IASC and, in consultation with the Austrian Academy of Sciences, SCAR. 

A distinct feature of Austrian polar research is its lack of polar infrastructures due to the country’s geographic location and size. Consequently, Austria’s polar research policy and goals are largely determined by bilateral and European agreements, participation in joint EU programmes, and related activities.

View on Tasiilaq (E-Greenland), where Austrian scientists run an interdisciplinary project on snow cover changes (credits: Tasiila Schoener)

There is currently no designated polar research programme by Austrian research funding institutions. Still, Austrian polar science is clearly concentrated around the following three major research fields. (i) Cryosphere and Climate, aiming at understanding the response of the polar cryosphere to climate change, e.g., the response of the ice sheets and ice shelves, smaller glaciers and permafrost on climate change. (ii) Polar Ecology, aiming at providing fundamental understanding of the evolutionary, genetic, and ecological adaptations of organisms and communities in polar environments as well as the role of polar ecosystems in global biogeochemical cycles and potential feedbacks to climate changes. (iii) Social and Cultural Systems of Arctic residents, including their colonial and postcolonial trajectories.

Current research highlights of APRI members are the participation in the H2020 project Nunataryuk (natural and social science), the ERC advanced grant project “INFRANORTH – Building Arctic Futures: Transport Infrastructures and Sustainable Northern Communities” and participation in the ERC synergy grant project “Q-ARCTIC – Quantifying disturbance impacts on feedbacks between Arctic permafrost and global climate”. Some APRI members have a strong background in polar remote sensing research and participate in research programmes of the European Space Agency (ESA). On the organisational side, APRI will host the “Arctic Science Summit Week 2023” in Vienna on behalf of the IASC.

Based on successful participation in EU-PolarNet 1, APRI went for an even stronger involvement in and commitment to EU-PolarNet 2. Members of APRI are involved in outreach activities, as well as in collecting input regarding research needs and strategies of stakeholders and rightsholders (in particular, of local and Indigenous communities) for EU-PolarNet 2.

For more information about APRI, please visit: www.polarresearch.at

A glimpse on Belgian Polar Research

Belgium’s polar activities are historically mainly focused on Antarctica. The “Belgica” expedition (1897-1899) was the 1st scientific Antarctic expedition, which moreover realised the 1st overwintering in the Antarctic sea ice, opening the gate to the exploration of the Antarctic continent. Sixty years later, at the occasion of the International Geophysical year (IGY), 12 countries established a network of 55 scientific stations, including the Belgian Roi Baudouin base. Thanks to this initiative Belgium was one of the twelve nations to negotiate and sign the Antarctic Treaty (Washington, 1959). 50 years after the IGY, at the occasion of the 4th International Polar Year (2007-2009), Belgium constructed the Princess Elisabeth Station in Dronning Maud Land.  

BELSPO will co-lead 3 tasks in EU-PolarNet 2. It will use its vast experience in managing research funding programmes, launching calls and evaluating applications to launch calls for services (D3.2), seeking input from the polar community to develop European Polar research actions (Task 3.3) and to provide an overview and better understanding of the landscape and diversity of Polar research funding programmes in Europe and its coordination potential (Task 4.1; D4.1). BELSPO will be supported by the Royal Belgian Institute of Natural Sciences (RBINS) in co-leading Task 6.1, with the aim of accelerating the development of a sustained and fully integrated Polar observing system. Recommendations will be summarised by RBINS in a White Paper (D6.7).

Discovery of the 18 kg meteorite, Sør Rondane region Antarctica, 2014 (credits: Steven Goderis)

Many Belgian universities, public scientific institutions and non-profit research centres conduct polar research. Some have independent financial resources, but research activities are mainly funded by the Belgian Federal Science Policy (BELSPO) and to a lesser extent by the regional entities (Fonds Wetenschappelijk Onderzoek – FWO and Le Fonds de la Recherche Scientifique – FNRS). The Polar Secretariat is responsible for the operational management of the Princess Elisabeth Station and the organisation of campaigns to the station. Funding for research campaigns is provided by BELSPO.

Due to the lack of a research vessel and the only recent availability of the station, Belgian researchers participated – and still participate – in campaigns organised by other countries. This has resulted in a strong and sustainable international research cooperation with many countries. BELSPO plays an important role in initiating and managing these international research cooperation’s. BELSPO has dedicated Antarctic collaboration agreements with Chile, France, Japan, and Peru.

BELSPO no longer has a dedicated polar research programme. The funding of polar research is part of a general overarching research strategy and for the Antarctic linked to the membership of the Antarctic Treaty System.

The broad BELSPO polar funding objectives are:

  • maintain and strengthen expertise, particularly in those areas of science where Belgian teams are known to be strong;
  • provide the scientific support necessary for the development of a Belgian position within international fora for policy development;
  • contribute to the rational management of polar environments and natural resources;
  • assess the consequences at the world scale of major processes occurring in the polar regions.

At present BELSPO supports high quality research teams within the fields of climatology, glaciology, geology, geophysics, astrophysics, biogeochemistry, biology, ecology, biodiversity, and life sciences.

The international participation of Belgian researchers covers a wide range of topics, such as tracking of marine predators to identify areas of ecological significance in the Southern Ocean, studying meteorites in the Sør Rondane Mountains, or the Antarctic and Greenland ice sheets and their contribution to future sea level. In 2020, the Belgica 121 Expedition was organised to the de Gerlache Strait using a sailboat as an eco-friendly platform to study biodiversity in intertidal and shallow areas. Belgium supports the open access to Antarctic Biodiversity data as for instance through products like Quantarctica, and researchers also contributed to the IPCC AR6.

Maaike Vancauwenberghe and Anton Van de Putte

A glimpse at the CNR-Institute of Polar Sciences and Italian research at the Poles

The Institute of Polar Sciences of the National Research Council of Italy (CNR-ISP) was founded in 2019, to harmonise the remarkable capabilities of the CNR in the field of polar research and management of large research infrastructures. The activities of the CNR-ISP are carried out by a staff of approximately 60 people and 30 collaborators, operating in the headquarters in Venice and in three secondary sites: in Bologna, Rome, and Messina.

The strategic vision of the CNR-ISP is that of a national polar scientific community that plays an authoritative role internationally, contributing to answering the scientific questions and challenges that climate change, as well as the socio-economic development of the polar areas generate. The mission of CNR-ISP is to provide a solid research platform, and a point of reference for the national and international communities, as well as for the institutions that “govern” polar research. The CNR-ISP is active in the atmospheric sciences, biology and ecosystems, studies of the cryosphere, paleoclimate, oceanography, and environmental contamination.

Gruvebadet Aerosol laboratory in Ny Alesund (credits: Mauro Mazzola, CNR-ISP)

 

Organization of the Italian Polar community

The Italian polar community has been formed mainly by and thanks to the National Research Program in Antarctica (PNRA), established 1985. The PNRA was promoted and launched following the signing of the Antarctic Treaty by Italy in 1981. From the very beginning, all major national research bodies and major universities have actively participated in developing a highly multidisciplinary programme and a national polar community. Since the early 1990’s, mainly thanks to the CNR and its support, the activities and interest of the national community have gradually extended to the Arctic. Since 2018, the activity in the Arctic also takes advantage of a specific funding programme by the Ministry of University and Research (MUR): the research program in the Arctic (PRA).

The Italian polar community counts on infrastructures and research stations both in Antarctica (Mario Zucchelli and Concordia, the latter co-managed with France and permanently occupied) and in the Arctic (Dirigibile Italia). These stations and integrated observation platforms provide the possibility to carry out long-term monitoring, which complements and adds value to research projects. The recent acquisition of the first Italian polar research vessel Laura Bassi allows expanding the activities in the polar seas. Through these, the national community is committed to both increasing knowledge about the environment and the climate system of the polar zones and contributing to their monitoring at both continental and circumpolar scales.

In this context, the vision that led to the birth of CNR-ISP, was the need for Italy to have a research structure with a purely polar vision. This allows (i) for community growth through the stimulus from a competence centre favouring greater aggregation and synergies, and (ii) to cover representation tasks in international forums in connection and agreement with the governance of the National Research Program in Antarctica (PNRA) and of the Research Programme in the Arctic (PRA). In this perspective, the CNR plays a pivotal role, managing the PRA and having the tasks of overseeing, planning, and coordinating the scientific activities of the PNRA.

The foci of Italian polar research

At the national level, the strategic development lines of polar research in Antarctica and the Arctic are defined on a 3-year basis by the National Scientific Commission for Antarctica – for the PNRA, and by the Committee for Research in the Arctic – for the PRA.

The new aquarium at Mario Zucchelli Station (MZS) (credits: Francesco Pellegrino, ENEA-UTA)

These strategic documents guide specific calls for research projects, as well as long-term observational activities. The main research topics cover all disciplinary fields of the natural sciences, focussing at (i) the “polar Amplification”, (ii) the vertical structure of the atmosphere and the water column of the polar seas and coastal areas, as well as changes in the hydrological cycle, (iii) changes in marine and terrestrial ecosystems, (iv) paleoclimatic reconstructions from marine environment and ice core data.An example of the interest of the Italian community in conserving biodiversity is the active involvement in establishing a Marine Protected Area in the Ross Sea Region and on developing a comprehensive monitoring plan.

The technological transfer activities are also relevant and are particularly aimed at new observational techniques. There is also a strong commitment in increasing public awareness of the importance of polar areas and the risks they represent, and at the same time, being able to train the new generation of Italian polar researchers.

A priority field for the PRA concerns the impact of climate and environmental changes on well-being, health and safety of populations living in the Arctic, as well as, more generically, on the challenges that such changes pose to the environment and to the global population. Those who have an interest or work in the polar regions are aware that the solution to these challenges is necessary to properly address sustainable development of the polar areas and to reduce impacts on a global scale.

Learn more about recent Italian highlights in polar:

A glimpse on University of Oulu and Thule Institute

The University of Oulu (UOULU) – founded in 1958 – locates in the city of Oulu at 65N in Finland. It is an international science university with 13 000 students in eight faculties, including medicine and technology. As a northern university, it has national responsibility to educate Sámi culture and language in the Giellagás Institute. Northern and Arctic issues are included to all university’s activities and UOULU is one of founding members of the University of the Arctic. UOULU operates the Sodankylä Geophysical Observatory and Oulanka Research Station located in Finnish Lapland, both being important collaborators in international Arctic observations and research. At UOULU Arctic research is conducted in several projects, such as in Arctic interactions and global change (ArcI), which is one of the University of Oulu´s interdisciplinary research profile areas. ArcI focuses on exploring environmental change and human-environmental relationships in the Arctic and promoting sustainable development in the region.

Snowy climate measurement site: Pallas Global Atmosphere Watch station, Finnish Meterological Institute (credits: Jeffrey Welker)

University of Oulu has several multidisciplinary institutes that support and facilitate the cooperation between the faculties. Thule Institute, which is the main UOULU partner in EU-PolarNet 2, coordinates the Arctic issues and cooperates with national and international research and higher education institutes. It is an active partner in Polar and Arctic networks and in addition to EU-PolarNet2, in EU-H2020 Polar Cluster projects INTERACT and Nunataryuk. Together with Kvantum Institute, Thule Institute coordinates UOULU’s internal Arctic researcher network, which includes over 160 researchers specialised to, e.g. biodiversity changes and effects on ecosystems, permafrost, snow dynamics and cold climate hydrology, Indigenous Sámi culture and resilience, Arctic health, and sustainable use of northern natural resources.

OULU’s involvement in EU-PolarNet 2

UOULU leads WP2 Stakeholder involvement in EU-PolarNet 2 and thus continues the work started in the first EU-PolarNet on stakeholder engagement. UOULU is also leading tasks and deliverables in WP3 Research Prioritization and WP6 European Polar Coordination Office.

Peatland research site: Oulanka Research Station’s EcoClimate experimental research site (credits: Lasse Lecklin)

Finland, an Arctic country

Finland is an active contributor and partner in Polar issues. It is one of eight permanent members of the Arctic Council and one of 29 consultative parties making decisions concerning Antarctica. Thus it is one of the few countries in the World that is making decisions for both Arctic and Antarctic. Finland considers, in its Arctic strategy, the whole country as an Arctic region. This refers mainly to policies and strategies. In 2021, Finland is renewing its national Arctic strategy which will focus on the following priority areas: i) Climate change mitigation and adaptation, ii) Inhabitants, promotion of welfare in the region and the rights of Indigenous peoples, iii) Arctic expertise, livelihoods and leading-edge research, and iv) Infrastructure and logistics. International cooperation is highlighted in the new strategy and is important in all polar research conducted in Finland.

In Finland, the polar research and particularly Arctic research is integrated into the overall research schemes that are conducted at the research institutions, universities and their research infrastructures, and funded by national funding agencies or institutions. Academy of Finland, the biggest funding agency for research in Finland, funds polar research and has targeted funding call for Antarctic research. This call follows Finland’s Antarctic research strategy and it is an important funding instrument for research done at the Finland’s Antarctic research station Aboa in the Queen Maud Land.

Learn more:

University of Oulu, Arctic Agenda: https://www.oulu.fi/en/our-arctic-agenda

Research news:

Daily Mail Science & Tech ‘What happens in the Arctic doesn’t stay in the Arctic!’ Beast from the East storm that plunged Britain to 12°F in 2018 was fuelled by sea-ice loss from the Barents Sea, study finds

A glimpse on the Polar Research Institute of Turkey

Polar Research Institute (PRI) was established in 2019 within Marmara Research Center (MAM) of “the Scientific and Technological Research Council of Turkey (TÜBİTAK)” to ensure the coordination and logistics of the future national polar expeditions. The Institute aims to provide support for R&D and scientific research studies that can be conducted in polar regions, to operate Turkey’s polar research camp(s) and station(s), to plan and coordinate logistics, to facilitate communication among relevant organisations, to conduct bilateral international collaborations, to develop and implement the national polar strategy in cooperation with stakeholders, to raise awareness of polar regions at the national scale, to materialise national and international scientific diplomacy on polar regions and to increase the scientific involvement of Turkey in science by representing in international arena.

The goals of PRI are:

  • to ensure Turkey to support the Antarctic Treaty System,
  • to conduct polar expeditions to provide scientific studies in these regions,
  • to establish and operate research infrastructures in Antarctica,
  • to create a coordination platform for the participation of all stakeholders in Turkey,
  • to raise awareness and provide training/education about polar regions and global climate change,
  • and to ensure the formation of an organizational scientific memory about the polar regions.
The construction of the Scientific Research Camp in Horseshoe Island during the third Turkish Antarctic Expedition in 2019 (credits: TÜBİTAK MAM PRI)

Polar Research Center of Istanbul Technical University was involved in EU-PolarNet 2 in the beginning. After the establishment, TÜBİTAK MAM Polar Research Institute (PRI) joined the project as the national polar operator of Turkey since the academic personnel of ITU is started serving at PRI simultaneously.

Polar research in Turkey was limited with the individual initiatives of scientists in the universities in the absence of a coordinating body. Currently, TÜBİTAK MAM provides a common platform to gather the polar researchers by scientific polar expeditions organised and research project calls opened. In addition, the priority research themes covered by 5-year National Polar Science Program gives direction to the polar science activities conducted by Turkey. To follow the latest developments on Turkey’s polar research activities please visit the official web site of TÜBİTAK MAM Polar Research Institute.

Curious about what’s up next? From All-Atlantic 2021 to International Congress of Arctic Social Sciences (ICASS X)
– get a first glimpse of where to meet up with EU-PolarNet 2 this year.
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