September 2023

Welcome to the September edition of the quaterly EU-PolarNet 2 newsletter!

Welcome to our EU-PolarNet 2 Autumn Newsletter 2023! We have now completed the 3rd year of our project. This summer was dedicated to the definition of priorities for future European Polar Research, which took place in June at a retreat with members of our Polar Expert Group and other high-level scientists and stakeholders.

Furthermore, as a result of the last call for proposals, we are now pleased to be able to fund three relevant service contracts that will now start their work. You can read more about the EA-MISI, COLDwater and HILDAE projects here.

In May, together with the SO-CHIC project, we have organised a well-attended policy briefing in Brussels. Find more about it in our newsletter. From October, EU-PolarNet 2 will enter into its final year. Keep following us to learn about our activities and the exciting results of the project.

Newsletter content

News from EU-PolarNet 2

EU-PolarNet 2 research prioritisation

In June, representatives of the EU-PolarNet 2 Executive Board Group met in San Servolo (Venice) to elaborate the future research priorities for European polar research. The prioritisation was based on the European Polar Research Programme, the current scientific state of the art, as well as future research needs collected from the EU Polar Cluster and the EU-PolarNet 2 Polar Expert Group.

During the 3 days in San Servolo, scientific experts discussed the priorities of the following 4 priority areas: 1) Polar Climate System, 2) Polar Biodiversity/Socio-Economic Systems, 3) Human impacts on polar systems and 4) Prospering Communities in the Arctic. For each priority area, the workshop participants were able to identify and elaborate several research topics that should be addressed at European and international level in the coming years. The specific topics and the research prioritisation methodology will be published on our EU-PolarNet 2 website at the end of this year.

Once again, many thanks to all those involved for the great work that was done during and before the retreat and contributed to the success of the event.


Policy briefing

The policy briefing “Recent changes in the Antarctic and their impacts on Europe” was held in Brussels on 3 May 2023 as a two-hour hybrid event. This policy briefing was organised by the Horizon2020-funded EU polar cluster projects SO-CHIC, EU-PolarNet 2 with TiPACCS and PROTECT. The briefing started with two keynote talks, followed by a moderated panel discussion with five panellists. We are pleased that the attendance was high and included many officials from European institutions, participants from related projects and research institutions, and other interested academics and civil society actors. 29 participants were present in person and 53 participants online. The audience also had the opportunity to ask several questions to the speakers and there were several requests from audience members after the event.

The background to the policy briefing was the increasing pressure on ocean circulation regulation processes, the increasing melting of Antarctic Sea ice and ice shelves, and the growing scientific awareness of the importance of the region for Europe. Our aim was to provide European decision-makers with relevant insights into the importance of the Southern Ocean and Antarctica for Europe, for example the potential contribution to sea level rise. Hereby we wanted to show the related implications for European policy and Antarctic research.

Here you can watch a recording of the policy briefing.

New activities at the Catalyst platform

Have you visited the Catalyst Platform yet? It is one of the main cooperation tools developed by EU-PolarNet 2 that shall improve the information flow within the European Polar community. The Catalyst platform collects all news and events from EU-PolarNet, the European Polar Board and the EU Polar Cluster. It thus provides an excellent overview of all information about the European polar research community in one place!

More information here.

Webinar: governing and protecting the Antarctic and Southern Ocean

This EU-PolarNet 2 webinar, hosted by the European Polar Board, took place in May 2023. It gave an overview of Antarctic Governance and various actors involved – the Antarctic Treaty and its related agreements including the Madrid Protocol, other international agencies and organisations that provide advice and support the work of the ATS, and other conventions that are relevant for the Southern Ocean.

Watch this interesting webinar on our YouTube channel.

EC-ESA Science workshop in November in Frascati, Italy

With the aim of strengthening the collaboration between ESA and the EC funded polar projects under the joint RTD-EOP Earth System Science initiative, this workshop is a great networking and collaboration opportunity for polar scientists. The EC-ESA Science Workshop will take place in Frascati, Italy, from 22 – 24 November 2023.

The workshop will focus on identifying key scientific challenges and research needs, as well as key scientific priorities for joint research and future project funding by ESA and the EC. The results of the discussions will feed into future ESA funding programmes, which will also explicitly include funding for joint scientific consortia.

Read more about the event here.

EU Polar Cluster News

Arctic Circle Assembly 2023 - Booth and Workshop

This year, the EU Polar Cluster will again have a booth at the Arctic Circle Assembly 2023 in Reykjavík. The booth is organised and managed by members of EU-PolarNet 2 and the European Polar Board. We will show a slide show and video of all our members, and have a lot of information material available. We are looking forward to meeting you and all interested colleagues at our booth at the Arctic Circle Assembly and to introducing the great EU Polar Cluster network to you!

ACA booth last year

EU Polar Cluster Newsletter

Since summer 2021, the EU Polar Cluster publishes its own regular newsletters. Read the latest edition of the EU Polar Cluster and sign up to the Cluster newsletter here.

Partner highlights on polar research

20 Years AWIPEV: the French – German Arctic Research Base

A successful cooperation in international polar research celebrates its 20th anniversary. In 2003, the German Alfred Wegener Institute (AWI) and the French Polar Research Institute Paul-Émile Victor (IPEV) merged their stations Koldewey and Rabot on Svalbard to form the AWIPEV base. Since then, scientists from both countries have jointly been conducting research there on the effects of climate change in the Arctic as part of the Ny-Ålesund research station coordinated by Norway. 

Further information: 20 Years AWIPEV: the French – German Arctic Research Base

Håkon Jonsson Ruud, Engineer of Norwegian Polar Institute (NPI) (l), and Gregory Tran, Station Leader, take snow samples and snow parameter measurements close to Ny-Ålesund, Svalbard. Yohann Dulong, Logistics Engineer of AWIPEV joined their field work as a polarbear guard (in blue) (credits: Esther Horvath)

New Publications by the European Polar Board

The European Polar Board (EPB) has released several publications in the past few months:

Credits: European Polar Board

EPB & SO-CHIC - Southern Ocean Summer School 2024

OCEAN:ICE and SO-CHIC projects (that the European Polar Board is part of) are organising The Southern Ocean Summer School 2024 to be hosted in Corsica, at the Institut d’Études Scientifiques de Cargèse (IESC) from 7-18 May 2024. The summer school aims to empower the next generation of scientists with the knowledge and skills necessary to tackle the pressing challenges associated with the Southern Ocean. The deadline for application is 31 October 2023.

Further information: Southern Ocean Summer School 2024

Biological soil crust microalgae research in Svalbard (Czech-German cooperation)

In summer of 2022, a field study focused on the resistance of biological soil crust microalgae to stress associated with seasonal conditions and climate change began, with three study sites established along the elevation gradient in Svalbard. Natural conditions were manipulated by adding nutrients and watering, and a freeze-thaw event was simulated later this winter. Hardening by nutrient starvation, cold or desiccation was previously reported to increase the stress tolerance of many algae and cyanobacteria in comparison to those growing under more favourable conditions. The sites have already been sampled for molecular analyses in August and October 2022, and March 2023. Field work continue this August by measuring the photosynthetic activity of microalgae during the daily cycles. Information from field measurements and molecular data will be combined with a series of ecophysiological experiments that focus on the resistance of microalgae to desiccation and cryoinjury.

 Further information: Biological soil crust microalgae research in Svalbard

Searching for experimental plots under the snow cover (credits: Katja Pushkareva)

New avenues of collaboration opportunities between the Swiss and Canadian polar and high-altitude science communities

On 13 April 2023 in Montréal, the Swiss Polar Institute (SPI), Université Laval (ULaval) and the Institut Nordique du Québec (INQ) signed a Memorandum of Understanding for collaborative research in sub-polar and polar regions. Later that month, a joint online info event inaugurated their shared vision and goal towards concerted projects and complementary expertise. This collaboration will be presented further during the Swiss Polar Day, the annual conference for the Swiss polar and high-altitude research community that will take place on 15 September.

Further information:

Memorandum of Understanding for collaborative research in sub-polar regions

Swiss Polar Day

SPI, ULaval and INQ sign the Memorandum of Understanding in the presence of Swiss Federal Councillor Guy Parmelin (credits: © FDFA, all rights reserved)

A new partnership at the service of climate and natural hazards management

In April 2023, The Swiss Polar Institute (SPI) signed a Memorandum of Understanding with the Greenland Research Council (NIS), ushering a new chapter in the scientific collaboration between Greenland and Switzerland at the service of climate. This partnership aims at sharing expertise and bringing together stakeholders from both countries concerned with natural hazard risks and sustainable development of areas affected by climate warming and changes in the cryosphere. The synergies stem from a joint initiative established in 2022 between the SPI and the NIS, through a Konrad Steffen Grant. The Konrad Steffen Grants, in memory of the late world-renowned Swiss glaciologist, build on his legacy of collaborative research.

Further information: A new partnership at the service of climate and natural hazards management 

From left to right: NIS Vice-Chair Thomas Ingeman-Nielsen, NIS Chair Josephine Nymand, Madam Ambassador Florence Tinguely Mattli (Embassy of Switzerland in Denmark), SPI Executive Director Danièle Rod, NIS Secretary Maliina Jensen, Prof. Jürg Schweizer (Director SLF Davos), Deputy Head of Mission / Science Councilor Kaspar Grossenbacher (Embassy of Switzerland in Denmark) (credits: Swiss Polar Institute, CC BY 4.0)

The power of ice that sculpted Fennoscandia’s landscape

Glaciologist Alun Hubbard describes new research on the emerging processes that speed up ice loss and sights on the Greenland ice sheet: the gaping hole that’s opening up at the surface is the beginning of the meltwater’s journey through the guts of the ice sheet. As it funnels into moulins, it bores a network of tunnels through the ice sheet that extend hundreds of meters down to the ice sheet bed. When it reaches the bed, the meltwater decants into the ice sheet’s subglacial drainage system which is constantly evolving and backing up. The meltwater ends up in the ocean, with major consequences for the thermodynamics and flow of the overlying ice sheet. This and new research into the ice sheet’s mechanics are challenging traditional thinking about what happens inside and under ice sheets. They suggest that Earth’s remaining ice sheets in Greenland and Antarctica are far more vulnerable to climate warming than models predict, and that the ice sheets may be destabilizing from inside.

Further information: Meltwater is hydro-fracking Greenland’s ice sheet through millions of hairline cracks – destabilizing its internal structure

Melt water lake at the Greenland ice sheet (credits: Alun Hubbard)

Photobioreactor for the Arctic

In summer 2022, a novel rotary flat-panel medium-scale (20L) photobioreactor was tested in Svalbard. During the cultivation, environmental parameters (air and suspension temperature, photosynthetically active irradiance, and pH) were recorded in 10min intervals. The growth of the local green alga Neocystis strain was monitored by measurement of the optical density at 680 and 720 nm. The physiological state of the algal culture was evaluated by variable chlorophyll fluorescence methods. Two successful cultivation cycles were completed during the summer season.

The design of the photobioreactor is protected by the Industrial Property Office as Utility model No. 36383. 

Further information: Centre for phycology

The rotary flat-panel medium-scale (20L) photobioreactor at the Czech Arctic Research Infrastructure Jan Payer House in Longyearbyen, Svalvard.

The mechanisms of microalgal resistance to desiccation and cryoinjuries in biological soil crusts of High Arctic

The Arctic region is famous for its strict environmental conditions such as low temperatures, lack of water and nutrition. Global warming leads to the widespread melting of ice caps and snowbanks. The biological soil crusts are one of the most important communities in deglaciated regions and have microalgae in their composition. All microalgal species have specific physiological and molecular mechanisms of resistance to unfavourable conditions, but it was supposed that polar species could differ, however, differences are still poorly understood. There could be reduced physiological activity, biochemical, ultrastructural and molecular mechanisms. The multiparameter staining allows simultaneous estimation of cellular respiration activity, membrane and genome integrities by staining with fluorescent dyes and with further molecular analysis. The unique combination of molecular biology and microalgal physiology methods together will allow complex insight into microalgal survival strategies.

Further information: Centre for polar ecology

Biological soil crusts from the vicinity of Petuniabukta in Svalbard.

Studying the biodiversity of cyanobacteria and microalgae of Enderby Land, Queen Maud Land, and Deception Island (Antarctica), using a polyphasic approach

The researchers from the Phycology Centre of the Czech Academy of Sciences (Třeboň, South Bohemia) are studying the species diversity of microalgae and cyanobacteria in Antarctica. The study involves several hundred samples collected from different habitats in Enderby Land, Queen Maud Land, and Deception Island. Currently, 170 strains have been isolated, and the processing is still ongoing. Thus, upon completion of the research, an extensive collection of strains will be formed.

Identification of organisms in this research is carried out using a polyphasic approach, which involves combining morpho-ecological features of the species with DNA barcoding/metagenomics. This allows the highly accurate identification and comprehensive exploration of biodiversity of these territories.

The collection of microalgae and cyanobacteria strains, which were recently isolated from samples (credits: O. Bren)

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