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Welcome to SPRI

The Scott Polar Research Institute, established in 1920 as part of the University of Cambridge, is a centre of excellence in the study of the Arctic and Antarctic. Research covers both the natural and social sciences and is often interdisciplinary. The Institute also houses the World's premier Polar Library, extensive archival, photographic and object collections of international importance on the history of polar exploration, and a Polar Museum with displays of both the history and contemporary significance of the Arctic and Antarctic and their surrounding seas. The Institute is a sub-department of the Department of Geography.

SPRI's mission is to enhance the understanding of the polar regions through scholarly research and publication, educating new generations of polar researchers, caring for and making accessible its collections (including its library, archival, photographic and object collections), and projecting the history and environmental significance of the polar regions to the wider community for public benefit.

Research at SPRI

SPRI's five research groups investigate a range of issues in the environmental sciences, social sciences, arts and humanities of relevance to the Arctic and Antarctica:

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Graduate study

SPRI has a friendly community of postgraduate students. Many are working for the PhD degree, awarded on the basis of individual research and requiring three years of full-time study. Others are working for the MPhil in Polar Studies.

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The Polar Museum

The Scott Polar Research Institute holds a unique collection of artefacts, journals, paintings, photographs, clothing equipment, maps and other materials illustrating polar exploration, history and science. Come and find out how past discoveries in the Arctic and Antarctic help today's scientists to investigate our changing environment.

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The Library offers a collection developed since the 1920s with over 700 current journals and over 250,000 printed works covering all subjects relating to the Arctic, the Antarctic, and to ice and snow wherever found.

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Staff and students

SPRI's staff publish regularly in a range of leading journals, and attract research funding from a wide variety of sources.

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Cambridge Polar Leaders Programme, 23-27 May 2016

Cambridge Polar Leaders Programme (CPLP)

The Cambridge Polar Leaders Programme (CPLP) is a new and innovative course designed to give executives an intensive and expert insight into the polar regions and the challenges they face.

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Shackleton 100

Shackleton 100

The Shackleton 100 site brings together in one place information on events taking place across the world to commemorate the 1914-17 Antarctic expeditions.

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Physical Geography / Environmental Science PhD Opportunities 2016

9th November, 2015


Physical Geography / Environmental Science PhD topics to start October 2016 are advertised on the Cambridge Earth System Science Doctoral Training Programme website. Members of the Geography Department / SPRI have projects advertised across all three themes of Climate, Biology and Solid Earth. Further general information about the application procedure is available.

Four Professors retire

30th October, 2015


On 27th October, the Department celebrated the careers of four immensely distinguished senior colleagues reaching retirement this Autumn: Professors Tim Bayliss-Smith, Ron Martin, Bob Haining and Hans Graf. Present and former academic colleagues gathered for dinner in Queen's College Old Hall (including five former Heads of Department, and our senior member, A. T. (Dick) Grove, who started his teaching career in Cambridge no less than 66 years ago), to discuss how to cope without them. Keith Richards proposed the toast, celebrating their research in poetical form.

His four Haiku are below: the challenge is to identify who is who (Keith vetoed also placing the limericks in the public domain)!

Paths, trends, waves and shocks;
Competing regions and places;
W(h)ither policy....?

Nature, hot and cold;
People hunt, herd, farm, cut wood,
Use ecosystems.

Volcanoes, plumes, ash;
Updrafts, nimbus, and downpours;
Sub-grid processes.

Mapping, modelling
Time-space process; crime and health.
Action Geography!

Friends of SPRI Fundraiser

28th October, 2015


Join multi award-winning professional wildlife photographer Andy Rouse who will take us on an inspirational journey through his favourite wildlife experiences of his illustrious career. Expect polar bears, surfing penguins and dancing tigers amongst many others. It's a
fun talk packed with good humour, but with a strong conservation theme throughout.
It will be an inspirational talk for all. You will also hear from Darren Rees, who has been painting for over twenty years and is one of our most decorated and highly respected wildlife artists and this year's Artist in Residence for FoSPRI.

Open Cambridge event in SPRI Library - Friday 11th September

26th August, 2015


Explore behind the scenes at the Library at the Scott Polar Research Institute. The Library at the Scott Polar Research Institute is known as the place to find research on Polar Regions, but beyond the science and history lurks the fiction these factual records have inspired. For Open Cambridge 2015, there will be polar-based fiction from all genres on display all day with library staff on hand to answer any questions. there will also be a talk given by Library Assistant, Martin French, on the subject of Polar Fiction. For more information on this and other Open Cambridge 2015 events and for details on how to book, please visit the Open Cambridge website.

After the Iron curtain: Poor parenting and state intervention in cross cultural perspective: a one-day workshop

1st June, 2015


This workshop, on Wednesday June 10th 2015, is concerned with the issue of 'poor' parenting in cross-cultural perspective, and particularly a UK comparison with post-Soviet countries. Taken at face value, the concept of 'poor' parenting may look very different in countries with different political, ideological and socio-economic structures such as liberal democracies of the UK and the US, yet one study has revealed some (tentative) similarities in child welfare practices. This workshop problematizes the concept of 'poor' parenting by making it an analytical concept and placing it in a comparative context, asking three main questions: (1) What constitutes 'poor' parenting in a particular country? (2) What are the underlying concepts of childhood and parenthood this relies on? (3) What are the similarities in child welfare practices, and how do we account for these?

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