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Welcome to SPRI

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, and projecting the history and environmental significance of the polar regions to the wider community.


Research at SPRI

We 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, working for the PhD degree or the MPhil in Polar Studies.

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The Polar Museum

The Scott Polar Research Institute holds a unique collection illustrating polar exploration, history and science. Find out how past discoveries in the Arctic and Antarctic help today's scientists to investigate our changing environment.

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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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Library

The Library offers a collection 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.

Library catalogue

AHRC DTP PhD studentship - Gender and histories of Arctic field science, 1900-1950

25th September, 2019

 

Applications are invited for an Open-Oxford-Cambridge AHRC DTP-funded Collaborative Doctoral Award at the Scott Polar Research Institute (SPRI), University of Cambridge, in partnership with the Oxford University Museum of Natural History (OUMNH).

The fully-funded studentship will be based in the Department of Geography and the Scott Polar Research Institute. The successful applicant will work on a collaborative project co-led by Dr Richard Powell, Department of Geography (and Scott Polar Research Institute) and co-supervisor, Professor Paul Smith, Oxford University Museum of Natural History.

This project provides the opportunity to explore the histories of a range of women in the twentieth-century Arctic, including female scientists, travellers and collectors and their encounters with indigenous people. The project draw upon extensive archival records about the geologist Phyllis Wager and the writer Isobel Wylie Hutchison. The student will also be encouraged to develop a comparative focus to include other key actors involved in gendering the Arctic field sciences.

Further details of the project and its aims can be found on the Open-Oxford-Cambridge AHRC DTP website.

Vice Chancellor's Research and Impact Engagement Award

16th October, 2019

 

Our Education & Outreach Assistant, Naomi Chapman, has won a Vice Chancellor's Research and Impact Engagement Award for her role in developing innovative tactile maps of the Arctic and Antarctic which have allowed many young and partially sighted people to enjoy a touch tour of polar research. Many members of SPRI contributed to the ideas and production of the tactile maps.

Vintage film reveals Antarctic glacier melting

3rd September, 2019

 

Newly-digitised vintage film has doubled how far back scientists can peer into the history of underground ice in Antarctica, and revealed that an ice shelf on Thwaites Glacier in West Antarctica is being thawed by a warming ocean more quickly than previously thought. This finding contributes to predictions for sea-level rise that would impact coastal communities around the world.

Researchers digitised about 250,000 flight miles of Antarctic radar data originally captured on 35mm optical film between 1971 and 1979 as part of a collaboration between Stanford and the Scott Polar Research Institute (SPRI) at the University of Cambridge. The data has been released to an online public archive through Stanford Libraries, enabling other scientists to compare it with modern radar data in order to understand long-term changes in ice thickness, features within glaciers and baseline conditions over 40 years.

Professor Julian Dowdeswell, Director of the Scott Polar Research Institute, a co-author of the paper, commented: "These early records of ice thickness provide an important baseline against which we can measure the rate of change of the Antarctic Ice Sheet over the past 40 or so years. The high-resolution digitization of these records crucially makes them available for a series of important investigations on aspects of Antarctic environmental change."

Reconstructing the past extent of Northern Hemisphere ice sheets

28th August, 2019

 

Dr Christine Batchelor and Professor Philip Gibbard of the Scott Polar Research Institute, together with researchers from the University of Cambridge's Department of Zoology, Durham University, University of Sussex, and Charles University in Prague, have published a paper in Nature Communications about the configuration of Northern Hemisphere ice sheets through the Quaternary.

In this study, the authors compile a synthesis of empirical data and numerical modelling results related to Northern Hemisphere ice sheets to produce new hypotheses regarding their extent at 17 time-slices that span the last 3.6 million years. These reconstructions, which are available as a series of maps and shapefiles of ice-sheet extent, illustrate significant variations in ice-marginal positions between glacial cycles.

Origins of water beneath Mars' south polar ice cap

14th August, 2019

 

Dr Neil Arnold, in collaboration with Dr Matt Balme and Dr Frances Butcher (a former undergraduate in the Department of Geography here in Cambridge) of the Open University, and Dr Susan Conway of the University of Nantes, France, have published a paper in the Journal of Geophysical Research: Planets investigating the location of the recently-detected water layer beneath part of Mars' south polar ice cap.

Mars' present‐day ice deposits are generally assumed to be frozen throughout given its very cold climate, but new evidence from orbital radar data suggests a possible present‐day ~20km‐wide area of liquid water beneath Mars' south polar ice cap. Subglacial lakes are common on Earth, and their locations have been successfully predicted from ice surface topography and ice thickness using theories for subglacial water flow. This paper uses surface topography and ice thickness data for Mars' south polar ice cap to calculate the theoretical locations of possible subglacial lakes beneath the ice cap, and compares these with the location of the observed possible present‐day area of liquid water. The observed patch of possible liquid water does not coincide with the predicted lake locations however, which the paper interprets as implying that the liquid water is most likely to be an isolated patch of liquid, possibly caused by locally raised geothermal heating, rather than the liquid forming a "true", topographically constrained, subglacial lake.

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  • 18th October 2019:
    Little Explorers: Charlie and the Blanket Toss. Details…
    Polar Museum public events
  • 19th October 2019:
    Arctic family day. Details…
    Polar Museum public events
  • 22nd October 2019:
    Talk: Arctic Cultures. Details…
    Polar Museum public events
  • More seminars…