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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 staff and students 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.

Library catalogue

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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Inuit Trails

16th March, 2018


Dr Michael Bravo's Pan Inuit Trails project, which maps part of the extensive trail network used for Inuit travel across the North American continent, is featured in the Guardian article 'Counter-mapping: cartography that lets the powerless speak".

You can find out more about the project at

Chain reaction of fast-draining lakes poses new risk for Greenland ice sheet

15th March, 2018


A growing network of lakes on the Greenland ice sheet has been found to drain in a chain reaction that speeds up the flow of the ice sheet, threatening its stability.

Researchers from the SPRI and others across the UK, Norway, US and Sweden have used a combination of 3D computer modelling and real-world observations to show the previously unknown, yet profound dynamic consequences tied to a growing number of lakes forming on the Greenland ice sheet.

New paper: Controls on rapid supraglacial lake drainage in West Greenland

8th March, 2018


A team of researchers from the Scott Polar Research Institute have published a new paper investigating the causes of rapid lake-drainage events on the Greenland Ice Sheet.

The team includes PhD student Andrew Williamson, Dr Ian Willis, Dr Neil Arnold and Dr Alison Banwell.

SPRI MPhil Scholarships

1st March, 2018


The deadline for the Debenham Scholarship and the Scott Polar Scholarship is 31 March 2018. Each scholarship is worth £7,614 (2018-19 rate) and will be awarded to the best applicant for the M.Phil. in Polar Studies who is not in receipt of another University award. By applying for the M.Phil. in Polar Studies, you will automatically be entered into the competition for these awards, as long as your application is received by the deadline.

AHRC Doctoral studentship: Instruments of scientific governance? Historical geographies of Halley Bay, 1956-present

19th February, 2018


Applications are invited for an AHRC-funded studentship at the University of Cambridge, Royal Geographical Society (with IBG) and Royal Society. The PhD studentship is one of six awards being made by the AHRC Collaborative Doctoral Partnership with the Science Museums and Archives Consortium. The project is full-time, funded for three years and begins in October 2018. It will be supervised by Dr Richard Powell (Scott Polar Research Institute and Department of Geography, University of Cambridge), Dr Catherine Souch (RGS-IBG) and Keith Moore (Royal Society), with technical training support from Charlotte Connelly (Polar Museum, Cambridge).

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