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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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Features

Library

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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The Geological Anthropocene born in Burlington House

6th December, 2017

 

Discussions concerning the recognition and potential definition of a new division of geological time during which humans have become overarchingly influencing natural systems have led to the proposal to define a new time interval, the Anthropocene (see earlier reports on these pages).

The controversy generated in the geological world has been offset by the remarkable interest the concept has initiated in non-geological, and especially in non-scientific fields. The discussions, initiated during meetings of the Geological Society's Stratigraphy Commission, of which Professor Phil Gibbard, Dr Colin Summerhayes, and the other authors are members, has led to worldwide debate. These discussions have also spawned new lines of research, and encouraged inter-disciplinary discussions by members of the department, involving reseachers and students alike. A new report presents the state of these fast evolving discussions developments that have animated the normally tranquil world of stratigraphy.

Recruiting now: Polar Museum - Collections Coordinator

1st December, 2017

 

The Polar Museum is looking for an organised and enthusiastic museum professional to manage its collection of polar artefacts and artworks.

The Collections Coordinator is responsible for a range of tasks including facilitating collections research, answering external enquiries, undertaking and improving documentation of the Museum's collections, negotiating and administering loans and ensuring that the collections are appropriately stored and displayed. In addition they support the wider activity of the museum as needed.

This is an exciting time to join the Scott Polar Research Institute as we approach our centenary year in 2020. With over 50,000 visitors a year and activities that include exhibitions, events and teaching, work in the Polar Museum team is always varied.

Find out more on our vacancies page.

Rising Tides bring innovation prize

17th November, 2017

 

Victoria Herrmann, a PhD student at the Scott Polar Research Institute and a Gates Cambridge Scholar, has won a prestigious US social entrepreneurship prize for a research project on US towns and cities at risk of partial submersion due to climate change.

Victoria's was one of 10 projects to scoop the JM Kaplan Fund Innovation Prize.

Her winning Rising Tides project will create a new online matchmaking platform that connects pro bono experts with climate-affected communities.

Living without the Dead: Loss and Redemption in a Jungle Cosmos

16th November, 2017

 

Living without the Dead: Loss and Redemption in a Jungle Cosmos is a new book by Piers Vitebsky.

Just one generation ago, the Sora tribe in India lived in a world populated by the spirits of their dead, who spoke to them through shamans in trance. Every day, they negotiated their wellbeing in heated arguments or in quiet reflections on their feelings of love, anger, and guilt. Today, young Sora are rejecting the worldview of their ancestors and switching their allegiance to warring sects of fundamentalist Christianity or Hinduism. Communion with ancestors is banned, sacred sites demolished, and female shamans replaced by male priests, as debate with the dead gives way to prayer to gods. For some, this shift means liberation from jungle spirits through literacy, employment, and democratic politics; others despair of being forgotten after death.

How can a society abandon one understanding of reality so suddenly and see the world in a totally different way? Over forty years, anthropologist Piers Vitebsky has shared the lives of shamans, pastors, ancestors, gods, policemen, missionaries, and alphabet worshippers, seeking explanations from social theory, psychoanalysis, and theology. Living without the Dead lays bare today's crisis of indigenous religions as historical reform brings new fulfillments—but also new torments and uncertainties. From the award-winning author of The Reindeer People, this is a heartbreaking story of the extinction of an irreplaceable world, even while new religious forms come into being.

New paper on inland advance of supraglacial lakes in Greenland under climatic warming

13th November, 2017

 

A new article by recently graduated undergraduate student Laura Gledhill (Downing College) and Scott Polar Research Institute PhD student Andrew Williamson explores the inland advance of supraglacial lakes in a north-western sector of the Greenland Ice Sheet under recent climatic warming. The paper, published recently in the Annals of Glaciology, is based on Laura's undergraduate dissertation, which Andrew supervised. Many congratulations to them both!

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