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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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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

SPRI library forges new links with Arctic Russia

7th October, 2021


Eleanor Peers in partnership with Anastasiia Shnaider has arranged an exchange of resources between the SPRI library and the National Library of the Yamal-Nenets Autonomous Okrug (YaNAO) in Arctic Russia. Thanks to this exchange SPRI will acquire books from YaNAO that are unavailable anywhere else in the UK, if not Europe. Our readers will be able to learn about the diverse histories and cultures of YaNAO, an important industrial region, and the homeland of several Indigenous communities such as the Nenets, Khanty and Komi peoples. In return, the National Library will receive access to the Polar Record.

Through the project we are making new links with YaNAO's Academic Centre for the Study of the Arctic, who will be sending us their work through this exchange. The Academic Centre carries out crucial multidisciplinary research into YaNAO and the Russian Arctic. We hope these additions to our collection will stimulate new collaborations between YaNAO and the UK.

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Spectacular ice age landscapes beneath the North Sea discovered using 3D seismic reflection technology

9th September, 2021


PhD student James Kirkham has led a study, along with Neil Arnold and Julian Dowdeswell from SPRI, which used cutting edge 3D seismic reflection technology to discover spectacular ice age landscapes beneath the North Sea.

So called tunnel valleys, buried hundreds of metres beneath the seafloor in the North Sea are remnants of huge rivers that were the 'plumbing system' of the ancient ice sheets as they melted in response to rising air temperatures.

These ancient structures provide clues to how ice sheets react to a warming climate. The findings are published this week (9 September) in the journal Geology.

More information can be found on the British Antarctic Survey website, along with BBC News.

New study investigates nineteenth-century science transfer and expertise in Arctic exploration

5th August, 2021


In a new research paper published in the British Journal for the History of Science, Dr Nanna Kaalund and Dr John Woitkowitz of the ERC Arctic Cultures research group, based at the Scott Polar Research Institute, investigate the history of nineteenth-century scientific networks and expertise in the organization of expeditions to the central Arctic Ocean.

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Piers Vitebsky awarded IASSA Honorary Lifetime Membership

22nd July, 2021


During the ICASS X meetings in June 2021, Dr. Piers Vitebsky was awarded an Honorary Lifetime Membership by the International Arctic Social Sciences Association (IASSA).

This very prestigious award is some small marker of the esteem with which Piers is held by the Arctic social sciences and humanities community. The presentation to Piers was made virtually, and a number of SPRI colleagues joined an international audience to reflect on Piers's career and celebrate his achievements.

Mapping glacier surface debris thickness across high mountain Asia

16th July, 2021


PhD student Karla Boxall and supervisor Ian Willis have mapped the thickness of debris cover on all glaciers in High Mountain Asia. With colleagues from the US and China, they developed a robust statistical relationship between surface temperature and the few existing field measurements of debris thickness. Using regional scale thermal imagery, they applied that relationship to map debris thickness across all 134,770 glaciers in the region. Their map of debris thickness is as accurate and more precise than one already in the literature.

They also determine the controls on the distribution of debris thickness across glaciers showing that thicker debris typically occurs on flatter, west-facing slopes at lower elevations, where ice flow is slower.

Debris thickness contributes to the rate at which glaciers melt, so these findings have important implications for modelling the future behaviour of glaciers in this region.

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SPRI Centenary

SPRI Centenary

Our 2020 Centenary Campaign aims to build the endowment funds of the Institute to support new academic posts, to enhance our ability to undertake polar fieldwork, to secure the future of our Museum and Archive activities, and to train the next generation of polar researchers.

  • 25th October 2021:
    Love Stories for the Earth. Details…
    Polar Museum public events
  • 28th October 2021:
    The Arctic at the End of the World: Hannah Arendt and the Narration of Apocalypse. Details…
    Polar Humanities and Social Sciences ECR Workshop
  • 2nd November 2021:
    The ‘Origins of the Inuit’: Indigenous Marginalisation within a Transnational Debate. Details…
    Scott Polar Research Institute - HCEP (Histories, Cultures, Environments and Politics) Research Seminars
  • More seminars…