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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

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.

Dowdeswell Bay

30th June, 2021


We are delighted to announce that Professor Julian Dowdeswell, former Director of the Scott Polar Research Institute, has been honoured by the Antarctic Place-names Committee, and an Antarctic bay has been named for him. The bay is about 8.5 km wide and 8 km deep (2021) at the southern end of Lallemand Fjord, Loubet Coast. To the west of Hooke Point and north of, and formed by the retreat of, Müller Ice Shelf. The newly named Dowdeswell Bay continues a well-established naming theme of Glaciologists in this area.

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New book: Explorations in the Icy North

30th June, 2021


A new book by Nanna K. L. Kaalund, SPRI Research Associate on the ERC Arctic Cultures project, is now out: Explorations in the Icy North: How Travel Narratives Shaped Arctic Science in the Nineteenth Century, University of Pittsburgh Press, 2021.

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Fibre-optics used to take the temperature of Greenland Ice Sheet

14th May, 2021


A research team, led by Dr Poul Christoffersen from the Scott Polar Research Institute, have used fibre-optic sensing to obtain the most detailed measurements of ice properties ever taken on the Greenland Ice Sheet. Their findings will be used to make more accurate models of the future movement of the world's second-largest ice sheet, as the effects of climate change continue to accelerate.

SPRI PhD candidate Rob Law is the lead author on a new paper about the work.

Read the full paper: Robert Law et al. 'Thermodynamics of a fast-moving Greenlandic outlet glacier revealed by fiber-optic distributed temperature sensing.' Science Advances (2021). doi:10.1126/sciadv.abe7136

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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.

There are no seminars scheduled at present, but you can view the archive of previous seminars.