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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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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).

Professor Julian Dowdeswell awarded 2018 Lyell Medal

2nd February, 2018


Professor Julian Dowdeswell, Director of the Scott Polar Research Institute and Professor of Physical Geography, has been awarded the 2018 Lyell Medal of the Geological Society of London for significant contributions to the science through a substantial body of work. The Lyell Medal has been awarded since 1876 and is the Society's highest award for 'soft rock' geology. It was established with a gift from the distinguished 19th Century scientist Charles Lyell who wrote the 'Principles of Geology'.

Studying Arctic Fields

31st January, 2018


The Launch for Richard Powell's new book, Studying Arctic Fields: Culturers, Practices, and Environmental Sciences will be held at SPRI at 4.30 p.m., Monday 26 February 2018. This event is kindly sponsored by the Independent Social Research Foundation and McGill-Queen's University Press. Please RSVP Jenny Dunstall to attend.

New paper on the impact of glaciation on East Anglian Fenland

25th January, 2018


A new paper from Professor Phil Gibbard, "Pleistocene glaciation of Fenland, England, and its implications for evolution of the region", demonstrates for the first time that the form and scale of modern Fenland, East Anglia, is due to glaciation during the late Middle Pleistocene period, around 160,000 years ago.

Rescued radar maps reveal Antarctica's past

20th December, 2017


An international team of researchers has scanned and digitised two million records held at the Scott Polar Research Institute from pioneering aeroplane radar expeditions that criss-crossed the frozen continent in the 1960s and 1970s. The digitized data extend the record of changes at the bottom of the ice sheet, such as the formation of channels as Antarctica's ice flows, by more than two decades. The work could also help researchers get a better handle on how the ice sheet might respond as global temperatures rise.

Read more in Nature and on Stanford University's website.

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