skip to primary navigation skip to content

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.

Read more

Graduate study

SPRI has a friendly community of postgraduate students, working for the PhD degree or the MPhil in Polar Studies.

Read more

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.

Read more

Staff and students

SPRI's staff publish regularly in a range of leading journals, and attract research funding from a wide variety of sources.

Read more


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

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

Read more …

SPRI Review 2020

11th May, 2021


SPRI Review 2020 is now available online. SPRI Review is the Annual Report issued by the Scott Polar Research Institute, giving information on the Institute's activities over the past year.

Professor Julian Dowdeswell

7th May, 2021


Professor Julian Dowdeswell retired from the Directorship of SPRI at Easter 2021, after almost 20 years in the post. He will remain as Professor of Physical Geography and a member of SPRI during a period of sabbatical leave prior to retirement from the University of Cambridge at the end of 2022.

During a career of over four decades, since his graduation from the Cambridge Geography Department in 1980, Julian has led or participated in more than 40 expeditions to the Arctic and Antarctic. His research, published in almost 400 papers, is centred in two main themes. The first concerns the patterns, processes and rates of glacial sedimentation on high-latitude continental margins, from fjords and continental shelves to the deep sea, and the record of past glacier and ice-sheet change found there. The second is the form and flow of modern glaciers and ice sheets, their sensitivity to climatic variations and the implications for global sea level.

Read more …

Daughters of the Snow (BBC Sounds and Radio 4)

6th April, 2021


A BBC Sounds / Radio 4 program, "Daughters of the Snow", broadcast this week and available to listen online, featured Dr Michael Bravo.

This collaboration between Dr Bravo, radio producer Andrea Rangecroft, and the artist and poet Himali Singh Soin, explores the North Pole as a mythologised space in literature. Reading novels like Mary Shelley's Frankenstein and Arthur Conan Doyle's Captain of the Pole Star at school in India, the North Pole has often been portrayed as a blank, white, mysterious and uninhabited place. The conversations in this programme, set to music, discuss the consequences of mythologising this huge region of diverse lands and cultures at the top of the world.

Greenland Ice Sheet lakes drain in the winter

1st April, 2021


PhD student Corinne Benedek and supervisor Ian Willis have discovered that large lakes on the surface of the Greenland Ice Sheet drain in the Arctic winter. They used satellite radar images to identify large, anomalous, sudden and sustained increases in radar backscatter, showing a switch from a water to an ice surface.

It is known that lakes can drain catastrophically in the summer but this is the first time they have been seen to disappear in the winter.

Using other satellite data they confirmed the lake drainages, which show a lowering of the surface by several metres and the loss of up to 20 million cubic metres of water, the equivalent of around 8000 olympic size swimming pools emptying to the bottom of the ice sheet over a few days, possibly just a few hours.

The findings have implications for the speed at which the ice sheet flows to the ocean.

The work is discussed further on the University of Cambridge news pages and is published in The Cryosphere.

View all news

Twitter Instagram Facebook

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.

  • 24th June 2021:
    Improving the relationships between researchers and Indigenous rights holders in the Arctic - What needs to change in funding?. Details…
    Polar Humanities and Social Sciences ECR Workshop