Successful Sea Ice, Shackleton and Science Sessions

Learning about albedo

Learning about albedo

© TJ Young

The International Polar Foundation UK and UK Polar Network ran the first of a series of three public engagement events on polar science and climate change at the weekend.

The event took place on 27-29th September 2014, at Dundee Science Centre. Visitors had the opportunity to learn about the Polar Regions using the IPF’s large interactive polar puzzles, guided by the scientists. The route of Shackleton’s ship Endurance through the ice could be seen on the Antarctic puzzle as well as where the ship was crushed during the 2014-16 Imperial Trans-Antarctic Expedition.

Visitors could try on the type of clothes worn by the 1914-16 expedition and also modern polar clothing. To get more of an Antarctic experience they could go into in the -15°C cold room, part of the Dundee Science Centre Ice Station Antarctica exhibition.

Scientists from the UK Polar Network gave short summaries of their research and answered questions about living and working in the Polar Regions. TJ Young from the Scott Polar Research Institute in Cambridge told visitors that he used to study whales and seals, but as he suffered very badly from sea-sickness he decided to work on land – but still in the polar regions. He now uses radar to investigate melt and flow at the base of the Greenland Ice Sheet. Laura Hobbs, from the Scottish Association of Marine Science in Oban, Scotland investigates tiny animals called zooplankton and how they behave during the dark Arctic winter.

Katie Wurtzell worked on a research ship investigating krill and gelatinous zooplankton using acoustic technologies. She told visitors about her two research voyages along the western Antarctic Peninsula, where as well as working at sea, she also had the opportunity to visit research bases and penguin colonies. Back in the Arctic, Ruth Hindshaw from the University of St Andrews described her work collecting glacial stream water and analysing the minerals in the water to see how they relate to the weathering of rocks by glaciers and how this relates to the Earth’s climate and the carbon cycle.

After meeting and talking to the scientists, visitors also got the opportunity to become scientists themselves and conduct their own experiments relating to climate change in the Polar Regions. Experiments from the International Polar Foundation Class Zero Emission workshop were used to demonstrate sea level rise, ocean acidification, albedo, ocean circulation and palaeoclimatology.

On the Monday, school groups took part in a series of workshops, learning about the Polar Regions, meeting the scientists and becoming scientists themselves and carrying out climate change experiments. The Science Centre education team said: “The workshop content was very engaging, the pupils seemed to be fascinated. The staff did a brilliant job of sharing their research and engaging the pupils with climate threats and polar research.”

A huge thanks to the UK Polar Network scientists who generously gave up their time to contribute to the sessions and to Dundee Science Centre for hosting the event and looking after everyone so well, to the UK Foreign Office for assistance with funding.  

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