Association of Polar Early Career Scientists


The APECS Education and Outreach Committee started up a new initiative to showcase outreach activities by scientists, researchers, research institutions and field stations in the Polar Regions and communities. We want to highlight ongoing outreach efforts as well as provide resources and examples of both successes and challenges for current outreach practitioners. If you have an outreach story you'd like to have featured or know of a Polar research institution or field station actively pursuing outreach, public consultation or community based research, please email your story or suggestions for a story to This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.!

© Ricardo Matias, Jukes Liu, Linde van Bets, Henrik Christiansen, Quentin Jossart (left to right)

Introducing the UKPN Social Science blog!

The UK Polar Network has a new blog which will feature essays and articles from the UK branch of APECS. For its inaugural post, Mika Laiho discusses 'Polar Social Science' and implications for the broader research community.

Mika Laiho is a former postgraduate student at the European Institute (LSE) and Arctic Centre (University of Lapland). Now political geography researcher at Durham University, Mika's ambition is to critique EU governance through a post-structural deconstruction of carbon (extraction and combustion) geographies of Arctic space. In his free time he acts as an advocate of Polar Social Science through UKPN and APECS (which are both organisations created and run voluntarily by early career scientists from around the world).

Communicating conservation research to a young audience

Sciullo Luana Polar Outreach Blog 2015

Science has always been a fundamental subject taught in every curriculum beginning from an early age. It never ceases to amaze me, however, how much of an understanding of ecology and the environment these students seem to grasp at a much younger age than I can recall. Since environmental issues like climate change have been at the forefront of various media outlets, it is no surprise that students are being taught the basics of climate change, its effects, and where these impacts are most detrimental. Engaging in youth outreach with respect to environmental issues, and specifically the effects of climate change, must extend somewhat beyond these basics therefore, to help engage a younger audience and encourage them to always continue to ask questions.

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On travelling to the Earth’s largest ice sheet to look for its tiniest creatures

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Tents at Subglacial Lake Whillans (Photo: Trista Vick-Majors).

In addition to highlighting outreach efforts by polar researchers, this blog is also a place to highlight polar research projects by APECS members; written in a way that is compelling and accessible for a broad audience. Below is our first entry of this type, written by Trista Vick-Majors of Montana State University.

"Water, water everywhere. Nor any drop to drink." – The Rime of the Ancient Mariner

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The Ikaahuk Archaeology Project: Consultation and Outreach on Banks Island, NWT

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Ikaahuk Archaeology Project team members working on an archaeology site on Banks Island, NWT.

Hello from London Ontario, Canada! I am an anthropology PhD student from the University of Western Ontario. In celebration of International Polar Week I am excited to write this blog post that discusses community-based archaeology in the Canadian Arctic and the consultation and outreach initiatives being undertaken as part of the Ikaahuk Archaeology Project.

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Inspiring Young Minds to Pursue STEM Careers

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Ellyn Enderlin is a Research Assistant Professor at the University of Maine. Her research interests include glaciers, ice sheets, icebergs, and ice-ocean interactions. The photo shows Ellyn working with Gordon Hamilton, also faculty at the University of Maine, to collect GPS measurements from a helicopter in Antarctica in October 2014.

When I was in 6th grade, I distinctly remember measuring rainfall in a homemade rain gauge hanging from a tree outside of my mom's house. Although I was always interested in science and nature, I wasn't taking rainfall measurements for fun; I was working on my science fair project. Obviously it wasn't the outcome of the competition that was important to me, because I can't remember how I ranked relative to my peers, it was the execution and presentation of the project that really stand-out in my mind. In fact, this science fair project may have unconsciously inspired me to attend my undergraduate alma mater, Lehigh University, because I still remember the trip to Lehigh's campus to present my project and tour the science and engineering facilities on campus. A colleague and friend of mine also recently shared that the Science Olympiad inspired him to work hard in high school and pursue a college degree!

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Engaging audiences with field biology

LIesenberg Carsten Polar Outreach Blog 2015

Each year, zoos around the world celebrate International Polar Bear Day on February 27th. This year, as part of the festivities at the Toronto Zoo, I was invited to give a public lecture on polar bear research and conservation efforts to zoo patrons, volunteers, keepers, and administrators. As a polar bear researcher, I was excited at the prospect of having a room full of people all keenly interested in polar bears, to not only share what I have learned in my doctoral studies, but to hear the perspectives and questions from the general public on the state of polar bear conservation.

It doesn't take an Internet super sleuth to find a whole plethora of information on polar bear biology online. Knowing that my audience was going to be full of polar bear enthusiasts and zoo professionals who have already memorized the basic tenants of polar bear biology, I worked with the Toronto Zoo outreach staff to bill my presentation as an insiders look into polar bear research.

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Seal Team 6

Roxanne Amy Patches

As a graduate student at the University of Alaska Anchorage, I am part of a six-person science team that studies reproduction and molt in Weddell seals. Having already spent almost two seasons at McMurdo Station in Antarctica, I appreciate the surreal nature of living in one of the world's most extreme environments, and realize that the experience is something most people can only dream of. With this in mind, I feel very strongly that our research should be integrated with education to the largest extent possible. When our field team arrived back in Alaska following our very first season on "the ice", a fellow graduate student, Amy Kirkham, and I collaborated with a PolarTREC teacher to develop a Weddell seal-themed outreach program for Anchorage School District K-12 students.

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What's the Deal with Polar Week?

The EOC is busy planning for March Polar Week 2015 (March 22-28)! What is Polar Week? It's a time to celebrate how cool the Polar Regions are and the amazing research that happens there. Polar Week aims to celebrate the beauty and diversity of the Polar Regions through education. Events are held world-wide to connect and educate the public about all things polar. There are two International Polar Weeks each year, one in March and one in September, which coincide with the equinoxes– the only time where everywhere on Earth has 12 hours of daylight.

Now more than ever, Polar Week celebrations are of high importance. Climate change is rapidly effecting the Polar Regions and the Aboriginal peoples who make those regions their home. Industries are increasingly making their way to the Polar Regions, which has impacts on the environment, infrastructure, and local communities. These issues are not just a "polar problem", but a global problem that requires global cooperation for a solution. Polar Week can be a time to stress the importance of global communication and cooperation. Polar researchers need to work with educators, community members and politicians to teach the public, especially youth, about these problems and inspire them to come together to work towards solutions.

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Reddit AMA Polar Week Activity

As part of International Polar Week 2015, members of US APECS organized and held an AMA (Ask Me Anything!) live question and answer session on Reddit in the sub-Reddit r/iama ( The live session was held on 28 March, from 20:30 until approximately 22:00 Eastern Time. This was US APECS's first attempt at holding a live Q&A forum online. Participants for this AMA included Chelsea Thompson, who specializes in Arctic atmospheric chemistry and air-snow interactions; Jeff Bowman, who specializes in polar microbiology; and Alex Thornton, who specializes in Antarctic ecology and marine birds and mammals. Overall the AMA was a success and a very positive experience. We received a variety of questions, many of which were about our experiences working in the Polar Regions, what it is like to be a polar researcher, and how we got into this field of research. Penguins were also a very popular topic of discussion. We only received one silly question, but no rude questions or comments and overall everyone was respectful and genuinely interested in our research and experiences. Several of the people that we had exchanges with said they had students or younger family members who would be very excited to learn about polar research and one teacher expressed an interest in trying to incorporate this area of science into her class. From this first experience, this forum appears to be a good method for outreach to a potentially very large and diverse audience who otherwise would likely not be exposed to our fields of research. This activity was arranged on relatively short-notice so that we would coincide with Polar Week, but in a future AMA, we would like to involve even more researchers and schedule enough time in advance to better promote the session to get more public involvement.

A personal reflection on outreach

Welcome to the APECS Polar Outreach Blog! The APECS Education and Outreach Committee will use this space to feature outreach activities in the Polar Regions, provide resources for scientists interested in outreach and act as a forum to discuss all things related to these types of activities. Our hope is that this blog will also be interesting to the general public and serve as a point of access to interesting science stories and examples.

In gathering content for this blog, I found it important to reflect on my own ideas about outreach and science education. Outreach has become a central focus amongst scientists and researchers. In a very explicit case, the US National Science Foundation (NSF) requires all applications to include a 'broader impacts' section, where applicants specify and report on how they plan to disseminate research results to the public as well as build partnerships with society and industry. While not constrained to outreach only, the NSF example emphasizes the importance of public communication for scientists and researchers. For researchers working in the Polar Regions, there are many reasons why this type of interaction is understood to be critical to a successful research program: often remote and logistically-difficult work sites, the need for community support, and the sometimes politically charged nature of the Arctic and Antarctic. Indeed, major polar conferences often include an outreach component or even an 'Outreach Day'. But what do we mean when we say outreach? And science outreach? Do polar researchers across the world have a common understanding of these concepts?

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