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ScienceWe are Arctic and Antarctic scientists celebrating International Polar Week! Ask us anything!

Sep 23rd 2017 by Polar_Science • 22 Questions • 72 Points

For this International Polar Week, members of the Association of Polar Early Career Scientists (APECS; www.apecs.is) are highlighting how we all live in a #PolarWorld, where issues happening in the poles affect everyone on the globe. To help celebrate, we want to discuss the interconnectivity of Earth, international collaborations, and people living and working in the poles. APECS is the future of polar science; ask us anything!

As we’re logging in from around the world (Belgium, Canada, India, Portugal, South Africa, New Zealand, United Kingdom, and the United States), you can expect our answers over the next 24-hours. You can also join in on the Polar Week discussions across social media at #PolarWeek and #PolarWorld, or learn more about APECS’ celebrations here.

APECS members participating in today’s iAMA are, in alphabetical order by surname:

  • Tonya Burgers is an ocean chemist from Canada and collects seawater samples to measure dissolved inorganic carbon to understand rates of ocean acidification and air-sea CO2 exchange in the Arctic.
  • Henrik Christiansen is a marine biologist from Belgium and investigates the connectivity and adaptation of Southern Ocean fish.
  • Archana Dayal is a biogeochemist from the UK and studies snow and ice microbes/biogeochemistry in the High Arctic (Svalbard) for her PhD. (Twitter)
  • Jean Holloway is a scientist in Canada who is interested in how permafrost is responding to climate change in the Canadian Arctic. (Twitter)
  • Kyle Mayers is a marine biologist from the UK, and interested in studying the interactions between algae and their grazers (zooplankton). (Twitter)
  • Ricardo Molina is a scientist from Guatemala and working in the United States, and his research is part of the The Polar Earth Observing Network (POLENET) project.
  • Swati Nagar is a biologist from India, studied freshwater lakes and interested in conducting outreach activities in polar sciences for students and public. (Twitter)
  • Gabriela Roldan is a researcher from Argentina and works in New Zealand, and studies connections that Antarctic Gateway cities construct, resulting in a unique “Antarctic identity." (https://twitter.com/Antarcticdentty)
  • Marius Rossouw is a plant ecophysiologist from South Africa, trying to understand how sub-Antarctic ferns are coping with climate change. (Twitter)
  • José Seco is a Marine biologist from Portugal, and is interested in looking to the pathway of heavy metals on the marine food web (from crustaceans, fish, squid, marine birds). (Twitter)
  • Sara Strey is an atmospheric scientist in the United States, studying interactions between the Arctic and midlatitudes from the perspective of air sea interactions. (Twitter)
  • Alex Thornton is a marine ecologist from Alaska in the United States, and is interested in studying how polar marine mammals and seabirds respond to environmental change. (Twitter)
Q:

Are you vegan?

A:

Yes, I have been vegan for 15+ years. It started for the environment and quickly my stance was confirmed for myself the more I learn about sustainable agriculture, climate change, health benefits, etc. I live in a country where it's possible to have access to all the nutrition I need through a complete vegan diet, so I adhere to it, though also work with subsistence hunters who do not have that luxury. -Alex


Q:

Are you vegan?

A:

I don't think anyone is obligated to do anything. By those standards, everyone should be vegan. Most polar scientists are already doing a tremendous amount to help conserve our natural world and promote sustainable use of resources, so an extra burden should not inherently be placed on them. The information is out there for everyone - not just scientists. We all do what we can and I know many of us are continually striving to be even better! :) -Alex


Q:

Google's free my dude, 5 min of research will show that animal ag is a huge driver of climate change and biodiversity loss, water wastage, etc. So it's pretty hypocritical for people who care about climate change or actually work in the field to support such an environmentally devastating industry for their taste buds. Sorry to burst your ignorant bubble.

A:

I wouldn't say it is a matter of we don't care. People come into polar science for a variety of different reasons, and although environmental conservation is a core factor in what we do, sometimes the science of these environments is enough to draw people in. I have many friends who work in environmental science who make an active life choice to reduce consumption of meat, palm oil and animal products. Sometimes it can be difficult in stressful environments (and harsh environments) to maintain these practices, even though sometimes it is possible. Scientists (esp. Polar scientists) are communicating to people all the time about the impacts of anthropogenic climate change on these environments. So through this we hope people will change their lifestyles. I hope this makes sense, apologies I am on the move :) Kyle


Q:

What do you want to see being achieved within your lifetime?

A:

On a strictly personal level: I'm hoping we improve research capabilities so that we can use better biologgers and find out where s many animals go over the winter in Antarctica.

On a more global level: I'd love to see the international community work to strengthen policy like CCAMLR and adopt something similar in the Arctic, plus the addition of a lot more marine reserves (protected areas).

-Alex


Q:

What do you want to see being achieved within your lifetime?

A:

I'm going to answer this like Alex did.

On a personal level, I would like all research to be available to all people. Which it currently is not...

And on a more global scale, a larger research effort in the sub-Antarctic region. Few people knew it exist, but some of the largest climactic changes are happening there! (besides, it is the most beautiful area on the planet)

-Marius


Q:

What do you want to see being achieved within your lifetime?

A:

On a lighter note - tourism might hit through the roof, if one were to find polar bears and penguins together!! Thanks, it is a privilege to be in this field :) - Archana.


Q:

What do you want to see being achieved within your lifetime?

A:

Wow, didn't know that - interesting bit of information! Thanks Gabriela and welcome to the thread :) -Archana


Q:

What are the most sobering changes due to climate change you have observed at either pole?

A:

Since I spent a considerable time in the High Arctic (Svalbard) last year for my field work, the residents of Longyearbyen shared about unexpected rain in months when it actually should have been snowing which led to landslides and damages to their buildings. Also, this year the Svalbard seed vault partially flooded because of permafrost thaw, an unexpected event again (https://www.theguardian.com/environment/2017/may/19/arctic-stronghold-of-worlds-seeds-flooded-after-permafrost-melts) Archana.


Q:

What are the most sobering changes due to climate change you have observed at either pole?

A:

My work is on the islands between Antarctica and Africa. Historically, mean annual temperatures hovered around 6 degrees Celsius. We measured daily maximums in excess of 25 degrees Celsius. Last year we had dryspells that were unthinkable 10 years ago. Not to mention the range expansion of the various invasive plants...

The sub-Antarctic is changing quicker than anybody thought... But I can keep you busy all day in this topic! :)

-Marius


Q:

Thanks for answering Kyle! I too figured it'd be pretty cold all year round.

A:

If you look at the average temperatures for Alert in Canada (~82 deg North, Longyearbyen is ~79 in Svalbard) you can see it is MUCH colder! http://www.holiday-weather.com/alert_ca/averages/ - Kyle


Q:

Lol pretty crazy. I had to put on a coat just reading that :p I think I'd die at - 33 Celsius.

A:

Don't go to Alaska in the winter either then! :P -Alex


Q:

Lol pretty crazy. I had to put on a coat just reading that :p I think I'd die at - 33 Celsius.

A:

Thank you for your question. Before there were some whaling stations and also some hunting station for other animals like fur seals. You can still visit and see some of these abandoned builds in some Islands. What I do when I have free time, it depends a lot on the kind of expedition that I’m doing, if I’m on a base, going for walks, ski, take some pictures or watch a movie if the weather is not that good, read a book or watch a movie. If I’m on a cruise mainly try to look for whales and birds, go to the gym from time to time and read a book watch a movie. But normally the field season are very intensive so we don’t have much free time, what makes the time go super-fast! José


Q:

As someone who is considering an education in climate science. What are some fields that are in high demand in the near future?

A:

Could you be a bit more specific about what you're interested in? There are emerging areas in different fields, though data science is always a huge one. Are you interested in getting into the field, improving policy, teaching about climate science, researching CO2 like at Mauna Loa, or something else entirely? Glad to try to help out. -Alex


Q:

As someone who is considering an education in climate science. What are some fields that are in high demand in the near future?

A:

It's great that you are interested in climate Science and teaching people. You can visit APECS website for more options, as how can you contribute to the science as well as to the society by making people aware about Polar Science -swati


Q:

As someone who is considering an education in climate science. What are some fields that are in high demand in the near future?

A:

Great question! We would love to welcome you to polar science! Some of the most healthy areas of funding in atmospheric science right now with some pretty big field campaigns coming up in the next few years are in the Arctic. -Sara


Q:

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A:

As my colleagues have pointed out, these regions are polar opposites but there are more things in common between than not. Many scientists work in both polar regions, as environmental changes affect both. Many policies have been applied to both regions too. And with regards to accessibility to the Polar Regions, both are difficult to operate and distant, so similar logistics and techno capabilities are used to improve the work that researchers are doing there - Gabriela


Q:

Thanks for doing this AMA, folks! I've been fascinated by the Arctic and Antarctica for years, and hope to one day be able to get to either visit or work in both or either place in the public safety sector, I.e. Firefighting or dispatching.

Anyways, as I said, I'm fascinated by the Arctic and Antarctica and love just how furnished and town like both McMurdo, and To a lesser extend Armundsen-Scott, are. For instance, I doubt that most people know that they're both equipped with basketball courts, saunas, and music rooms. I also love that Barrow, Alaska has a football team with an outdoor stadium.

Therefore, with all that being said, what is, in each of y'all's opinion, the coolest/most surprising feature that is available to y'all in your respective regions and areas that you wouldn't have expected to find? Thanks again for y'all's work and service, and enjoy the upcoming summer in Antarctica, and winter in the Arctic.

A:

The settlement of Longyearbyen in Svalbard has a number of surprising features, one of which is the "world's northernmost club" called Huset (The House)! Rather than turn the lights up at the end of the night to get everyone to leave, they just opened the thick curtains during July, allowing the bright sunshine in! It was quite surreal and I guess the phrase "party until the sun comes up" sort of applied (not that the sun went down)! There was also a tattoo parlour, a liquor store and a recently established greenhouse!

-Kyle


Q:

That is awesome!!! I love how even in some of the world's harshest environments, people still find ways to let their hair down and have a good time.

Thanks for a great answer.

A:

Agree with Kyle :) In Antarctica while I was at the Indian station, I also got the chance to visit the Russian, Chinese and Australian stations. What really surprised me the most was that the Australians (at Davis station) had their own brewery, a small greenhouse (using hydroponics) and their own small music hall furbished with musical instruments! It was really cool :D - Archana.


Q:

Thanks for your answer! I love how music always seems to find a way in to people's lives, even in some of the world's most extreme places.

A:

Since Archana mentioned breweries - I was also very surprised to find out that Longyearbyen (in Svalbard) has the world's northernmost brewery! I went on a brewery tour there earlier this year! I was super impressed with all the amenities in the town of Longyearbyen, there was a local gym with a swimming pool and sauna, a great cafe that I frequented often, and the internet was high-speed and fantastic! (and don't forget about the nightclub that Kyle mentioned earlier :P) Most of my work (as an oceanographer) in the Arctic is conducted from an icebreaker (CCGS Amundsen), which is also a very comfortable place to live. There is a cooking staff that do an amazing job feeding everyone on-board, there are comfortable lounges, a bar that is open every other day, as well as a gym! -Tonya


Q:

Why are most of you essentially biologists in one form or another? There's really not a wide cross section of the sciences here, it's just mostly offshoots of biology. If you feel you are the future of polar science, why not perhaps have a more diverse group participating in the AMA?

A:

Most of us here today aren't biologists; while some of us do work in the very broad field of biology, the rest work in atmospheric sciences, geochemistry, botany, human dimensions, freshwater lakes, geography/permafrost, ecology, and more. Of course there are other fields, but we represent just one cross-section of those many options for those interested in working in the Arctic or Antarctic - and we definitely are the future of polar science! We hold Polar Week AMAs twice a year and, each time, we have a slightly different representation of scientists dependent on who is available and interested. In the past, if we've had questions we simply can't answer, we've tracked down other APECS members to help. -Alex


Q:

To add to Alex's point, polar science is very interdisciplinary, requiring biologists to work together with physicists, chemists, geologists (and others) to better understand our research (and vice versa).

A:

I agree with this. Even though I'm mainly an atmospheric scientist, I also have to be an oceanographer and a sea ice expert to perform my research. -Sara


Q:

To add to Alex's point, polar science is very interdisciplinary, requiring biologists to work together with physicists, chemists, geologists (and others) to better understand our research (and vice versa).

A:

Hi, kneo24, thanks for your question. At APECS, we have early career researchers from other fields too. The point, as Archana said, it's a matter of time slot in which volunteers are available. You can visit APECS website to have a look for wide variety of activities as well as the members from different parts of the world. - swati