National Research Council (NRC) Seeking Input on Science Priorities

The National Research Council (NRC) Committee to Advise NSF Science Priorities for Antarctic and Southern Ocean Research is seeking your input.

This committee is charged to articulate a strategic vision for NSF’s investments in Antarctic and Southern Ocean research– anchored by community engagement and input, and building upon the broad vision of key scientific questions identified in the 2011 NRC report “Future Science Opportunities in the Antarctic and Southern Ocean“, as well as other relevant efforts such as the SCAR Horizon Scan currently underway.  The goal of this study is to develop consensus recommendations on priorities for compelling research that could feasibly be undertaken in the coming decade or so, and outline practical steps forward to implement this research.  Our scope stretches across topics as diverse as geology and geophysics, terrestrial and aquatic biology, glaciology and ice core studies, ocean and atmospheric sciences, astrophysics and space weather, as well as cross-cutting areas such as education, public engagement, and data management.

As input for this study, the committee would like to draw widely on the expertise and experience of people across the Antarctic and Southern Ocean science communities.  We are planning a series of outreach events to be held at various locations across the country, where you may have an opportunity to share your thoughts and ideas in person (dates and locations will be circulated once the plans for these events are further solidified).   In addition, we’ve set up an online “Virtual Town Hall” at the link given below, where you are invited to submit your ideas in writing.

This NRC study presents an important opportunity to help shape the future of Antarctic and Southern Ocean research, and we do hope you will choose to take advantage of this opportunity.   The committee welcomes and values your ideas.  The window for input will remain open for the next several months (until November 1, 2014), so you should have ample time to contribute.

Please feel free to share this email and the link with any of your colleagues who you think may be interested.  Questions can be directed to Lauren Brown at the NRC:

Thanks in advance for your input,
Robin Bell, Lamont Doherty Earth Observatory of Columbia University, Committee Co-Chair
Bob Weller, Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution, Committee Co-Chair

Antarctic Scientists Work on 20-Year Goals


Antarctica has been the focus of a major conference in Queenstown over Easter. Dozens of scientists came together, and for once they were not after answers, but questions. The world’s best Antarctic scientists say we cannot ignore the icy continent.

“As we always say, what happens in Antarctica actually has global implications,” says American oceanographer Chuck Kennicutt.

Fifty-five scientists from 24 countries have convened in Queenstown for the first-ever Antarctic and Southern Ocean Horizon Scan conference. Their aim was to come up with the most important questions about Antarctica that need to be answered in the next 20 years. Delegates submitted 800 questions, and they were culled to about 100 over the three days of the conference.

“They were questions about how ice sheets relate to sea level, changes in the ocean, changes in the atmosphere and also changes in weather and long-term climate patterns,” says Dr Kennicutt.

Scientists say sea level rise caused by Antarctic ice melt is likely to be a major issue for New Zealand. There may be another marine-based problem – increased acidity in the Southern Ocean, which threatens our shellfish stocks.

“To which extent that might be happening is something that for sure we don’t know,” says marine ecologist Jose Xavier. “But what we are witnessing today and our predictions for the future is that they will have an effect, and probably a negative effect, regarding ocean acidification in New Zealand waters.”

That’s just one of the questions deemed most important. It’s now hoped they can set out to answer them, with a more cohesive direction than they have had in the past.

For more information, including video, see the item on the 3 News website.

For further information on the Horizon Scan, visit the Horizon Scan section.

Polar Research Board E-Newsletter


Message from the Chair

The earth is changing, and the polar regions, as usual, are changing faster and by larger amounts than the global average. To any student of the planet, this is old news. Old in the sense that it has long been clear that change is happening today, and old in the sense that the earth is always changing. What is new is that there is a new dominant agent of change, one that can think, plan, and understand that it is responsible for change. The explosion of humans on the planet, both in numbers and in resource needs, has created a collision of sorts between our awesome ability to change the earth, and our fledgling ability to responsibly manage that power.


Read more……