Thank You to Those Delegates & Participants Attended SCAR Open Science Conference 2016

SCAR Research Day - Wednesday, 24 August

SCAR's mission is to advance Antarctic research, and to promote scientific knowledge, understanding and education on any aspect of the Antarctic region. To this end, SCAR is charged with the initiation and international co-ordination of Antarctic and Southern Ocean research that is relevant to science and beneficial to global society.

One major SCAR activity of particular relevance in defining the most important research questions that need to be addressed in the coming years, was the 1st SCAR Antarctic and Southern Ocean Science Horizon Scan, carried out in 2014, providing a long-term vision for high-impact cross-cutting Antarctic research and will assist in guiding the scientific work of SCAR.

The SCAR Science Day (Wednesday, 24 August) is designed to help encourage participation of the entire Antarctic research community in shaping the future direction of SCAR research. The presentations outline the most important topics covered by the Scientific Research Programmes (SRPs) and related activities in relation to the Horizon Scan questions, and look forward to what is needed to address emerging priorities. The current SPRs only run for another 2-4 years, so its time for the SCAR community to start scoping out ideas for new research programmes and activities.

In addition to the plenary presentations and open discussion, there will be a Special Poster Session where activities of the SCAR groups, national committees, and union members will be featured.

The afternoon session involves more detailed discussions from the Scientific Standing Groups where new activities will be proposed, ideas and priorities discussed and much more. The main parts of these meetings are open for conference participants and your participation is encouraged.

This is your opportunity to learn more about SCAR, the research achievements and plans, and to help shape new projects.

Morning Plenary Abstracts:

John Storey

AAA has responded to the Horizon Scan by holding a special session at the AAA2015 workshop in Volcano, Hawaii, to develop a white paper. This paper defines the technical and logistical requirements needed to enable the scientific studies that address the key questions of the Horizon Scan. The white paper was submitted to COMNAP for their consideration as part of the 20-year Roadmap process. Meanwhile, considerable research effort is being applied by AAA members to the development of improved application of existing technologies, in order to continue to make progress in all the key areas previously identified.

Tom Bracegirdle and Nancy Bertler

The major focus of AntarcticClimate21 (AntClim21) is on Antarctic and Southern Ocean climate projections to 2100 AD. This involves both characterising the slowly-varying mean climate responses to projected future anthropogenic forcing scenarios and the variability about these mean responses. A key aspect is the use of in-situ observations and longer-term proxy records of current and past conditions to help improve estimates of future climate from climate model projections. A number of aspects of the SCAR Horizon Scan (HS) are being addressed, relating in particular to stratospheric ozone recovery, Southern Ocean change, impacts of sea ice, and extremes.

New areas of science and scientific capability that are emerging at present include: (i) an improved understanding of dynamic linkages between Antarctica and lower latitudes, (ii) new insights into the dynamics of the Southern Ocean response to external forcing alongside rapidly expanding ocean observation networks, (iii) seasonal prediction of the Antarctic environment (e.g. sea ice), (iv) advances in merging paleoclimate modelling and proxy climate records, and (v) Antarctic-wide (and even global) high-resolution climate model simulations of past and projected climate (e.g. Antarctic CORDEX and HiRESMIP). In this talk these emerging areas will be set into the context of the Horizon Scan exercise and options for merging into broader follow-on research programmes will be discussed.

Peter Convey1, Huw Griffiths1, Jan Strugnell2, Don Cowan3

1British Antarctic Survey, High Cross, Madingley Rd, Cambridge, UK
2Department of Ecology, Environment and Evolution, School of Life Sciences, La Trobe University, Melbourne, 3086, Victoria, Australia
3UP Genomics Research Institute, University of Pretoria, Pretoria 0028, South Africa

The SRP, State of the Antarctic Ecosystem (AntEco), was established in 2013 and seeks to increase scientific knowledge, from genes to ecosystems that, coupled with increased knowledge of species biology, can be used to advance the conservation and management of Antarctic ecosystems.  The AntEco community actively contributed to the initial Horizon Scan questions generated and was well-represented at the Horizon Scan event. As a result, the final Horizon Scan questions adopted appropriately reflect the overall priorities previously identified by AntEco. The Horizon Scan is predicated on a 20 year future timescale, but we highlight that the AntEco community is already addressing Horizon Scan questions, for instance, relating to biodiversity knowledge, human and climate change impacts and conservation of the Antarctic Environment, through events such as The Monaco Assessment that took place in 2015. Similarly the AntEco community continues to address the history and drivers of Antarctic biology using biogeographic and molecular biology tools. AntEco is contributing strongly to several developing SCAR initiatives with a strong Horizon Scan focus, including Antarctic Aerobiology, Eradication in Antarctica and the Antarctic Near-Shore and Terrestrial Observing System (ANTOS), although we must emphasise that participation in all of these is a function of national science funding decisions and strategies not in our or SCAR's control.

Priorities for the future include:

  • Influence national funding strategies to leverage support for our science priorities
  • Ensure accurate and appropriate representation of the size and activity of the SCAR biological research community in the next generation of SCAR scientific programmes to be developed
  • Stimulate and facilitate trans-national collaborations for improved regional access and enhanced research efficiency
  • Continue trans-disciplinary research initiatives such as with AntClim21, PACE and AnT-ERA
  • Engage with external sponsorship/award initiatives to increase profile of SCAR science.

Julian Gutt

The structure of AnT‐ERA comprising three main levels of biological organisation, essential organisational principles, major achievements and future plans are briefly explained. Scientific highlights are clustered into coarse themes, e.g. ecosystem dynamics, vulnerability and complexity, and attributed to most Horizon Scan questions of the cluster "Antarctic life on the precipice". The condensed output of another brainstorming event and an opinion survey on future research directions referring to the Paris UNFCCC climate conference are presented.

Laura DeSantis,, National Institute of Oceanography & Geophysics, Trieste, Italy
Tim Naish,, Victoria University of Wellington, Wellington, New Zealand

The overarching goal of PAIS is to improve confidence in predictions of Antarctic ice sheet and sea-level response to future climate change and ocean warming. PAIS is, therefore, strongly aligned with one of the six priorities of the SCAR Horizon Scan (Kennicutt, Chown et al., 2014); “Antarctic ice sheets and sea-level - Understand how, where and why ice sheets lose mass”. To achieve its goals, PAIS facilitates research aimed at understanding the sensitivity of East, West, and Antarctic Peninsula Ice Sheets to a broad range of climatic and oceanic conditions. Study intervals span a range of timescales, including past “greenhouse” climates warmer than today, and times of more recent warming and ice sheet retreat during glacial terminations. The PAIS research philosophy is based on data-data and data-model integration and intercomparison, and the development of data transects, extending from the ice sheet interior to the deep sea. The data-transect concept links ice core, continental, ice sheet-proximal, offshore, and far-field records of past ice sheet behaviour and sea level, and is yielding an unprecedented view of past changes in ice sheet geometry, volume, and ice sheet-ocean interactions. These integrated data sets are enabling robust testing of a new generation of coupled Glacial Isostatic Adjustment-Ice Sheet-Atmosphere-Ocean models that include new reconstructions of past and present ice bed topography and bathymetry, and processes that influence marine ice sheet instability. PAIS is accomplishing its objectives by: 1) supporting the planning of new data-acquisition missions using emerging technologies; 2) encouraging data sharing and integration of spatially targeted transect data with modelling studies; and 3) initiating/expanding cross linkages among Antarctic research communities.

Highlights to date include:

  1. New knowledge of thresholds in the stability and behavior of the Antarctic ice sheet include: (a) relatively ice free Antarctic environment in a world >650ppm atmospheric CO2, (b) a dynamic terrestrial ice sheet between 650-400ppm, and  (c) dynamic marine based ice between 400-300ppm.
  2. Improved knowledge of the rate and contribution of the Antarctic ice mass to sea-level rise during the last deglaciation.
  3. Dissemination of policy-relevant PAIS research and contributions to the IPCC 5th Assessment Report and new, ongoing IPCC activities.
  4. New predictions of Antarctic ice-sheet contribution to future sea-level rise under IPCC representative concentration pathways  using ice sheet models tested and validated  on past climates with boundary conditions that are relevant to future projections.
  5. Co-ordination of the Antarctic paleoclimate community through PAIS PRAMSO to secure scheduling of a US$50 million transect of Antarctic IODP drilling expeditions (Wilkes Land, Ross Sea, Amundsen Sea) in 2017/2018 and 2018/2019.

Future plans include:

  1. PAIS is hosting its first international research symposium on September 10-16th 2017 in Trieste (Italy). The aim of the conference is to present and discuss recent results that address still open questions in understanding the sensitivity of the Antarctic Ice Sheet and its contribution to past and future sea level and climate change (e.g. SCAR Horizon Scan).
  2. The conference will identify key targets to be achieved by a future Geoscience program after PAIS and to develop a strategic research focus towards key policy relevant knowledge gaps for IPCC AR6 report (e.g. improve understanding of ice-ocean and ocean-sea bed interactions, research cruises, future drilling employing also ANDRILL, subglacial  and shallow drilling facilities).
  3. PAIS aims to improve cross disciplinary linkages with other SCAR expert groups and SRPs and non-SCAR communities such as geodynamical, climatological, glaciological, oceanographic, ecosystem and ice cores communities, and also with those communities studying Arctic environmental change, since their work is crucial for understanding the processes and dynamics of the integrated system.
  4. Within the framework of the SCAR ARC Roadmap, PAIS is looking forward 10 years to the logistical and operational requirements of future data acquisition projects such as IODP and other offshore and nearshore geological drilling programs, subglacial drilling and investigations, ice coring, research cruises for cross-disciplinary sea bed mapping and for collecting geophysical data for paleobathymetric reconstructions of the Antarctic margin.

Terry J. Wilson - Ohio State University, School of Earth Sciences and Byrd Polar and Climate Research Center, Columbus, OH, USA

The Solid Earth Response and influence on Cryospheric Evolution (SERCE) scientific research programme aims to advance understanding of the interactions between the solid earth and the cryosphere to better constrain ice mass balance, ice dynamics and sea level change in a warming world. This overarching objective is being addressed through integrated analysis and incorporation of geological, geodetic and geophysical measurements into models of glacial isostatic adjustment (GIA) and ice sheet dynamics. Topics under investigation during the first 4 years of SERCE activities include crust and mantle structure beneath the ice sheets, measurements of solid earth deformation, feedbacks between solid earth deformation and ice sheet dynamics, modeling of glacial isostatic adjustment (GIA) driven by ice mass change in Antarctica incorporating new ice histories and geological, geodetic and geophysical measurements, and application of new GIA model results to improve ice mass balance estimates derived from data from current space missions.

Contemporary changes in bedrock elevation provide a critical proxy record of both past and modern ice mass change (HorScan Q.40), modulated by tectonics and the strength of the crust and mantle (HorScan Q.37).  New measurement campaigns have yielded extensive new information on crustal motions across Antarctica, providing critical constraints on ancient and modern ice mass change and global sea level since the Last Glacial Maximum, yet large differences in estimates remain between current models, mandating new, integrated data-modeling studies.  Better data sets and methods to isolate crustal motion signals due to modern ice mass change from the isostatic response to more ancient ice loss are clearly critical for Antarctica.  It is important at this stage to synthesize and integrate the extensive new geological and geophysical data sets with modeling efforts in a timeframe to contribute to IPCC AR6.

Seismological studies have significantly improved our knowledge of crust and mantle properties beneath large sectors of Antarctica (HorScan Q.37), documenting significant variations in the deep earth beneath the continent, particularly within West Antarctica.  Glacial isostatic modeling studies, constrained by a wealth of new geodetic crustal motion data, have shown regional variations in earth response to changing ice mass loads and have signaled the importance of ice mass change on centennial scales in regions underlain by weak, low viscosity upper mantle.  Together these emerging results point to the need for focusing research in directions that include enhanced efforts to develop model skills to simulate GIA on an earth with laterally varying deep earth structure, methods to invert the varying deep earth structure constrained by seismological and other geophysical techniques into rheological earth models, and interdisciplinary studies to improve ice history constraints, particularly for the late Holocene and Little Ice Age time periods.

The link between dynamic earth processes and ice sheets is especially important in Antarctica. Recent work has demonstrated that vertical displacements of Earth's surface due to ice load fluctuations can influence ice sheet stability (HorScan Q.28 and Q.32). Subglacial morphology and geological structure (HorScan Q.26) are primary influences on ice dynamics and subglacial hydrological regimes. Geothermal heat flux is a key control on ice behaviour and subglacial hydrology (HorScan Q.27).  Better understanding of Antarctic geothermal heat is emerging from crustal bedrock studies, direct point measurements and seismic studies, but these analyses are yielding contrasting results.  New focus on obtaining constraints on geothermal heat flux and integration of new data with ice sheet modeling is needed.  Remarkable ancient landscapes beneath ice cover reveal the history of interactions between ice and the solid earth and dating these landscapes using emerging techniques hold promise in developing new paradigms on landscape history and surface processes (HorScan Q.39). Understanding erosion processes and rates of geomorphological change across the subglacial terrain will enable scientists to decipher feedbacks between tectonic surface displacement, global climate and the growth and demise of ice sheets. Improved spatial coverage is needed for relative sea level records that provide historical data on ice mass change indicating when and where ice has been lost (HorScan Q.40).

Solid earth processes intersect with the evolution of climate, ice sheets and life, and these intersections are particularly suitable for new interdisciplinary investigations by SCAR science groups. Climate change and solid earth properties linked with crustal uplift and volcanism, including geothermal flux, influence biotic distributions, and the location and extent of ice-free refugia during more recent glacial periods would have been crucial for the survival of life in Antarctica.  Volcanism may affect ice sheet dynamics and continued documentation of the extent and timing of past and current volcanism in Antarctica is needed to better understand its effects on the lithosphere, ice sheets, climate and biogeography (HorScan Q.38).  Recent instrument deployments have documented ongoing magmatism beneath the West Antarctic ice sheet rapid uplift is already underway where recent ice loss has occurred and the underlying deep mantle is mechanically weak. Development of models for Earth deformation and volcanic activity as the ice sheet changes in the future (HorScan Q.41) are required to better constrain future trends.

Louise Newman*, Anna Wåhlin, Oscar Schofield, Sebastiaan Swart, Andrew Constable, Phillippa Bricher, the Scientific Steering Committee and Data Management Sub-Committee

The Southern Ocean Observing System (SOOS) developed out of the need for an internationally coordinated and integrated approach to the collection and delivery of observational data from the Southern Ocean. Current observation efforts are significant, but are predominantly organised through uncoordinated, short-term, single nation/disciplinary programs that leave large spatial and temporal gaps in key observations. Further, discovery of and access to the collected data is difficult and time consuming, if possible at all.

The vision for SOOS is ambitious. Sustained observations of dynamics and change of the physics, chemistry, geology and biology of the Southern Ocean system should be readily accessible. In turn, this will provide a foundation for the international scientific community to advance understanding of the Southern Ocean and for managers to address critical societal challenges, such as those clarified through the Horizon Scan initiative.

Achieving this ambitious plan will require shifts in the way that Southern Ocean observations are planned, funded, collected, and shared. What is the best way for us, the international community, to collect observations in a sustained way, to the benefit of all stakeholders? How can we ensure that fundamental observational data is available for you all to base your research projects on, and address the priority science questions?

SOOS is taking a structured, step-wise approach to develop this system. This presentation will outline the vision for SOOS, prompt discussion around the cultural and structural changes that are needed to achieve the vision, and describe the steps that SOOS is taking towards this vision.

Andrew Constable

ICED is a regional programme of Integrated Marine Biogeochemistry and Ecosystem Research (IMBER) and is also closely linked with SCAR. ICED is undertaking integrated circumpolar analyses to improve our understanding of change and the implications for Southern Ocean ecosystems and their management. A range of multidisciplinary research is underway and considerable progress has been made in three main areas: assessments of change; identifying and addressing major gaps in knowledge (focusing on links between biogeochemistry and food webs); and quantifying and modelling food webs.  A series of ICED community papers are planned for 2016-17 on scenarios of change, historical data rescue and synthesis, stakeholder engagement, polar food web diversity and functioning, and an ICED mid-term programme review.
Through IMBER, SCAR and associated programmes, ICED will ensure that its scientific activities reflect international as well as regional priorities. A current major focus is to more comprehensively assess (and where possible quantify) key impacts of change on Southern Ocean ecosystems. This will be achieved through the analysis and integration of available data together with development of models, scenarios and projections.

ICED is keen to continue to forge links with SCAR in order to enhance our joint scientific understanding and progress, and to strengthen the impact of our input to CCAMLR, CEP and other relevant bodies concerned with conservation and management of the Southern Ocean. We recommend SCAR endorses and encourages activities including: following up on the recommendations and capitalising on the opportunities generated from the recent Joint CCAMLR-CEP workshop; encouraging and facilitating the sharing of scientific expertise in understanding Southern Ocean ecosystems and change (including attending the ICED workshop on projections in 2017 and conference in 2018, and vice versa with ICED involvement in relevant SCAR activities); and ICED's ongoing work with SOOS. 

Daniela Liggett and Elizabeth Leane

The scope and scale of human activities in the Antarctic are increasing and are challenging established governance mechanisms.  The Horizon Scan questions in the “Human Presence” cluster acknowledge the trend of growing human engagement with the Antarctic, but it is still unclear exactly how human engagement might change and what the defining characteristics of human engagement with the Antarctic will be.  Broadly speaking, humanities scholars and social scientists are currently working on understanding the modalities of the changing engagement with the Antarctic, which underpin half of the questions in the "Human Presence" cluster.  In our presentation, we will briefly outline the progress that has been made with this work.  In addition, we will detail some of the research that has been undertaken, with a focus on addressing questions 76 (“How will external pressures and changes in the geopolitical configurations of power affect Antarctic governance and science?") and 78 (“How will regulatory mechanisms evolve to keep pace with Antarctic tourism?”).  Finally, we will discuss plans aimed at addressing other Horizon Scan questions, the challenges this brings along, and what other areas of work are currently being targeted by humanities scholars and social scientists. 

Peter Convey (British Antarctic Survey, Cambridge, United Kingdom)

SCAR’s Development Council (DC; was created several years ago in order to encourage awareness and development of alternative or previously unrecognised routes of enhancing SCAR’s international recognition and standing. In particular, the DC aims to identify new routes or opportunities to generate funding or other forms of support for SCAR’s scientific activities. SCAR has had a number of significant successes in recent years, most notably in the role of the Tinker Foundation in the creation and support of the Martha Muse Prize, the awarding of the Monaco Biodiversity Prize, sponsorship of important meetings such as the recent Monaco Antarctic Biodiversity Assessment, and in the wider recognition of the importance of and subsequently funding commitment to major international initiatives such as SOOS (Southern Ocean Observing System) and, it is to be hoped, ANTOS (Antarctic Near-shore and Terrestrial Observing System). The DC exists to assist SCAR and its component groups continue building on these successes. We see particular opportunities to develop new interactions for instance with industrial and tourism sponsors which, along with original thinking from national research communities, could considerably enhance highly positive activities such as the SCAR Fellowship and Visiting Professorship schemes, and create exciting ‘citizen science’ opportunities.

While the DC’s activities are not directly associated with the Horizon Scan outcomes, many initiatives to enhance SCAR’s science activities will build our component Groups’ capacities to do so. This year we have actively appealed to SCAR Delegates, SRP Chairs and other Group leaders to take up the challenge of assisting SCAR and the DC in identifying and pursuing new opportunities for such sources of national funding and support, by bringing these to our attention, and then mutually assisting in developing appropriate proposals. As with all SCAR bodies, DC members give their service entirely voluntarily, and we must all make the most efficient use of the limited time that we can give. With this background we emphasise that the DC itself cannot be a ‘proposal writing’ body, rather serving three particularly useful functions for SCAR:

  1. To encourage and facilitate an ‘opportunity seeking’ mindset in the leadership groups of SCAR (Delegates, SRPs, specialist and other Groups), developing greater engagement with these opportunities from the communities involved.
  2. To develop and provide over time a central resource of such opportunities that exist and/or have been attempted within the SCAR community; a spreadsheet is being constructed on the SCAR website of many available funding sources and other opportunities; realistically, it is unlikely that the different SCAR groups as a whole would become involved in more than probably 1-3 such bids in an annual cycle.
  3. To play an active role in ensuring that bids being developed by different SCAR groups do not mutually compromise each other; to do so we want to ensure that the DC and SCAR Executive are informed and involved at an early stage in the process of bid development, again to make the best use of SCAR’s limited resources and the most effective use of the voluntary efforts of all involved.