The Antarctic Circumnavigation Expedition (ACE) is the first project run by the Swiss Polar Institute (SPI), which was created in the spring of 2016. Natacha Pasche, the SPI’s deputy director, discusses why the expedition is so important and the impact it will have.
- Why did the SPI choose an Antarctic expedition for its first project?
First of all, it’s a great opportunity, which came to us in the form of a proposal from Ferring Pharmaceuticals. It’s also an ideal kickoff project because it’s groundbreaking in many respects. By circumnavigating Antarctica, this expedition will not only gather a large amount of meaningful data, but it will do so over a full season, something that has never been done before. The researchers will visit 12 subantarctic islands, some of which have never been studied. The aim will be to analyze their biodiversity and how they fit into the workings of the Southern Ocean. But most of all, the expedition will play host to 22 research projects that will have a significant impact in terms of new discoveries and interdisciplinary communication and collaboration. These projects will also provide us with a broader understanding of how this region functions and its role in global climate mechanics. It’s worth mentioning that researchers from more than 30 countries will be involved. This gives the SPI an opportunity to build an incredible network of contacts in the field of international polar research.
- What will happen to all the data that’s collected?
Broadly speaking, the Swiss Polar Institute will manage all the data generated by the research projects. During the expedition, we’ll have a data manager on board who will meticulously record all samples and measurements taken. Once the expedition is over, this data will be under the exclusive responsibility of the researchers for two years so that they can do their analyses, publish articles and get their findings out. The data will then become open source, and all the samples that have not been used – water, air, plants and plankton – will also return to the SPI.
- What other types of projects does the SPI have planned?
The most important ones include a project in conjunction with Grenoble University to look into creating a major glacier library. The idea will be to take core samples from glaciers around the world before they disappear and store them in the more permanent Antarctic ice. These glaciers are a treasure trove of information about the past and climate change. The library will preserve this heritage for future analyses. After the Antarctic circumnavigation, we’re also planning an Arctic one. Reconnaissance operations should take place in spring 2017. In addition, we’re working on the MOSAIC project, which is designed to study how ice forms in the Arctic. And there are many other interesting possibilities!
Swiss Polar institute on internet: http://polar.epfl.ch
Interview by Sarah Perrin
- Polar research
- Scientific work
- Southern Ocean
- Subantarctic islands
- Swiss Polar Institute