Fellowship promotes cooperation between Switzerland and Australia in polar research | Polarjournal
Dr. Xavier Mertz was a key member of the Mawson Expedition to Antarctica 1911-1914. Unfortunately, he did not survive the return leg of a tour on the continent, dying on January 8, 1913. As the first Swiss in Antarctica, he is the namesake for the new fellowship program. Images: Frank Hurley / Xavier Mertz from the book “Xavier Mertz, Lost in Antarctica”

Swiss and Australians first worked together in polar research over 100 years ago, when the Swiss polar explorer Dr. Xavier Mertz took part in Mawson’s expedition to Antarctica. Now, the new Mertz Fellowship Program will further strengthen and financially support collaboration between Swiss and Australian higher education and research institutions, Switzerland’s Federal Department of Foreign Affairs (FDFA) announced yesterday. The fellowship is aimed at young researchers in the field of polar and high alpine research.

Less than two years after the signing of the research agreement between Switzerland and Australia, the Embassy of Switzerland in Australia, with the support of the Swiss Polar Institute, launched the Mertz Fellowship Program to foster links between polar and high altitude research institutions in the two countries through scientific networking and joint projects.

The program is named after Dr. Xavier Mertz, who was the first Swiss to set foot on the Antarctic continent. It was thanks to his experience in skiing and mountaineering that Sir Douglas Mawson decided to hire Mertz as a ski instructor and the only non-British for the first Australian scientific Antarctic expedition (1911 to 1914).

The Mertz Fellowship is a further step to strengthen the research cooperation between Switzerland and Australia. Back in November 2020, the head of the Australian Antarctic Division, Kim Ellis, signed the agreement between the two countries for close research cooperation. Photo: Dan Broun, AAD

According to a press release, the fellowship is intended to promote the mobility of doctoral students and early-career researchers based in Switzerland or Australia. Their active participation in polar and high altitude research is supported by short-term exchange visits and joint projects. The program aims to develop long-term scientific links and partnerships between Switzerland and Australia.

Beginning this year, a grant of 10,000 Australian dollars will be made available annually to be used for travel and living expenses. The application deadline for 2022 is October 30.

The Mertz Fellowship Program is administered by the Embassy of Switzerland in Australia and is conducted in collaboration with the Swiss Polar Institute. Funding is provided by the Swissnex network, which is part of the State Secretariat for Education, Research and Innovation (SERI).

Perhaps successful applicants will soon be able to participate in expeditions on the new Australian research icebreaker “RV Nuyina”. Photo: Viorel Vlase

Applicants must be working at a Swiss university and/or research institution or at an Australian university or research institution to be eligible for assessment. The nationality of the applicants is irrelevant. However, applications must include evidence of collaboration with a “host institution” in the other country.

According to the FDFA, the fellowship is open to all disciplines interested in the polar regions and high mountains. Interdisciplinary initiatives as well as initiatives e.g. from the social sciences, humanities and economics are also desired.

For more information on the scholarship, visit the DFA website: https://www.eda.admin.ch/countries/australia/de/home/aktuell/news.html/content/countries/australia/en/meta/news/2022/September/mertz-fellowship

Julia Hager, PolarJournal

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