Antarctica was defined by the Antarctic Treaty of 1959 as a place of peace, cooperation and, above all, science. Since then, generations of scientists have conducted their work on and around the white continent, advancing knowledge about the role of Antarctica on our planet. However, such work also always involves financial costs, making it difficult to collect data in the field, especially for young aspiring researchers. But fortunately, there are also institutions that provide substantial support. Three of them awarded their grants on today’s birthday of the Antarctic Treaty.
Each year, the three institutions IAATO (International Association of Antarctic Tour Operators), COMNAP (Council of Managers of National Antarctic Programs) and SCAR (Scientific Committee for Antarctic Research) award grants to provide support to young researchers for their work in Antarctica. All three say they see this as “investing in the professional development of talented young scientists with the goal of improving our understanding of the human presence in Antarctica.” This year, the announcement of the fellows falls on the 63rd anniversary of the signing of the Antarctic Treaty. A deliberate move to emphasize the importance of scholarship and research in Antarctica.
The lucky winners of the various scholarships are Hanna Yevchun from the Ukrainian National Antarctic Research Center, Aanchal Jain from the Universidad Mayor in Chile, Eduaro Pizarro González from the Pontifical Catholic University in Chile and Antonio Polo Sánchez from the University of Salamanca, Spain. While Hanna Yechun is sponsored by SCAR, IAATO and COMNAP jointly support Antonio Sánchez. In addition, IAATO will present its own scholarship, launched in 2019, to Eduardo González, and COMNAP will present its own to Aanchal Jain.
The projects carried out by the recipients deal with very different topics. Hanna Yevchun’s project, supported by SCAR under the “Polar Initiative” launched by Prince Albert II of Monaco, will address the question of the effectiveness of different techniques for semi-automatic or automatic mapping of the main Antarctic plant communities, as well as penguin and kelp gull nesting sites.
In contrast, Aanchal Jain will explore the issue of plastic pollution in Antarctica and the implementation of plastic waste prevention policies. Eduardo González’s work will examine six different species of penguins and their response to the effects of climate change, contributing to further conservation efforts for wildlife species.
Antonio Sánchez will address the issue of volcanic activity in the waterway between the South Shetland Islands and the Antarctic Peninsula, regions that have strong seismic activity. “The exciting projects involving multinational collaborations will equip the fellows with valuable skills and knowledge while having a lasting impact within the Antarctic community and beyond,” says Amanda Lynnes, the IAATO’s director of environment and research collaborations. And COMNAP’s Andrea Colombo is also delighted with the collaboration and projects: “COMNAP is pleased to partner with IAATO to support a highly motivated young researcher as part of our ongoing Antarctic Fellowship Program.”
Dr Michael Wenger, PolarJournal
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