CNFRAA Science Days, pursuing the best possible polar science | Polarjournal

Representatives of all the disciplines involved in French-speaking polar science met in Strasbourg to discuss and present their research projects. The French National Committee for Antarctic and Arctic Research added logistics and interactions with tourism to its list of concerns.

Glaciologists, birdwatchers, lawyers… Polar researchers from the French National Committee for Antarctic and Arctic Research (CNFRAA) came together last week for a three-day scientific meeting at Strasbourg’s Palais Universitaire. “Here, we have access to first-hand information, there are people who have just returned from the field and who are taking a creative approach to thinking about tomorrow’s French polar research”, explains Anne Choquet, legal expert and President of CNFRAA. This learned society was set up in 1956 to organise the International Geophysical Year – straddling 1957 and 1958. Since then, it has been closely linked to the Antarctic Treaty of 1959.

Initially, CNFRAA defined the priorities for research at the poles and took part in organising French expeditions to Antarctica. Then other institutions took over. “Now, CNFRAA identifies the key people to represent French research at SCAR, the international organisation that prepares the best possible science in Antarctica,” she continues. This science feeds into the Treaty’s consultative meetings.

The (annual) Meeting of States, for example, began yesterday in Kochi, India, while the spotlight has just been turned on Russia’s geological exploration campaign of the seabed near the Antarctic Peninsula, avian flu has entered the continent, and discussions on marine protected areas continue tirelessly.

How can Antarctic krill be protected in a scenario of legal immobility? Would the Paris agreements (reducing emissions), or even global trade agreements, be other legal bases for protecting these animals/resources? X: JournalPolar

In honour of Roland Schlich and Claude Lorius, former presidents of the CNFRAA who were heavily involved in the SCAR, prizes are awarded during the Science Days. “The Roland Schlich prize provides €8,000 for a young researcher to attend an international conference”, explains Anne Choquet. “So that the younger generation of researchers can get involved in research and be recognised.”

In Strasbourg, a tour of the Arctic and Antarctic took place, with around forty short presentations and ten posters.”You’re actually involved in work that you’d never have thought of doing on your own.This allows you to develop your own work”, explains Anne Choquet.

Testate amoebae live in the waterlogged soils of Kerguelen and especially in cooler soils in summer, but global warming could cause them to disappear in places. A problem for the cycle of silica useful to other organisms.X: JournalPolar

Polar research relies on limited access to land and shared infrastructure. “It is therefore essential to understand each other’s issues, and the days spent together can help to develop missions or campaigns that were not necessarily defined together at the outset,” explains Emmanuelle Sultan, an oceanographer and active member of the learned society.

“Two thirds of CNFRAA members work in the Antarctic and one third in the Arctic,” explains Aude Lalis, vice-president of the association.”We are calling on the Arctic scientific community to join us.”

Science and tourism?

Debated for more than three years, the discussion on tourism and science is continuing at the CNFRAA conference. It’s clear that the issue of the ice-breaking cruise ship Le Commandant Charcot is driving the audience, but this time the researchers are putting their thoughts down to concrete results. Last year, Anne Choquet’s research team launched a survey of the scientific community.

The first results were presented at the Journées Scientifiques: a third of participants thought it was an aberration, almost two thirds feared for the independence of this research, two thirds wanted a specific charter and finally three quarters of participants feared that science would be a pretext for tourist activities.

Another document published last September also adds fuel to the fire. An advisory opinion issued by the CNRS ethics committee “expresses deep reservations about the campaigns of opportunity currently proposed by the Compagnie du Ponant on the icebreaker Le Commandant Charcot in the Arctic and Antarctic”.

In its conclusions, the document states: “Far from being incidental to its activity, taking scientists on board Le Commandant Charcot is at the very heart of the company’s economic strategy, as the company’s communication indicates.”

The ethics committee has issued a series of proposals for establishing a framework of conduct. For example, clear, high-quality peer review of projects. One article is causing debate in the community, the one that documented the first cases of avian flu in Adélie penguins at the start of the year. According to some virologists, it did not shed much light on the spread of the disease. Poor results, but good press for the cruise line.

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“Where should the ethical cursor be placed in a short space of time?” This is the question posed by Keltoum Boumedjane, a doctoral student in the social sciences, in her presentation on the subject of biosecurity in the governance of the Southern and Antarctic Islands. In her research, she is looking at the use of tourism platforms to deploy science around Antarctica.

A hot topic, avian influenza (suddenly introduced) could require more resources on the ground to study it. In Kochi, the subject will be put on the table and the Chilean delegation will present a project to unify Antarctic regulations.

Where there’s capacity, there’s funding, and budgets in the French research sector are not looking good. The discussions during the coffee break raised fears about the potential merger between two public bodies – a study is underway at ministerial level – the French Research Institute for Exploitation of the Sea (Ifremer) and the French Polar Institute.

The latter was on all fronts last week, from the Arctic to the Antarctic, in Strasbourg and in Brest, at Océanopolis, where it organised a junior polar seminar to encourage vocations.

One hundred and seventeen schoolchildren from Brittany and Pas-de-Calais met at Océanopolis to present their (junior) polar research projects in Brest. Supported by the French Polar Institute Paul-Émile Victor ❄ (co-organiser of the seminar), each of the six teams teamed up with a (senior) scientist to carry out experiments. X: Océanopolis Brest

Camille Lin, Polar Journal AG

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