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RAISING THE PROFILE OF SOUTH AFRICAN ANTARCTIC SCIENCE

The Antarctic Science Winter School (ASWS) was held at the Hermanus Magnetic Observatory (HMO) from 12 to 18 July 2009 and was attended by 15 students from a range of universities across South Africa.

The school was aimed at honours year students with an interest in pursuing a postgraduate degree in Antarctic Science, with a focus on the disciplines of biology, geomorphology, space physics and oceanography. Background lectures were given by Jennifer Lee (Stellenbosch University), Andrew Collier (HMO), Bret Kuyper (University of Cape Town) and David Hedding (UNISA). A wide range of experts also attended to the school to give plenary talks which highlighted the cutting edge research in South African Antarctic science. These included: Nico de Bryn (University of Pretoria), Ian Meiklejohn (University of Pretoria), Neil Hart (University of Cape Town). To complete the programme, Steven Chown (Stellenbosch University) gave the students an engaging talk on the Antarctic Treaty system.

In addition to learning the theoretical background to the various disciplines of Antarctic science, students were given the opportunity to develop key skills such as literature searching, data handling, time management, writing and publishing and presentation skills during a project on climate change on Marion Island. This culminated in a mini-symposium followed by a discussion facilitated by Peter le Roux (Stellenbosch University). Building capacity in these core skills is an important output from the school and it is our hope that the knowledge and confidence built in these sessions will be of benefit to students in what ever career they choose.

The school also had a more light hearted side, and so as well as learning about the theoretical aspects of Antarctic Science, students also were exposed to some of the more practical challenges of working an extreme environment. Students participated in a range of challenges including: putting up a tent in full Antarctic field gear, assembling an antenna wearing gloves, navigating an obstacle course in a ‘white out’ and learning about Polar nutrition and cooking in the field.

All those involved appeared to have an enjoyable week and hopefully this initiative has contributed to raising the profile of Antarctic Science and inspired the next generation of South African scientists.

Funding was provided by the National Research Foundation (NRF) through a South African National Antarctic Programme (SANAP) Development Grant. Special thanks must go to all the staff at HMO who helped the school run smoothly.