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Stephen R. Branfman
First Air
Earth Rangers
Canadian Geographic
The Royal Canadian Geographic Society

Arctic “Floe Edge” Expedition 2006

International Polar Year



The International Polar Year (IPY) 2007-2008 is a two year program of science, research & education focused on the Arctic and Antarctic regions. International researchers from universities, northern communities, and governments are working to advance our understanding of cultural, social, economic and health dimensions, as well as geophysical, climate and biological processes in polar regions.

The Polar Regions are remote areas of the Earth that have profound significance for the Earth's climate and ultimately environments, ecosystems and human society. However we still remain remarkably ignorant of many aspects of how polar climate operates and its interaction with polar environments, ecosystems and societies. To have any hope of understanding the current global climate and what might happen in future the science community needs a better picture of conditions at the poles and how they interact with and influence the oceans, atmosphere and land masses. Existing climate models do not work well in the polar regions and have for example failed to predict the dramatic break-up of Antarctic ice shelves observed in recent years. The three fastest warming regions on the planet in the last two decades have been Alaska, Siberia and parts of the Antarctic Peninsula, thus the Polar Regions are highly sensitive to climate change and this raises real concern for the future of polar ecosystems and Arctic society.

There have been a number of major international science initiatives in Polar Regions since the first International Polar Year in 1882-83 and all have had a major influence in overhauling our understanding of global processes in these important areas. These initiatives have involved an intense period of interdisciplinary research, collecting a broad range of measurements that provide a snapshot in time of the state of the polar regions. The last such initiative was the International Geophysical Year in 1957-58, involving 80,000 scientists from 67 countries.

It produced unprecedented exploration and discoveries in many fields of research and fundamentally changed how science was conducted in the polar regions. Fifty years on, technological developments such as earth observation satellites, autonomous vehicles and molecular biology techniques offer enormous opportunities for a further quantum step upwards in our understanding of polar systems. An IPY in 2007-2008 also affords an opportunity to engage the upcoming generation of young Earth System scientists and to get the public to realize just how much the cold ends of the sphere we all live on really do influence us. To ensure that researchers get the opportunity to work and study in both polar regions or work/study in summer and winter if they wish, the Polar Year will actually run from March 2007-March 2009.

www.ipycanada.ca or www.ipy.org for more details.


The Students on Ice-IPY Youth Expeditions (SOI-IPY) have been endorsed by the International Polar Year Joint Committee as a prominent and valued component of the IPY program. These unique educational expeditions to the Arctic and Antarctic are for high school and university youth from around the world. Participating youth will travel on the expeditions together with teams of world-leading scientists, experts and educators. The ice-strengthened ship-based expeditions are unparalleled platforms for Polar Education. Since 1999, Students on Ice - a world leader and pioneer in educational youth expeditions to the Polar Regions - has successfully operated youth expeditions to both the Arctic and the Antarctic involving over 500 youth from 25 countries.

Students on Ice is a member of the International Association of Antarctica Tour Operators, and has been awarded the prestigious Michael J. Smith Award for Science Promotion in Canada, along with a Certificate of Special Congressional Recognition from the US Congress. SOI-IPY will build on this success and experience together with international partners and related IPY initiatives. SOI-IPY will provide inspiring, life-changing experiences to youth; will inspire the next generation of Polar researchers and scientists; will raise awareness and understanding about Global environmental issues; will raise awareness internationally about IPY and polar issues; develop Polar curriculum and resources; create media attention and a TV-documentary series; and overall will serve as a tremendous IPY legacy project.

SOI-IPY will organize and operate nine Arctic and Antarctic expeditions in 2007-2009:

Expedition schedule:

  • July 24 - August 06, 2007 - IPY Arctic Expedition #1
    August 06 -August 17, 2007 - IPY Arctic Expedition #2
    December 2007 - IPY Antarctica Expedition #3
  • July 2008 - IPY Arctic Expedition #4
    August 2008 - IPY Arctic Expedition #5
    December 2008 - IPY Antarctica Expedition #6
  • July 2009 - IPY Arctic Expedition #7
    August 2009 - IPY Arctic Expedition #8
    December 2009 - IPY Antarctica Expedition #9

Each large expedition will have approx 80 participating youth, and 35 scientists, experts, educators, world leaders, journalists, etc. Participating youth will be between the ages of 13-18 yrs. The goal is to have youth from countries all around the world. Arctic Expeditions - Cost per participant will be $6,900 CDN, plus GST. Antarctic Expeditions - Cost per participant will be $10,900 CDN.

"The Students on Ice Polar Ambassador"

Students will participate in a world-class, multi-disciplinary education and research program prior to and during each expedition. The academic program will weave together elements of experiential, expeditionary, and problem-based learning, and will focus on critical dialogue and leadership development skills that engage youth with the challenges and opportunities of this century. Lectures, workshops, and hands-on research activities will focus on subjects such as marine biology, glaciology, geology, earth sciences, environmental issues, deep ecology, politics, polar history, culture, flora and fauna, oceanography, sustainability, traditional knowledge, art, applied technology, and much more. Some of the scientific/education team will conduct hands-on science activities with the students as part of their ongoing research projects. In some cases, these will be IPY related science activities. Youth forums, student-led action groups, and inter-generational mentoring are examples of other learning formats that will be incorporated.

The educational benefits of SOI-IPY will be shared with millions of youth and the general public around the world via live video-conferencing, the SOI-IPY website, presentations, media attention and conferences. Partnerships with schools and other educational organizations will bring the SOI-IPY directly to classrooms around the world. A team of international journalists and a film crew making a TV documentary series will help to give the youth voice a platform, spread IPY messages, and raise awareness about the environmental, historic, political and scientific importance of the planet's polar regions.

SOI-IPY is a collaborative international initiative and some of the respected partner organizations thus far include: the Royal Canadian Geographic Society, People to People Ambassador Programs, Inuit Tapiriit Kanatami, the Explorer's Club, the IPY Youth Steering Committee, the Youth Science Foundation, Science North, Foreign Affairs Canada, the Canadian Museum of Nature, the Canadian Space Agency, the International Baccalaureate Organization, the International Polar Foundation, and the Inter-American Development Bank.


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