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Richard, field assistant

Mountains to climb

“Basically my role is to take scientists off station, give them the training they need to operate safely while doing their research, and then look after them while we’re in the field. I’m called a Field Assistant, but essentially I’m a mountaineer.

In three field trips this season, I’ve been involved in some fascinating work that I could never experience in the UK. The first place was called Mars Oasis, where scientists were measuring the impact of climate and UV on flora and fauna.

Another took me to the South Shetland Islands via HMS Endurance and her Lynx helicopters; and the third saw me supporting a pair of palaeolimnologists who were collecting samples for climate analysis dating back 10,000 years”.

A long-term passion

“About four years ago, I was offered a job here; but because I was offered a chance to teach at the same time, I chose to do that. But ever since university, I’ve yearned to ‘go South’ to see something of the Antarctic, but also to gain and improve my polar skills and join up with some people with similar ambitions”.

The reality of life

“Out in the field, things can change quickly. Sometimes everything is a rush as you try to make the most of a weather window or get everything done for when the aircraft arrives. At other times, you have to wait while data is collected, field equipment fixed or the weather closes in.

But it’s not just about work. The experience is much broader and I’ve learnt carpentry skills, cooking tips, taken a few Spanish lessons and enjoyed various forms of skiing. Of course, it can be hard being cooped up sometimes. But where else can you get an experience like this?”