PRESCIENT - UK Polar Research Expertise for Science and Society

Start date
1 April, 2024
End date
31 March, 2029

PRESCIENT (UK Polar Research Expertise for Science and Society) is a joint programme between BAS (British Antarctic Survey) and CPOM (the Centre for Polar Observation and Modelling).

The programme supports strategically-important, long-term measurements and specific capabilities that BAS and CPOM deliver for the wider science community. These are organised in four science areas:

Polar and Mountain Climate Data Records. We will deliver six activities to support climate observations and modelling: i) year-round observations of climate-sensitive parameters on the rapidly-warming Antarctic Peninsula to understand interconnections within this changing system; ii) an ice coring and analysis capability to underpin projects that learn from the past to inform future climate predictions; iii) a capability for airborne atmospheric sensing, upgrading the data capture system and progressing transition to low carbon autonomous platforms; iv) a satellite data processing capability with improvements to sea ice altimetry retrieval; v) an improved sea ice modelling component for the UK Earth System Model (UKESM); vi) a network to measure snowfall in mountain regions, to inform weather and climate models and support decisions around water resources.

Southern Ocean Biological Observatories. We will support long-term observations in regions of the Southern Ocean to understand how ecosystems are affected by change (climate, sea ice, pollution) and how such stresses impact plankton community structure, biodiversity and productivity, life-cycle behaviour, and vertical migration. New autonomous platforms and novel technologies, including eDNA, will underpin this research.

Antarctica’s contribution to Sea-Level Rise. We will deliver five activities that support our ability to make robust predictions about future global sea level: i) a capability to process satellite data of land ice, to understand current global changes in ice sheets; ii) maintenance and development of UKESM elements that address land ice to improve future predictions of ice loss; iii) an improved airborne radar capability to inform on under-ice basal properties; iv) an improved hot water drilling capability that enables deployment of instruments below ice shelves, ice sheets, and ice streams; v) enhancements to our sustained oceanic observations near and beneath ice shelves – critical to understand the ocean’s role in driving ice shelf loss.

Space Weather Observatory. We will deliver sustained observations of space weather parameters through the 2025 solar maximum and the descending phase that will support numerical modelling that informs the UK Risk Register on space weather threats. Our Antarctic network will be expanded with new instruments and greater geographic range to fill previous observational gaps.

PRESCIENT will aid the BAS transition to low carbon science delivery. For example, delivery of airborne science using remotely piloted autonomous systems (RPAS) will be progressed, building on the recent learning from the WINDRACERS project.

PRESCIENT also supports the delivery of National Public Good. We will deliver independent scientific advice and support to a range of stakeholders in government, business, and wider society, ensuring that our scientific activities and expertise is available to support solutions.

As required for National Capability (NC) research, the activities offered in this proposal will provide crucial support to the UK and international research communities, underpinning existing programmes, grants, fellowships, studentships, supporting future activities, widening participation in polar science, and providing independent expert advice to stakeholders.

PRESCIENT has a number of specific objectives that will be delivered by BAS and CPOM:

  • To acquire and understand polar and mountain climate data records in order to document changes in Earth’s frozen regions and support reliable representations of their future evolution, ultimately allowing stakeholders to form climate change mitigation plans.
  • To expand our capability to understand the role and response of polar marine ecosystems to changes in environmental stressors, including temperature, sea ice, and pollution, by applying novel technologies and sensors.
  • To build our capability to measure and predict polar ice sheet contributions to global sea level rise and assess the likelihood of reaching tipping points in the polar cryosphere.
  • To extend Antarctic space weather observations through the 2025 solar maximum, a high risk period for satellites and ground infrastructure, delivering data to global networks and supporting activities within the UK National Risk Register.

In all of the above we will capture sustained observations and publish fully-quality-controlled datasets which will be open-access and AI ready.

We will also deliver underpinning capabilities, such as numerical models and field research platforms, that will be accessible to UK/international researchers and the programmes in which they are involved. These capabilities will be offered on a collaborative basis.

Our National Public Good activities will generate and maximise impact from our science and operations in wider communities of government, business, and public society. To achieve our NPG objectives, expertise is drawn from all of BAS’s science programmes and their operational interfaces.

We will manage and deliver our programme, on time and to budget, including our broad crossprogramme activities that align to NERC strategic ambitions in Digital, Net Zero, and EDI.

A person wearing a hat.

Thomas Lachlan-Cope

Group Leader Climate Processes

Atmosphere, Ice and Climate team

A man smiling for the camera

Thomas Bracegirdle

Atmosphere, Ice and Climate Dep Science Leader

BAS-Arctic Working Group, Atmosphere, Ice and Climate team

Avatar photo

Sophie Fielding

Zooplankton Ecologist

Ecosystems team

Avatar photo

Sally Thorpe

Ecological Modeller

Ecosystems team

A man standing in front of a body of water.

Pierre Dutrieux

Shelf Seas Group Leader

Polar Oceans team

A man standing next to a body of water posing for the camera

Peter Davis

Physical Oceanographer

A man wearing glasses posing for the camera.

Paul Holland

Ocean/Ice Scientist IMP 3

Polar Oceans team

A woman standing next to a forest

Nadine Johnston

Marine Ecologist

Ecosystems team

A man standing next to a window.

Hugh Venables

RaTS Project Manager

Polar Oceans team

A couple of people posing for the camera

Freya Squires

Atmospheric Chemistry Instrument Scientist

Atmosphere, Ice and Climate team

Avatar photo

Cecilia Liszka

Marine Ecologist

Ecosystems team

Avatar photo

Alex Murphy

Marine Autonomy Engineer

A man wearing glasses.

Alexander Brearley

Independent Research Fellow

Polar Oceans team

A person smiling next to a body of water

Ruta Hamilton

Post - Award Programme Manager

Research Development and Support team


Name Institution PRESCIENT Involvement
Andrew Shepherd Northumbria PRESCIENT co-lead
Inès Otosaka Northumbria PRESCIENT WP3 co-lead
Rosemary Willatt Northumbria PRESCIENT WP1 co-lead
Charlotte Royle Northumbria PRESCIENT WP6 co-lead
Danny Feltham Reading WP1
Tony Payne Liverpool WP3
Sammie Buzzard Northumbria WP1, WP3
Mal McMillan Lancaster WP3
Steph Cornford Bristol WP3
Alan Muir UCL WP1, WP3
Andy Ridout UCL WP1
David Schroeder Reading WP1
Tom Mitcham Bristol WP3
Ben Palmer Northumbria WP1, WP3
Tom Slater Northumbria WP3
Jenny Maddalena Lancaster WP3
Lucy Sharpson Northumbria WP6
Nicola Bortun Northumbria WP6

Ice Core Gas Lab

Specialist ice core facility to measure concentration and isotopic composition of greenhouse gases

Airborne Remote Sensing

Two of the four BAS Twin Otters are equipped with a full remote sensing capability, providing scientists with data on land, ice and sea. This includes VNIR & SWIR hyperspectral …