InBev-Baillet Latour Antarctica Fellowship: Promoting Research of Young Polar Scientists
01 Feb 2012 - Interviews, Other, Antarctic
Celebrating a laureate: From left to right: General Secretary of the InBev-Baillet Latour Fund Alain De Waele, InBev-Baillet Latour Fellowship laureate Steven Goderis, and IPF President Alain Hubert.
© International Polar Foundation
SciencePoles had a chat with Nathalie Van Isacker from the International Polar Foundation (IPF) about an annual €150,000 Fellowship for young polar scientists the IPF has set up in conjunction with the InBev-Baillet Latour Fund called the InBev-Baillet Latour Antarctica Fellowship.
As a member of the Fellowship Secretariat which is handling the call for proposals, she offered to discuss the Fellowship, which aims to help young polar scientists conduct research at or in the vicinity of Belgium’s new “zero emission” Princess Elisabeth Antarctica (PEA) research station.
What is the overall objective of the InBev-Baillet Latour Antarctica Fellowship?
In a time when climate change is creating important challenges for society, polar research is vital to better understanding how our planet and its climate system function. The InBev-Baillet Latour Fund and the International Polar Foundation are both committed to supporting scientific research at the Poles, and this fellowship is a way to help build scientific capacity, promote polar science and encourage young researchers in their involvement in polar research.
What exactly does the Fellowship offer to young polar scientists?
Every year, the Fellowship awards €150,000 to a young scientist to conduct a research project over a two-year period, which will cover two field campaigns in Antarctica during two consecutive austral summers. This amount is meant to cover all academic and research costs, including living and travel expenses as well as the logistics during the field campaigns in Antarctica.
This year’s laureate will be able to go to Antarctica during the 2012-2013 austral summer season from November 2012 to February 2013, and then return during the following summer season, from November 2013 to February 2014.
Who can apply?
The Fellowship is open to all doctoral and post-doctoral researchers under the age of 35. Of course, they have to make a research proposal in one of the fields of research the Fellowship covers.
Which research fields does the Fellowship cover?
Every year the Fellowship issues a call for proposals, and each year a number of research areas are identified.
This year’s call for proposals, which was opened in November 2011, covers the fields of glaciology, microbiology (excluding marine microbiology), and geology.
Can researchers from any research organization in the world apply?
Absolutely. While the Fellowship used to only be awarded to scientists working in Belgian research institutes, it is now open to doctoral and post-doctoral researchers from any country in the world.
Where exactly in Antarctica is the Princess Elisabeth Station located?
The station is located at Utsteinen Nunatak in the Dronning Maud Land in East Antarctica. It’s 220 km due south from the edge of the ice shelf at the coast in the Sør Rondane Mountains.
Why is PEA and the region around it an interesting place to conduct research?
The station is located in a part of Antarctica where not a lot of research has been done before, so there’s a lot to learn!
The highly professional Belgian Antarctic Research Expedition (BELARE) team at PEA offers full logistical support to all scientists working at the station, including setting up mobile labs and camps for scientists while they’re in the field.
Princess Elisabeth Antarctica seen from a distance, with the Sør Rondane Mountains in the background.
© International Polar Foundation
What kind of research can you do in the region?
There’s a lot of research that can be done in a wide number of different disciplines.
The region is very interesting geologically. It was once attached to what is now the southern part of Africa. A team from the German Federal Institute of Geosciences and Natural Resources (BGR) have been looking at the geological history of the region, focusing on the formation of the Gondwana supercontinent 600-500 million years ago and its breakup 180 million years ago.
There are also seismological studies going on at the station, and the region is a good place to search for meteorites, which is something a number of Japanese researchers and past InBev-Baillet Latour Fellowship laureate Dr. Steven Goderis from the Department of Geology at the Vrije Universiteit Brussel (VUB) have been doing.
Of course, with Antarctica being almost entirely covered by an ice sheet, this provides ample opportunities for glaciological studies. There have been teams of glaciologists from the Vrij Universiteit Brussel (VUB) and the Université Libre de Bruxelles (ULB) investigating grounding lines (the last point of contact the ice flowing off of the ice sheet has with the continent before flowing out over the ocean and becoming an ice shelf) and how they can change as ice sheets advance and retreat.
Microbiological studies have been quite popular around the station as well. One project has been looking at how the construction of PEA has influenced microbial populations and diversity in its immediate vicinity. Another has been examining how a warming climate might influence microbial populations. And previous Fellowship laureate Dr. Elie Verleyen from the Laboratory of Protistology and Marine Ecology at the University of Ghent was using his Fellowship money to assess the impact of climate and environmental changes on microorganisms over the past few millenia under the DELAQUA project.
There certainly seems to be a lot of different things you can study down there.
Indeed! More information on all past and current research projects is available on the PEA website. There’s also a detailed description of the surrounding area as well as practical details on the facilities and details of logistical support, so scientists can get a good idea of what to expect down there!
How can you apply?
The IPF has set up a webpage on the IPF website dedicated to the project. Applicants can download a submission file and get more detailed information about the Fellowship and the submission procedure.
Applicants must be able to satisfactorily defend why they need to conduct their research in Antarctica, and the research projects must be new and original.
Once they’ve completed the application, applicants need to send it directly to the InBev-Baillet Latour Fellowship Secretariat.
And the most important detail…what’s the deadline for submissions?
The Fellowship Secretariat will receive applications no later than 1st of March 2012. Applications received after this deadline will not be considered.
How will the project proposals be evaluated?
There will be two rounds of evaluation. In the first round, an international jury of scientific experts will examine each project’s scientific merit and short-list a number of proposals.
The short-listed proposals will then go to the Antarctica Fellowship Committee, which is made up of seven members: two representatives of the InBev-Baillet Latour Fund, two members of the IPF Board, a representative of the Scientific Committee on Antarctic Research (SCAR), a representative of the Belgian Polar Secretariat for the Princess Elisabeth Station, and the President of the jury that short-listed the project.
The Fellowship Committee will closely examine the scientific merits of each project and take into consideration practical aspects, such as logistics and feasibility.
Any other requirements applicants should know about?
All applicants need to pass a physical evaluation before going to Antarctica. Antarctica is a physically demanding environment, so you need to be in good health to be able to handle it.
And like all international grant programmes, the proposal submitted to the InBev-Baillet Latour Antarctica Fellowship Committee must be in English.
If applicants have any questions after reading through all the application materials, they can contact us by email.
We look forward to receiving everyone’s proposals!
By: Joseph Cheek