Physical challenges associated with polar research today are relatively easy compared with what researchers faced 50 years ago during the 1957-1958 International Geophysical Year (IGY). The intellectual terrain is, however, far more demanding now than previously. With nearly every aspect of the polar regions changing rapidly due to climate change, a new generation of polar researchers must achieve disciplinary expertise and work across traditional disciplinary boundaries to conduct socially relevant, transformative research, and translate it to more effective action.

The NGPR was held at the La Foret Conference Center in Colorado Springs, CO. The secluded nature of the facility promoted networking among the NGPR participants

To learn about the past and better address these new challenges, a select international group of 35 students and early career researchers who are conducting research during the 2007-2009 International Polar Year were brought together May 4-11, 2008, at the La Foret Conference Center in Colorado Springs, Colorado, USA. The participants were drawn from professional backgrounds spanning the spectrum of social, natural, and physical sciences and represented the research programs of 7 countries. In addition to the participants, 12 mentors, some of whom participated in the IGY, shared insights, stories, and expertise. 

 The NGPR participants and mentors pause for a group photo at Garden of the Gods

This diverse and ambitious group spent an intensive week learning about many important aspects of IPY history and research, along with communication, outreach, interdisciplinary research and career development. Each of the participants presented a 7-minute overview of his or her IPY research and provided details and discussion in evening poster sessions. Polar history provided an informative and unifying context for discussions of the past, present, and future that lasted throughout the week. Mentors and guest speakers shared insights and advice on media interactions, and many participants were subsequently interviewed for an upcoming radio story to be aired on National Public Radio. Several presentations on outreach were followed by a hands-on session for a group of first-grade students who were visiting the La Foret Conference Center. The symposium also featured several break-out sessions, where small groups of participants and mentors discussed challenges related to interdisciplinary research, science advocacy, and maintaining a work/life balance. In addition, each participant recorded a two-minute video overview of their research interests to be archived at the American Institute of Physics as a sort of “time capsule” to be shared with students, researchers, historians of science and the general public during the next IPY.

NGPR_big_earthParticipants prepare for an outreach session with first-grade students.

Participant information, including abstracts of their IPY research projects can be found on the symposium website, Tags: news