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Group shot of people.
Photo Credit: APECS
The group that helped kickstart APECS during a meeting in Sweden in 2007, as part of the International Polar Year. The organization has grown to more than 3,500 members in some 75 countries.


Mentorship, outreach cornerstones of APECS mission

Robert Bindschadler External U.S. government site, a veteran polar scientist at NASA External U.S. government site who co-edited a report published this year about the legacies and lessons about IPY, remarked about the power of social media in building the APECS network so quickly. He is also on the APECS Advisory Committee. [See previous article — Lessons and legacies: New IPY report captures far-reaching results from historic research campaign.]

“They just burst on the stage,” he said during a webinar last month to highlight the “Legacies and Lessons of International Polar Year 2007-2008” report. “They grabbed all they could out of IPY. … They are eager to learn the trade and become leading researchers.”

And that is already happening.

José Xavier External Non-U.S. government site is one of the founding members of APECS. In the interim since, he has become a scientist at the Institute of Marine Research External Non-U.S. government site at the University of Coimbra External Non-U.S. government site in Portugal and also works with the British Antarctic Survey External Non-U.S. government site. In 2011, he was awarded the prestigious Martha T. Muse Prize for Science and Policy in Antarctica External Non-U.S. government site for his research on the predator-prey dynamics that sustain populations of albatrosses, penguins and other top predators in the Southern Ocean.

Xavier has moved into a mentorship role for other early-career scientists.

“I noticed I was becoming a mentor when I started providing ‘guidance’ to other early-career scientists rather than asking more questions to other mentors. I felt it as a normal process within APECS,” said Xavier by email.

Screen shot of website.
Photo Credit: APECS
The APECS website helps keep the community of early-career scientists connected.

Xavier said his responsibilities as a mentor include guiding young researchers on everything from managing time to the importance of education and outreach. “Always to make early-career scientists the best they can [be] in their careers,” he said.

Xavier has also helped foster an active APECS chapter in Portugal. Leading the national chapters is the United States, which accounts for about a sixth of the organization’s members. Russia and the UK, countries traditionally involved in polar research, also rank high on the list, according to Pope.

And then there are some nontraditional players in APECS, particularly from South America, he noted.

“There’s an increase in polar research in Brazil, and it’s really being taken up by the early-career researchers, which is great,” Pope said.

He said APECS is pretty evenly split among Arctic and Antarctic scientists, though many conduct bi-polar research, and also travel to high-altitude regions of the cryosphere.

“It’s a mix of research disciplines,” Pope said. “We easily represent any aspect of polar science, whether it’s glaciology or geology or ecology or engineering — or social science or law or oceanography. We have members all over the place.”

The meteoric rise surprised everyone involved.

“I did expect that the growth of APECS would be quick but never like this,” Xavier said. “It was amazing! Early-career scientists were so keen to get more engaged in polar science, education and outreach, and interested in having an active voice in all of these issues.”

More recently, he added, APECS has representatives involved in major polar organizations such as the Scientific Committee of Antarctic Research (SCAR) External Non-U.S. government site and International Arctic Science Committee (IASC) External Non-U.S. government site.

“[That] gives APECS members a unique opportunity to learn how these organizations work, what are the opportunities that these organizations offer to early-career scientists, but most importantly, provide the essential information sharing between APECS and major organizations for the best of polar communities and excellence in science,”  Xavier said.

Baeseman noted that APECS has something to teach those venerable organizations as well, particularly in the fast-paced World Wide Web. In fact, the original APECS started as a Google group — and its strength continues to be through its savvy use of the latest technology and social media.

“This helped us easily connect, allowed anyone to join and for us to easily communicate quickly — and this quick communication is what has kept APECS moving at a faster pace than most organizations,” she said. “We have done things with YouTube, Vimeo, Animoto and many other free tools that allow us to communicate our message through video.”

Conference calls and lectures are conducted through online seminars and webinars. Social media platforms like Facebook and Twitter were used before they became popular enough to merit billion-dollar IPOs. There’s even an iPhone app in the works.

“Many other organizations … are now following our example on many of these things — and come to us to help teach them how to do things,” Baeseman said, “so we are also providing a service to other senior organizations on this front.”

Above all, however, it’s the sense of community that APECS has built in its five short years of existence that keeps members engaged.

“Almost everything gets done by volunteers,” Pope said. “It’s really exciting to work with this group of people who all have these common goals of being interested in meeting other polar scientists from around the world, whether it’s other glaciologists or someone who loves icy places as much as you do.”Back   1 2