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iSTAR - investigating the stability of the West Antarctic Ice Sheet

An ambitious new research programme funded by the Natural Environment Research Council (NERC) brings together leading scientists from 11 UK universities and from British Antarctic Survey (BAS).

The iSTAR mission is to improve understanding of what’s happening to the area of the West Antarctic Ice Sheet where the greatest rates of ice loss over the last decades have been observed. New knowledge about the stability of this ice sheet is critical for making better predictions about how the ocean and ice will respond to environmental change, and what impact this may have on future sea level.

The iSTAR research programme is managed by British Antarctic Survey (BAS) on behalf of NERC. Sixteen members of staff are involved in the programme, two of whom are Principal Investigators. Operational support, in the form of logistics planning, deployment of the RRS James Clark Ross, a new system of tractor-train to traverse the ice, and the use of Rothera Research Station and Sky Blu field station as well as twin otter aircraft, will ensure that science teams have what they need. Media, public and stakeholder engagement is coordinated by BAS on behalf of iSTAR.

The six-year, £7.4 million programme is organised into four main research projects — each uses state-of-the art technologies to make new discoveries about the ocean or the ice.

For the first time simultaneous science investigations on the ice and in the ocean will take place. The science teams will pool their experience, knowledge and expertise to capture new data, knowledge and understanding that will make a major contribution to the ongoing urgent international scientific effort to understand our changing world. The results of these investigations will bring many benefits to science, to policy and to economic decision-making — which will ultimately contribute to the well-being of our society.

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