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About Rothera

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About Rothera Research Station

Rothera Research Station, the gateway for deep-field science, has well-equipped laboratories and facilities for scientists to make the latest discoveries about climate change, future sea-level rise and Antarctica’s evolutionary biology ranging from single genes to entire ecosystems.

From October to April summer BAS research ships and its Dash-7 aircraft bring people and fresh supplies into the station. Summer scientific fieldwork reaches its peak during these months with around 130 science and support staff on station. Twin Otter aircraft take off from the 900m crushed rock runway to fly science field parties to remote deep-field study sites.

The frozen sea, darkness and freezing temperatures in winter effectively isolate the continent from the rest of the world. From May till October 22 science and support staff carry out essential monitoring and maintenance at the station.

If you’d like to see where Rothera is you can view Rothera in Google Earth.

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Understanding Antarctic biodiversity

Antarctica, uniquely isolated for the last 180 million years where organisms have been forced to adapt to life at low temperatures, is a perfect natural laboratory for investigating evolution in natural populations. Organisms living in this extreme environment — currently at the front line of rapid climate change — provide early insights into the effects of climate change to help interpret and predict the impacts of global warming on more complex ecosystems world-wide. Much of the work from this lab involves the scientific dive team.

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Understanding our climate

Secrets of the Earth’s past climate are locked deep in Antarctica’s ice. Scientists extracted long cores from the 3km thick ice sheet from Dome C, high on East Antarctica’s plateau — the oldest continuous climate record obtained from ice cores so far. Since reporting in 2004 that the Earth experienced eight climate cycles (each consisting of an ice age and warm period) BAS scientists and their European colleagues have been analysing the chemical impurities in the cores to unravel how different parts of Earth’s climate varied over the last 740,000 years.

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Human activity and climate change

In October 2006 the first direct evidence linking human activity to the collapse of Antarctic ice shelves was reported in the Journal of Climate. Stronger westerly winds in the northern Antarctic Peninsula, driven principally by human-induced climate change, were responsible for the marked regional summer warming that led to the retreat and collapse of the northern Larsen Ice Shelf.

Temperatures over most of Antarctica have been relatively stable over the past few decades. However, climate records from the west coast of the Antarctic Peninsula show that temperatures in this region have risen by nearly 3°C during the last 50 years — several times the global average and only matched in Alaska and Siberia. BAS research has just shown also that near-surface sea temperatures to the west of the Peninsula have risen by over 1°C over a similar period.

Global warming and the ozone hole have changed Antarctic weather patterns such that strengthened westerly winds force warm air eastward over the natural barrier created by the Antarctic Peninsula’s 2 km-high mountain chain. On days when this happens in summer temperatures in the north-east Peninsula warm by around 5°C, creating the conditions that allowed the drainage of melt-water into crevasses on the Larsen Ice Shelf, a key process that led to its break-up in 2002.

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Working for British Antarctic Survey

Working at British Antarctic Survey is not a routine ‘job’. The scientific research is world-leading; the engineering and technical challenges are immense; and ultimately you could be working in an environment where resilience and teamwork can be a matter of life and death.

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International co-operation

Twenty nine countries from Europe, Africa, Asia, the Americas and Australasia operate scientific research stations in Antarctica. Find out more at Council of Managers of National Antarctic Programs (COMNAP) website.

The Antarctic Treaty, signed in Washington on December 1, 1959, ensures “in the interest of all mankind that Antarctica shall continue for ever to be used exclusively for peaceful purposes and shall not become the scene or object of international discord.” Find out more at the Secretariat of the Antarctic Treaty website.