Erskine Programme: Visiting Fellow Profile – Julian Dowdeswell from Cambridge University, UK (Cambridge Visiting Fellow)

Where you have come from and what do you teach?

I’m Director of the Scott Polar Research Institute and Professor of Physical Geography in Cambridge University.  In Cambridge I teach undergraduates about glaciers and ice sheets – their modern responses to climate change and how past ice-sheet changes are recorded in the geological record. I particularly like teaching the first year students and the opportunity to introduce them to the ‘icy world’. I also teach in the Institute’s Master’s programme in Polar Studies and have a number of doctoral students under my supervision.

What interested you in the Erskine Programme/why did you want to come to UC?

Christchurch, as a key access point to Antarctica, is an obvious place for glaciologists to come to, and I was first invited to stop off at UC on my way South by Professor Bryan Storey, who has recently retired as Director of the University’s Gateway Antarctica research centre. I, together with my wife Evelyn, who is also a glacial geologist, are now in our third period of three months at UC, funded by a Cambridge/Canterbury Fellowship – the previous visits were in 2011 and 2016.

Conducting research in Antarctica

What have you been doing at UC?

Dr Wolfgang Rack, a senior member of Gateway Antarctica’s staff, has particular shared research interests, and Evelyn and I have both been interacting regularly with Wolfgang and his group of research students in reading and discussion groups. Wolfgang and I are also putting together a joint research proposal so that we can undertake future work on sea ice form and motion in the Weddell Sea sector of Antarctica. I’m also trying to finish of a popular science book called ‘The Continent of Antarctica’ – only two chapters to go!  I’m looking forward to giving some first year lectures here before I leave and also a public lecture on 6 March titled ‘Ice and Environmental Change’ at Bentley’s at 6 pm. In previous years, Evelyn and I have also been instructors on Gateway Antarctica’s Post-Graduate Certificate in Antarctic Studies, including going to Antarctica as part of the course.

What have you most enjoyed about your time here at UC/Christchurch?

Both Evelyn and I very much like the friendliness of everyone at Gateway Antarctica, and indeed in UC and NZ more generally. We work hard during the week and try to travel somewhere in the South Island for weekend walks; a recent trip for walking and kayaking in Abel Tasman National Park has been a real highlight of our visit so far.