I am a postdoctoral scholar who is interested participating in Antarctica fieldwork/exploration as a volunteer. My background is in biology, but I am happy to participate in any fieldwork opportunities, because I hope to use such an experience to better understand how teams perform effective science in harsh environments. I have worked in scientific teams in remote environments and believe I can grow a lot for future endeavors by working in even more harsh environments like Antarctica.

As a side note, I am a U.S. citizen who has extensive experience overseas (especially in Japan).

For the past few years, I have tried:

1) Contacting numerous scientists who lead Antarctica teamwork. 2) Contacting Palmer LTER and McMurdo LTER. 3) Applying to the ANSMET program.

So far I have not had much luck, which is understandable given the limited slots. I wanted to inquire if anyone on this forum may know of other avenues someone in my position can apply to increase their chance of obtaining such a volunteer position? Any advice would be so very much appreciated! Thank you.

  • $\begingroup$ Have you considered applying for programs run by other countries & if you do, are you special enough in your field to be considered ahead of candidates from those countries? If you do apply to other countries be mindful of the medical requirements for people on their Antarctic programs. Chile & Australia only accept people who have had their appendix removed - they don't want to have to deal will a medical emergency due to a burst appendix resulting from a lack of surgical facilities & medical personnel. $\endgroup$
    – Fred
    May 24, 2019 at 17:31

2 Answers 2


Try the long game:

  • Start reading up on the research that is being done. For the interesting ones, start corresponding with the authors asking questions about the work. They have to be good questions, showing that you know what you are talking about.

  • Look at who funds each researcher. Check the papers for those 'thank-yous' that give credit to various individuals and institutions. Check the institutions to see how they hire support personnel. If you can't get a job as a researcher, look at getting a job just as a tech.

  • Most researchers are connected with one more more institutions. Some of these specialize in polar science. Some may supply support crews that span scientific disciplines. E.g. They may have a pool of snow-cat operators that any of the scientists can draw upon to move equipment and personnel. This is more likely with the permanent bases.

  • Can you speak well? Do you have a large grasp of polar science in many fields? Look at being a guide on the cruise boats that go to the arctic. If you are quick witted, and can reduce difficult topics to digestible chunks, this is a possibility. Train for it by writing a science blog.

  • Write a polar science blog. Turn dry science into good clear interesting commentary about what's happing, how it happens, why it's important. This becomes something to put on your resume, and if you get a decent following may itself get you there as a science journalist.

  • Prepare yourself. Learn how to dress and take care of yourself in Arctic regions. Someone they don't have to train as much is cheaper for them.

  • Consider having your appendix removed. At one point this was recommended as an appendectomy in Antarctica is double plus un-fun.

  • $\begingroup$ Don't consider having your appendix removed on the off-chance. I can't imagine that anybody is going to turn you down for a job or a chance at antarctic fieldwork because you currently have an appendix. They might require that you have it removed before going south, but do that once you have the job - not just in case, as what may turn out to be unnecessary surgery!!! $\endgroup$ May 28, 2019 at 17:07

These positions are pretty much all on a volunteer basis. There are no scientists who are paid directly for this. This is just part of a scientist's job. Things as fun and lucrative as this are usually competitive, which means you have to apply and demonstrate that you are better than other candidates. Since this is what you already did, I don't see what else you can do.


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