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About the Polar Environment, Safety and Health Section

Acting Section Head: Polly A. Penhale

The Polar Environment, Safety and Health Section (PESH) in the Office of Polar Programs guides environmental stewardship and safety and health activities for NSF-supported polar research. The Section uses current knowledge of environmental science and engineering to ensure that NSF research and related activities in polar regions are environmentally sound. The Section also guides implementation of programs to prevent and treat injuries and illnesses among personnel engaged in NSF-sponsored activities in both polar regions.

U.S. Government policy assigns NSF overall responsibility for managing U.S. activities in the Antarctic. The Antarctic Conservation Act (1996) assigns environmental oversight and stewardship to NSF. In the Arctic, NSF coordinates interagency research policy and plays a significant leadership role in promoting environmental stewardship in relation to scientific research.

The Section also is responsible for guiding safety and health programs, including oversight of medical activities. The PESH staff use knowledge of safety and health best practices to ensure that the activities pursued by Polar Programs are conducted in a safe and effective manner. The Section guides and directs programs to ensure the safety and health of Polar Programs staff, grantees, support contractors, and researchers funded by other U.S. Government agencies. The Section also

  • leads the planning, coordination, implementation, oversight, and management of policy and direction for all aspects of environment, safety, and health related to Polar Programs-supported activities,
  • reviews proposals to address environment, safety and health issues.
  • plans and conducts inspections focused on health and safety in construction projects, research stations, field camps, and research vessels,
  • designs and oversees occupational health programs, including scientific diving safety,
  • coordinates medical screening of personnel planning to deploy to polar regions.