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Media Advisory 18-008

NSF invites professional news media to submit proposals to report from Antarctica

Opportunity also available to observe the Thwaites Glacier research cruise

The NSF research vessel Nathaniel B. Palmer.

The NSF research vessel Nathaniel B. Palmer.

June 26, 2018

This material is available primarily for archival purposes. Telephone numbers or other contact information may be out of date; please see current contact information at media contacts.

The National Science Foundation (NSF) is accepting proposals from media professionals to visit Antarctica to report on research supported by NSF's Office of Polar Programs (OPP) through the U.S. Antarctic Program (USAP).

Those selected to deploy would visit Antarctica between early November and mid-December of 2018.


There is an additional opportunity in this announcement. Applicants may submit to join the first science cruise to the Thwaites Glacier. Please see the Thwaites Glacier section below.

Reporters interested in covering only Operation Deep Freeze (ODF), the U.S. military's support to the NSF-managed USAP, should see the section below, headed Deep Freeze.

For applications unrelated to the Thwaites Glacier or ODF, NSF will select journalists whose reporting would help make the broadest possible segment of the U.S. public aware of the importance of NSF-supported science conducted in Antarctica. In addition, competitive proposals would contain both of the following attributes:

  • A documented ability to reach the widest possible U.S. audience across a variety of platforms (broadcast, web and social media).
  • A solid reporting plan designed to report clearly and objectively on science supported by the USAP to this audience.

Research areas that might be part of a media visit, subject to logistical restrictions, include:

  • Research related to ice-mass change of the Antarctic ice sheet.
  • The Long-Term Ecological Research (LTER) project in the McMurdo Dry Valleys, an ice-free region of the continent.
  • Studies of organisms or ecosystems and their response to environmental changes occurring in the vicinity of Palmer Station.
  • Studies of population dynamics of penguins and seals in McMurdo Sound.
  • The study of life in extreme environments under Antarctic ice sheets.

Applicants must be aware of and adhere to the following conditions:

  • All proposals must include a separate, written commitment from the applicant's publisher, network or internet outlet -- on official letterhead -- to air or publish the stories that are described in the application and to pay the costs of reaching the embarkation point for travel to U.S. Antarctic research stations (see sections on "Expenses" and "Medical" below). Proposals that fail to include this information will be returned without consideration.
  • Freelancers are encouraged to apply, but must supply with their application evidence of a firm commitment from the outlet, on the media outlet's letterhead, that will air or publish their work and support their travel costs.
  • General reporting about Antarctica, travel or logistics will not be given priority. The program does not support feature-film proposals.
  • Applications to employ unmanned aerial vehicles, or drones, as part of a submission to either NSF or Joint Task Force-Support Forces Antarctica (JTF-SFA) will require a separate review of that portion of the application to ensure that the proposed use meets NSF's safety and environmental guidelines.

Any request to use drones as part of a media deployment should, at minimum, clearly indicate why this is integral to completing proposed work about Antarctic science and contain documentation of the training and experience of the person or persons who will be designated as the operator of the aircraft.

Review of the proposed use of the drone will be independent of, but concurrent with, the media-selection process and it is possible that a person or group selected as a media visitor could be restricted from deploying a drone in the field.

  • Due to logistical constraints, overnight visits to NSF's Amundsen-Scott South Pole Station will likely be very difficult in this year's deployment. Shorter visits may be considered as part of an overall reporting plan.

For additional background on the USAP, see the OPP's Antarctic Sciences webpage.

How to apply: Applicants must submit to NSF a written expression of interest in participating in the program -- the equivalent of no more than three printed pages -- describing the media in which the reporting will appear and a description of the potential audiences. See note above about supporting materials indicating a commitment to publish, which would be in addition to the reporting plan.

Competition for the opportunity to deploy is perennially intense, as Antarctic logistics are a constraint on the number of deployments to be supported. Logistical limitations make it extremely difficult to modify itineraries once in Antarctica, therefore a great deal of planning with the principals, once selected, will be required to make the proposed visit successful.

This planning will therefore necessitate frequent conference calls and may require some in-person visits to NSF.

For reporting unrelated to the Thwaites Glacier opportunity, U.S. media receive preference in selection.


Application deadline: 5 p.m. (local time) on July 15, 2018. Electronic submissions are required, either as an email or as an attachment to an email. The email subject line must read "2018 Antarctic Media Application" or the application will not be considered.

Selection: A panel consisting of science and logistics staff from the OPP and media officers from NSF's Office of Legislative and Public Affairs will review all proposals and select finalists. The panel will evaluate proposals for an understanding of the nature and challenges of NSF's scientific enterprise in the Antarctic as well as the desire and ability to communicate that understanding to the public.

Application: Applications that indicate a solid working knowledge of the USAP and its science goals and the ability to communicate the research being undertaken to a wide audience, as described above, stand the best chance of selection.

Peter West, Polar Programs' outreach manager, can discuss with potential applicants the requirements for Antarctic deployment and provide access to NSF-supported researchers who are scheduled to be in the field during the deployment. NSF strongly suggests that potential applicants discuss their proposed deployment prior to submitting an actual proposal.

Deployment period: Deployment would occur between late early November and mid-December 2018, for a period of about 10 working days. Actual dates depend on story planning and logistics discussions.

Medical: To deploy to Antarctica, visitors must pass rigorous medical and dental examinations. Applicants' personal or corporate physicians and dentists, using USAP medical screening forms, which will be evaluated by USAP-contracted medical experts, conduct these examinations at the finalists' expense. Certain medical conditions detected during the physical or dental examinations may disqualify a candidate from visiting Antarctica, even if initially selected as a media-visitor finalist.

Expenses: Media selected for the visit, or their employers, pay for round-trip transportation to -- and accommodation in -- Christchurch, New Zealand (or, in the case of Palmer Station, Punta Arenas, Chile). NSF furnishes, at no cost to participants, cold-weather clothing solely for use in the field, as well as housing, transportation and food while in Antarctica.

Note: From time to time, NSF has received requests for the opportunity to visit NSF facilities from reporters who plan to travel to Antarctica at various times of the year via non-governmental means. Such requests are reviewed on a case-by-case basis. Such requests should be directed, well in advance, to Peter West, whose contact information is listed below.

Send applications and questions to:

Peter West
Email: / Phone: (703) 292-7530 (direct)

Thwaites Glacier:

The Science Coordination Office of the International Thwaites Glacier Collaboration (ITGC), jointly with NSF, is inviting applications from media to join the first science cruise of the five-year program on board the Nathaniel B. Palmer. The vessel will depart from Punta Arenas, Chile in January 2019 and the voyage will conclude on March 15, 2019, as part of the ITGC project.

NSF, the United Kingdom's Natural Environment Research Council / British Antarctic Survey and the ITGC's Science Coordination Office will jointly make these selections for an extremely small number of berths.

Priority will be given to media who can offer coverage in both the U.K. and the U.S. Follow the application instructions for the NSF program and send to Athena Dinar, senior communications manager, British Antarctic Survey: | Tel: +44 (0)1223 221441 | Mobile: +44 (0) 7909 008516.

More information on science stories as part of this cruise can be found here:

The deadline for applications is 5 p.m. (local time) on July 15, 2018. Electronic submissions are required, either as an email or as attachment to an email.

Deep Freeze:

News media that wish to solely cover Operation Deep Freeze should contact Lt. Kellie Rizer, JTF-SFA public affairs officer, at

JTF-SFA will review all applications and make a recommendation to NSF on which to support.

Media supported through JTF-SFA process will not be given access to science or to researchers outside the confines of McMurdo Station. They will have the opportunity to highlight components of Deep Freeze, including strategic inter-theater airlift, tactical deep-field support, sealift, cargo handling, and other support to the Antarctic Program.

Send questions to:

Peter West
Email: / Phone: (703) 292-7530 (direct)


Media Contacts
Peter West, NSF, (703) 292-7530, email:
Lt. Kellie Rizer, U.S. Air Force, email:
Athena Dinar, British Antarctic Survey, 44 (0)1223 221441, email:

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