2010-11 news

New Ellsworth Mountains Map Series published for Antarctic Logistics & Expeditions

The Union Glacier camp and runway are the central logistics hub for Antarctic Logistics and Expeditions (ALE) operations in Antarctica. ALE needed clear, up-to-date and accurate maps of the Ellsworth Mountains to support their operations and to provide staff & visitors with medium-scale maps for field expedition use. The map series was designed and produced by ERA and UnParalleled for ALE.

The topographic maps provide essential information on geographical and human features in the remote region. Satellite imagery highlights crevasse fields and glacier flow information to expeditions, as well as detail in mountain topography in an area where elevation data are poor. Field GPS data are overlaid to show routes and waypoints.

Initial maps were developed in ARC-GIS v10 based on data from the Antarctic Digital Database v5 & the Landsat Image Mosaic of Antarctica. Major error in the spatial referencing of source data was significantly reduced using GPS control. GPS observations were used to define human features such as runways, structures and routes. Each sheet was exported from GIS to Adobe Illustrator for graphic design work by UnParalleled. Sheet 4 was printed in volume using 4-colour litho process on 130 gsm Opera paper (Victoria Litho, London). Other sheets were printed in low-volume using ERA's high-res Designjet Z3100PS inkjet printer on 120 gsm matt polypropylene paper. The maps are available on enquiry with ERA or ALE.

There are six maps in the 1:100 000 series:- Sheet 1 Vinson Massif, Sheet 2 Minnesota Glacier, Sheet 3 Schanz Glacier, Sheet 4 Union Glacier, Sheet 5 Meyer Hills and Sheet 6 Patriot Hills. In addition, a more detailed 1:35 000 map has been prepared focused on Union Glacier.

IBA Report
Front cover of the IBA Report

Important Bird Areas in Antarctica

In Summer 2011 ERA released the Important Bird Areas in Antarctica report. ERA has been working with Birdlife International and the Foreign & Commonwealth Office to define a list of Important Bird Areas (IBAs) in the Antarctic Peninsula / South Shetland Islands / South Orkney Islands region.
Species for which data were available with regional coverage were Emperor (Aptenodytes forsteri), Adélie (Pygoscelis adeliae), Chinstrap (Pygoscelis antarctica), Gentoo (Pygoscelis papua), and Macaroni (Eudyptes chrysolophus) penguins, and Southern Giant Petrel (Macronectes giganteus), Snow Petrel (Pagodroma nivea) and Imperial (Antarctic) Shag (Phalacrocorax [atriceps] bransfieldensis). Data on other species were more patchy, although where available were included for the species Cape Petrel (Daption capense), Wilson's Storm-petrel (Oceanites oceanicus), Black-bellied Storm-petrel (Fregetta tropica), Antarctic Prion (Pachyptila desolata), Greater Sheathbill (Chionis alba), Brown Skua (Catharacta [antarctica] lonnbergi), South Polar Skua (Catharacta maccormicki), Southern Fulmar (Fulmarus glacialoides), Light-mantled Sooty Albatross (Phoebetria palpebrata), Kelp Gull (Larus dominicanus) and Antarctic Tern (Sterna vittata).
It was considered necessary to develop a clear and repeatable methodology for IBA identification in order to ensure that sites were not omitted or included without an explicit justification. Considerable effort was therefore invested in establishing the site identification methodology, and the rationale for the approach taken. Our goal has been to develop a method that defines the criteria used explicitly, allowing the exercise to be repeated in the future when new data become available. This is particularly important in an environment that is changing rapidly in response to regional and global warming, with its implications and biological consequences. Alternative methods are possible: for example, larger units of spatial aggregation could be defined and these could be applied to the data if these were considered preferable. In total 101 Important Bird Areas were identified throughout the region.

Antarctic Treaty System Map

ERA has published online its Antarctic Treaty System Map. The ATS Map shows all of the key instruments and institutions related to Antarctica and their interrelationships. The clickable map allows users to access resources related to the Antarctic Treaty System through a single, easy-to-use interface. The resource is made available free, and is particularly useful as an educational tool. The resource was designed and developed by ERA Director Dr Colin Harris. Thanks are extended to colleagues, especially Jane Rumble and Rob Bowman at the UK Foreign & Commonwealth Office, for their helpful suggestions to improve the map, although of course all responsibility for the resource lies with ERA.

ERA Director presents Keynote on Antarctic Specially Managed Areas at Antarctic workshop

ERA Director Dr Colin Harris was invited by the Antarctic Committee for Environmental Protection (CEP) to deliver the Keynote Presentation to the CEP Workshop on Marine and Terrestrial Antarctic Specially Managed Areas, held in Montevideo, Uruguay, 16-17 June 2011. The meeting aimed to take stock of the implementation of Antarctic Specially Managed Areas, of which 7 have been designated by the Treaty. ERA has been working closely with the United States Antarctic Program (USAP) and Antarctica New Zealand on development of a revised management plan and maps for ASMA No. 2 McMurdo Dry Valleys. ERA also worked closely with USAP on ASMA No. 7 Southwest Anvers Island and Palmer Basin, and prepared the maps for ASMA No. 5 Amundsen-Scott South Pole Station. The meeting concluded that the ASMA is a very important tool for environmental management in Antarctica, with considerable scope for further application. A report is being presented to the XXXIV Antarctic Treaty Consultative Meeting being held in Buenos Aires from 20 June - 01 July 2011.

ERA recognised in US National Science Foundation Environmental Award

ERA was recognised in May 2011 for its outstanding environmental and GIS mapping contributions to the United States Antarctic Program. ERA has worked with USAP on protection and management of sensitive areas for many years, and Dr Karl Erb, the Director of the Office of Polar Programs, National Science Foundation, noted that ERA is "especially known for their expertise in drafting management plans for protected and managed areas and their high quality maps using the latest GIS available". Protection of the Antarctic is centrally important to the Antarctic Treaty and the award recognised in particular the contributions of our colleagues at Raytheon Polar Services Nate Biletnikoff and Kevin Pettway, together with Colin Harris, Rachel Carr and Katharina Lorenz at ERA for our work on a range of sites including Palmer Basin (SW Anvers Island), the McMurdo Dry Valleys, Cape Hallett (Victoria Land), and Davis Valley (Pensacola Mountains) to name a few examples.

New staff at ERA

Lucy Waller was appointed ERA Accounts Administrator in March 2011, and will be working three days per week. Lucy is an Associate of the Chartered Institute of Management Accountants.

mount herschel
Mount Herschel (3,335m), Victoria Land; © C Harris 2009

ERA judged Winner of Digital Photography Review Antarctic Photographic Challenge

The photograph on the left, taken on Antarctic field work by Colin Harris (ERA Director), has won the Antarctic Photographic Challenge on Digital Photography Review, one of the leading digital photography websites in the world. The photograph of Mount Herschel, Cape Hallett, Ross Sea, was taken around midnight in late November 2009, while ERA was carrying out fieldwork for the US Antarctic Program.




ERA sponsors Polar Remote Sensing Conference

ERA was a 'Supporting Conference Sponsor' of the 11th International Circumpolar Remote Sensing Symposium, held at the Scott Polar Research Institute in Cambridge, UK, 20-24 September 2010. The conference covered remote sensing applications in the polar environments, both Arctic and Antarctic, and was thus very relevant to much of ERA's work.

Staff changes at ERA

Rachel Carr left ERA in mid-August 2010 in preparation for her Ph.D. course which begins at Durham in September. Rachel's project will investigate the effects of climate change on Greenlandic glaciers. Sarah Jones left in early September when her one-year contract with ERA came to a close. We wish them all success in their new endeavours!

Antarctic Field Season 2009-10

Two staff members at ERA, Dr Colin Harris and Rachel Carr, recently completed six weeks of fieldwork in Antarctica, conducted on behalf of the US Antarctic Program (USAP). Work included obtaining high quality ground-control for image rectification in order to update and improve maps of Antarctic Specially Managed Area No.2: McMurdo Dry Valleys. In addition, detailed ground-based surveys of Antarctic Specially Protected Areas in the Ross Sea and McMurdo Dry Valleys were carried out to facilitate updates and revisions to Protected Area management plans across the region.

Recent project developments

Foreign & Commonwealth Office commission ERA to produce a Second Edition of the Antarctic Wildlife Awareness Manual

Wildlife Awareness Manual
Wildlife Awareness Manual cover

Following the successful publication of the Wildlife Awareness Manual (WAM): Antarctic Peninsula, South Shetland Islands, South Orkney Islands, the Polar Regions Unit of the UK Foreign & Commonwealth Office has commissioned ERA to produce a WAM 2nd Ed. The WAM was originally designed to assist helicopter pilots and aircrew on HMS Endurance avoid concentrations of wildlife when planning and conducting their operations in the region. The second edition of the WAM will feature the most up-to-date bird and seal breeding colony data available; an increased number of geographic place names and spot heights; updates to coastline and contour data; and improved map design and layout. For information on the date of release, watch this space.

Ross Sea Protected Area management plans

Following on from work in previous years, the US National Science Foundation has commissioned ERA to review and update management plans for Protected Areas in the Ross Sea region, Antarctica. Fieldwork completed by ERA and the United States Antarctic Program (USAP) in the 2009-2010 Antarctic field season is being used for a range of purposes, including the update of management plan text and maps for Arrival Heights (ASPA No.122) and Cape Hallett (ASPA No.106). New versions of the management plans for these sites are due for release later this year.

Nimba Regional Atlas

Fauna and Flora International has recently contracted ERA to produce a resource atlas for a Darwin Initiative Project set in the Nimba Mountain region, West Africa. Bordered by Guinea, Liberia and Côte d'Ivoire, the Nimba Range is a World Heritage Site and cross-boundary reserve surrounded by lowland rainforest and savanna. The Nimba Mountains Resource Atlas will focus on conservation, community and commerce in the region, and will include maps showing protected areas, infrastructure, mining and forestry.

Important Bird Areas in Antarctica

ERA are working with Birdlife International and the Government of the British Antarctic Territories to produce a series of site accounts for a newly identified network of Important Bird Areas (IBAs) across Antarctica. IBAs are sites of conservation for globally threatened, restricted-range, migratory or congregatory bird species. Bird breeding colonies are relatively sparse across Antarctica and protecting vulnerable bird species is particularly important for ensuring the biodiversity of the region is maintained.

Firefox 2
Design & Construction: ERA
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Last Update: 7 July 2016