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  • Feba Francis

My love for Glaciers made me a polar scientist - Quentin dalaiden

Quentin Dalaiden is a postdoctoral research fellow at Université Catholique de Louvain. He works on reconstructing atmospheric circulation over Antarctica using paleo records and data assimilation. When he is not working on polar science, he goes running or expresses his huge love for Siberian huskies. And one thing that he and his favourite breed of dogs have in common is their love for the freezing weather. For this interview, he gets candid about his interests and work in polar science.

What inspired you to pursue a career in polar science, and how did you get started in the field?

I have always been interested in the environment, more specifically in the closed environment, whether physical or human. This is why I embarked on geography studies, which is precisely on the border of the human and environmental sciences. We also notice that geography is central these days to solving various societal problems. Having always been interested in climate dynamics and modelling, I began a master's degree in climatology, which shortly afterwards led to a thesis on Antarctic precipitation. It was good because I have always been a lover of glaciers, and more generally of mountains, and Antarctica has both.

Can you describe your current research project or area of focus in polar science?

Currently, I work more specifically on climate changes in Antarctica, such as changes in snow accumulation, basal melting or sea-ice cover on the ocean surface. My work involves putting these changes into perspective in a broader context based on models and observations from paleo archives, such as ice cores. I also seek to understand the physical cause of the changes observed over the last decades and, more generally, the variability as to what dynamic processes can explain these changes. I am also very interested in understanding the extent of these changes attributed to human activities.

What are some of the unique challenges and opportunities you encounter when conducting research in polar science?

It is not unique, but the main challenge is the lack of data. There are so few observations in Antarctica, and a lot of research to be done. A corollary is that it is difficult to validate its results. It is, therefore, sometimes difficult to be convincing, especially since the Antarctic climate has only recently responded to human intervention.

How do you envision the future of polar science, particularly in the context of addressing climate change and its effects on polar environments?

I think there are a lot of things to do in the polar regions because there are a lot of interactions between the different components of the Earth system, atmosphere, ocean and ice sheet. These interactions are still poorly understood. I also think that it is necessary to better understand the paleo records (big uncertainties) because it is our only source of information before the 1950s. Only looking at the last few years is far too short to put the changes in a recent context.

Any comments for students and aspiring scientists?

Yes, pursue a career in climate science but do not be limited to only polar regions, understand the climate in general.

Written by: Feba Francis

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