PhD in Polar Sciences

PhD in
Polar Sciences

Calls for applications

Applications to the National Doctoral Degree Programme in Polar Sciences 39th cycle (a.y. 2023/2024) are now closed. You will find all results on the dedicated page when available.

Curricula of the PhD in Polar Sciences: Biology, ecology and biodiversity, Human impacts , Solid Earth, Ocean and cryosphere, Astronomy and space and Earth Observation, Climate

PhD overview

Educational aims

The National PhD in Polar Sciences will be based at Ca 'Foscari University of Venice and will comprise many other universities and public research institutions.
It offers its students facilities and opportunities to access national research excellence, not only in university but also public and private contexts.

The fundamental objective is the training of experts with a wide and in-depth scientific preparation and a solid original and innovative research activity on issues related to climate change and knowledge of the polar regions. The research topics will be addressed with inter- and multidisciplinary approaches concerning the environmental and climatic processes of the polar areas, the management of natural resources and the impact of their use, natural risks, the effects of climate change and anthropogenic activities on organisms. and polar ecosystems.

The doctorate is structured over three years with general courses and training on polar subjects during the first year and specific seminar during the following years.

Training comprises a series of seminars on polar subject to be followed by all the students and specific training, to be held within the curricula.
The training courses and seminars are aimed at making the state of the art of scientific knowledge relating to the polar sciences available to students, with the aim of providing the tools to create a solid scientific basis for a general understanding of the processes that regulate global changes in the areas polar, offering not only the opportunity to deepen individual aspects, but also to have training and research experiences of a multidisciplinary type. 

Why polar research is important?

The polar regions and high altitude areas of the planet (such as the Tibetan plateau, the Himalayas, the Alps and the Andes) represent the three poles of the cooling system of our planet and are a scientific observatory of inestimable value. Polar research, in addition to being an irreplaceable flywheel of international scientific collaboration, has had and will have a growing strategic role for the country, allowing Italy to accede to the Antarctic Treaty first and more recently to sit as a permanent observer on the Arctic Council.

The polar regions influence the global climate through a number of processes. As spring snow and summer sea ice cover decrease, more heat is absorbed at the surface. There is growing evidence that ongoing changes in the Arctic, primarily sea ice loss, can potentially influence mid-latitude weather. As temperatures increase in the Arctic, permafrost soils in northern regions store less carbon. The release of carbon dioxide and methane from the land to the atmosphere further contributes to global warming.

Melting ice sheets and glaciers in the polar and high elevation regions cause sea levels to rise, affecting coastal regions and their large populations and economies. At present, the Greenland Ice Sheet and polar and non-polar glaciers are contributing more to sea level rise than the Antarctic Ice Sheet. However, ice loss from the Antarctic Ice Sheet has continued to accelerate, driven primarily by increased melting of the underside of floating ice shelves, which has caused glaciers to flow faster. Even though it remains difficult to project the amount of ice loss from Antarctica after the second half of the 21st century, it is expected to contribute significantly to future sea level rise.

The Southern Ocean that surrounds Antarctica is the main region globally where waters at depth rise to the surface. Here, they become transformed into cold, dense waters that sink back to the deep ocean, storing significant amounts of human-produced heat and dissolved carbon for decades to centuries or longer, and helping to slow the rate of global warming in the atmosphere. Future changes in the strength of this ocean circulation can so far only be projected with limited certainty.

Fisheries in the polar oceans support regional and global food security and are important for the economies of many countries around the world, but climate change alters Arctic and Antarctic marine habitats, and affects the ability of polar species and ecosystems to withstand or adapt to physical changes. This has consequences for where, when, and how many fish can be captured and of course on well being of resident populations of the Arctic.

Research themes

In order to give suitable answers to the broad interest in polar sciences and to manage the intrinsic multi-disciplinarity of these researches, the proposed national doctoral program intends to create an “ecosystem” of knowledge based on different thematic components which will provide specializations on strategic sectors and application domains such as: 

This represents a quite wide spectrum of important and strategic pillars that are intimately connected to a large variety of key research questions from different disciplinary perspectives and well reported in the European Polar Research Program (EU-PolarNet, 2020, Integrated European Polar Research Programme, Eds. Velázquez D, Houssais MN, Biebow N; 91 pp. Bremerhaven: Alfred Wegener Institute). These constitutes the six curricula in which the National PhD in Polar Sciences will be based.

Professional profiles

Research in the polar areas has always exerted great fascination on entire generations of students. However, the pressing and emerging challenges imposed by global changes in these vulnerable areas of the planet require a new generation of scientists, experts and professionals with a holistic view of the environmental and climatic system of the polar areas. The PhD in Polar Sciences responds to these needs with an adequate and completely innovative educational scheme and a curriculum that goes far beyond traditional disciplines, with the aim of providing students with the scientific basis and skills necessary to achieve these challenging goals. Students gain an in-depth understanding of the geography, geology, oceanography, and biogeochemical processes of polar environments, climate processes and their interactions, ranging from molecular to global scale, from short-term phenomena to changes in duration of millions of years. 

They will be prepared to understand how the impacts of ongoing climate change affect polar areas and how they react accordingly. PhD students actively participate in research projects funded by the Arctic and Antarctic Research Program of the CNR and MUR and in the Horizon Europe European Commission programs. All this provides deserving young scientists with in-depth scientific knowledge and personal skills such as to assume leadership roles in the academic world, in public research bodies at national and international level in a rapidly expanding field. Our ultimate goal is to provide people, products, policies and leadership to address the challenge of climate change in the polar areas.