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Opportunities For Participation in the United States Antarctic Program

Each year the United States deploys to Antarctica about 700 people to perform scientific research and about 2,500 people to operate and maintain year-round research stations and provide logistics in support of this research. These persons include research teams from academia, industry, and government, military personnel, and contractor employees.

The National Science Foundation is the federal agency responsible for funding and managing U.S. activities in Antarctica, but the Foundation does not directly hire individuals for this work. Most are selected by participating organizations and institutions as described below. Successful applicants will have been prepared through specialized study, training, or experience in polar-related topics. Opportunities fall into these categories:


Scientific opportunities in Antarctica center on terrestrial and marine biology, medical research, meteorology, glaciology, the earth sciences, the ocean sciences, atmospheric physics, and astronomy. Eligibility generally is limited to U.S. scientists with advanced degrees, who initiate proposals that are submitted by their employing organizations. Graduate students are not encouraged to submit research proposals, but are welcome as members of research teams. The procedure for preparing and submitting proposals is described in the Foundation's Grant Proposal Guide (publication GPG 16-001) and Antarctic Research Solicitation (NSF 16-541).


The scientist who submits a successful proposal typically is authorized to assemble a research team to help implement his or her project in the field. Preference is given to graduate and undergraduate students in the pertinent scientific discipline. Although assistants usually are chosen from within the scientist's organization, a well-qualified individual may be successful in joining the team. The Foundation encourages investigators to include qualified young people (high school graduates and beyond) in their field projects and offers several programs to fund such participation. lists recent awardees and provides descriptions of their research. Inquiries should be directed to the awardee, not to the Foundation.


Because of the far flung and difficult environment of Antarctica, the program has many people in support roles. These people operate stations, laboratories, machinery, helicopters, and research ships, build or renovate facilities, maintain vehicles, outfit field parties, and manage camps. Many trades and levels of skill are involved. Contractors to the Foundation hire individuals and award subcontracts for performance of these tasks. The prime support contractor is the Leidos Antarctic Support Contract (ASC). Employment inquiries should be directed to Leidos Antarctic Support Contract (ASC). Direct inquiries to the contractors, not the Foundation.


The New York Air National Guard operates LC-130 (ski-equipped) airplanes in the Antarctic Program. The Coast Guard operates icebreakers in Antarctica to escort supply ships and to support science. Employment with these organizations generally is limited to active duty and reserve service personnel. Direct inquiries to an Air Force recruiter or the Coast Guard, Department of Transportation, Washington, D.C. 20590.


Each year the Foundation endeavors to host in Antarctica members of the press and radio or television crews to observe and report on U.S. activities. Selection is based on ability to understand and present scientific subjects, written commitment from employing organization, and expected size of audience. NSF's Office of Legislative and Public Affairs administers this program, which has an annual application deadline several months before the austral summer season begins. For information about applications for participation during a field season, please contact Mike England, or


To enable interpretation and presentation of the Nation's Antarctic heritage, the Foundation's Antarctic Artists & Writers Program considers requests from particularly well qualified writers, historians, artists, and other scholars in the liberal arts to work in Antarctica. This opportunity provides field support, but no direct award of funds. The successful candidate will be well-established and working full-time in the appropriate field and will have a means of presenting his or her work to the public. A program solicitation, revised annually in March, describes the opportunity, provides application instructions, and lists prior participants. The annual application deadline is the first Wednesday in June for the field season beginning about 15 months later. The past participants page provides information about earlier projects.


Because some types of activities are not considered to contribute to the U.S. mission for Antarctica, NSF will not consider or approve applications for participation in the program in these categories: private expeditions by mountain climbers or adventurers, visits to promote commercial products, photography (except as in one of the above categories), "space-available" passage on support aircraft flights, and sightseeing or other superficial visits. The support organizations are also bound by this National policy. The Government does not provide support to private expeditions, but does not discourage citizens from participating in such expeditions if they are self-sufficient and meet environmental standards.


The National Science Foundation and its contractors and grantees are equal opportunity employers. Women and members of minority groups are encouraged to apply for participation in all aspects of the U.S. Antarctic Program. A number of NSF programs specifically encourage such participation and can be found on the the Foundation's web site by searching the funding database at or on the Guide to Programs/Browse Funding Opportunities page.