Polar Days at TÜBİTAK

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The 7th National Polar Sciences Symposium and the 3rd Polar Festival, organized under the auspices of the Presidency, under the responsibility of the Ministry of Industry and Technology, and under the coordination of TÜBİTAK, were hosted by Yıldız Technical University.

In his speech at the opening ceremony of the event, the Minister of Industry and Technology, Mehmet Fatih Kacır, said that the poles, with their unique nature and ecological structure serve as a unique laboratory for scientific studies carried out in many fields such as geology, medicine, astronomy, climate, and life sciences. Kacır pointed out that these regions, rich in underground resources and fresh water reserves, attract the interest and attention of countries aspiring to have a say in the future of the world. Kacır highlighted the distinct importance of Antarctica among the polar regions, noting its discovery in the 1800s, its history of peace without conflict, and its dedication to scientific research. Managed and protected under the Antarctic Treaty of 1959, Antarctica is a testament to international cooperation in science. Kacır also mentioned the long-standing interest of Türkiye in Antarctica that dates back to the 16th century. He referenced the great Turkish Sailor Piri Reis, who included Antarctica in his maps in the early 1500s, and noted the acceleration of Turkish scientific studies in the region since the 1960s. He proudly mentioned that the names of Turkish scientists are commemorated in Antarctica at locations such as the Karaali Rocks, İnan Hill, and the Tilav Cirque.

"We enabled 116 Turkish scientists to conduct research in the polar regions"

Kacır pointed out that, under the conditions of the period, valuable Turkish professors were able to carry out their research under the umbrella of scientific research projects of other countries, and said: "In line with our vision of the National Technology Movement, our goal has been empower our nation to develop critical technologies and enhance its capacity for producing original and innovative scientific studies. Since 2017, under the auspices of our President, we have initiated National Polar Science Expeditions that have been instrumental in pioneering the research of our scientists and reinforcing our country's presence in the polar regions. To date, we have organized 7 expeditions to Antarctica and 3 to the Arctic, enabling 116 Turkish scientists to conduct research in the polar regions. As a result of these efforts, 252 scientific outputs have been produced. "

Minister Kacır, while reflecting on the outcomes of the annual scientific expeditions and Polar Symposiums that have brought us together today, emphasized, "These expeditions also provide a platform to test our local and national technologies in Antarctica developed under the vision of the National Technology Movement. The Antarctic and Arctic regions, known for their extreme climatic conditions, serve as testing grounds. In these harsh environments, we have enabled our scientists to maintain reliable long-distance communication using radios and radio relay stations produced by ASELSAN.Additionally, the thermal battery produced by TÜBİTAK SAGE has been crucial for meetingenergy and heating needs in possible emergency situations.  Our domestic UAVs have significantly helped our scientists in the most challenging conditions. The global positioning system and seismometer provided by HAVELSAN and TÜBİTAK RUTE, respectively, have further supported these scientific studies.  Kacır also noted successfuluse of special clothing, produced by local textile companies, by Turkish scientists during their expeditions, stating, "Our local and national technologies have not only transcended our national borders to reach Antarctica but have also proven their mettle under these challenging conditions. This achievement is a testament to the dedication, hard work, and intellectual effort of Turkish scientists, engineers, and technicians who are committed to the National Technology Movement." “Our achievements are not limited to these”, he continued. “We have achieved prestigious scientific studies recognized by the global scientific community through collaborations with more than 20 countries. These efforts have led to our successful full membership in organizations such as the European Polar Board, the Scientific Committee for Antarctic Research, and the National Antarctic Programs Executive Council. As a nation, we have become a party to the Antarctic Treaty Environmental Protection Protocol, affirming our commitment protecting Antarctica's unique ecosystem and promoting its use for scientific research."

The “Science at the Poles” Themed Painting Competition, held inconjunction with the 100th Anniversary of our Republic, has inspired our young people to go on a journey through the realms of their mind and imagination.”

We support our young people not only in polar science but also in the arts. "We received nearly 3,400 applications from 81 cities for this competition, which allows us to see the polar regions and our scientific studies through the eyes of our young people."

"We are sharing the National Polar Science Strategy with the public, a comprehensive roadmap for the next 13 years"

Minister Kacır elaborated on the significant strides made in polar research since 2017: "Our first major step was the implementation of our first National Polar Science Program for the 2018-2022 period. We consolidated our efforts by establishing the Polar Research Institute under the umbrella of the TÜBİTAK Marmara Research Center. Today, we are excited to present the National Polar Science Strategy to the public, which is a roadmap for the next 13 years. This strategy will guide us in enhancing the quantity and quality of scientific data in polar research and in bolstering Türkiye’s role and reputation in the international scientific community."

"The Encyclopedia of Polar Sciences will serve as a basic resource"

Explaining that they will bring the National Polar Sample Archive and the National Polar Data Center to Türkiye, Kacır said, "We will encourage the increase of academic and popular publications on polar sciences. Today, we are excited to announce two significant advancements in our polar science studies. The Encyclopedia of Polar Sciences is a notable contribution from our country, ensuring the standardization of terminology within the polar literature and sharing the mysteries of this challenging geography. This comprehensive work, containing more than 500 articles, covers a wide range of topics from the fauna of the polar regions to their geological formations, atmospheric structures, and geographical characteristics. It will serve as an invaluable resource for anyone with an interest in polar studies.

“The Turkish Journal of Earth Sciences Special Issue on Polar Sciences, dedicated to the memory of Atok Karaali”

Minister Kacır stated, “The Turkish Journal of Earth Sciences, one of the respected journals in our country, has dedicated this special issue to the theme of polar sciences. This special issue, dedicated to the memory and legacy of Atok Karaali, the first Turkish scientist to set foot in Antarctica, serves as a tribute to the 50-years contributions of Turkish researchers to the polar regions."

“This event holds significant value in the pursuit of finding a solution.”

In his speech, Prof. Dr. Hasan Mandal, President of TÜBİTAK, remarked on the extraordinary times we are experiencing locally, regionally, and globally. “Until yesterday, the temperature was 20 degrees, and today it is raining heavily... We hope for no disasters with every downpour. However, today's meeting is especially crucial as it focuses on finding solutions to these challenges, rather than merely hoping for the best,” he stated, emphasizing the importance of the event.

Mandal continued, “Although this situation may initially appear as an environmental or climate event, its impact extends far beyond, affecting us economically, socially and geopolitically. We are all witnessing the resulting challenges, including food, energy, and water security concerns, internal migration, and the accompanying economic implications. Unfortunately, these issues are likely to increase in the future." Mandal further noted, “These issues are currently being discussed at the government level at the ongoing COP28 Climate Summit in Dubai. The key concept is science and technology. While science tends to offer medium- and long-term solutions, the immediate needs demand a discussion of science and urgency together. This is why our symposium, which has been organized for 7 years, are invaluable in addressing these issues.”

“By 2050, we anticipate the absence of sea ice in the Arctic during the summer months”

Prof. Dr. Mandal said, “When considering the relevance of Antarctica, it is because the impacts of climate change are more rapidly observable in our nearby geographical vicinity. Comparing September data year-on-year, we have noted that the period with the highest sea ice in Antarctica has seen a decrease almost equivalent to the size of Egypt. Looking towards the Arctic, the current ice coverage is about 72 percent less than expected, and the projections are stark: By 2050, we anticipate no sea ice in the Arctic during the summer months. What does this mean? Predicting the further complications and impacts on our ecosystem is not challenging. The effects on food, water, energy, supply security, economics, and migration are expected to intensify significantly.” he stated.

“September marked the hottest September in the last century, and four months of 2023 recorded temperatures above the average, “Mandal reminded. “For this reason, the engagement of our community here, especially our younger members, including students, — and by students, I mean not just those in universities but also in high schools, — is important in this process. We find it very valuable that our students take responsibility for this. The interest in the climate and polar research competitions, recently initiated within the scope of TEKNOFEST, is an indication of the contribution these young people can make," he said.

Mandal also emphasized the importance of the symposium: “We are carrying out this project under the auspices of our Presidency, under the responsibility of our Ministry of Industry and Technology and under the coordination of TÜBİTAK. The symposium serves as a vital platform for disseminating the findings from our annual National Polar Science Expeditions to Antarctica and Arctic. It goes beyond raising awareness; it is an event where experimental research is shared and discussed. Approximately 80 papers and presentations will be delivered, and around 100 policies are expected to be formulated, highlighting the importance and impact of this event.”

“We strive to bring our country's strong scientific potential to these regions and contribute to the international scientific community with original and high added value studies.”

In her speech, Prof. Dr. Burcu Özsoy, President of TÜBİTAK MAM and Director of KARE, highlighted the profound significance of the polar regions, including the Arctic and Antarctica, which are tens of thousands of kilometers away from us. She emphasized their critical role in the Earth’s natural cycles and, consequently, their impact on human life.

“Recent years have witnessed extreme weather events such as floods, droughts, heatwaves, and sudden temperature changes, emphasizing that climate change is an issue that cannot be ignored," Özsoy stated. “We are committed to conducting research in the polar regions, aiming to be a part of the solution and to shed light on our future regarding these challenges. At the same time, we strive to bring our country's strong scientific potential to these regions and contribute to the international scientific community with original and high-value added research.” she expressed.

“As Türkiye, we aim to contribute as an active participant in the meetings where the future of the polar regions is discussed.”

Prof. Dr. Özsoy stated, “The initiation of National Polar Research in 2017 under the auspices of our President and under the responsibility of the Ministry of Industry and Technology has become a symbol of the value and importance given to this work as a country and has enabled polar research activities to gain great momentum. The advancements of Türkiye in polar research draw attention and are appreciated at international meetings we attend and in scholarly articles focusing on Türkiye. Our aim is not just to be observers but active contributors in discussions determining the future of the polar regions.We are working with all our strength in order not to embarrass our esteemed President, our esteemed Minister, our esteemed TÜBİTAK President, the esteemed Vice President of TÜBİTAK and Director of TÜSSİDE, the esteemed President of BİTO, and everyone supporting us in this path,” he said.

Science-Themed Painting Competition at the Poles on the 100th Anniversary of our Republic

After his speech, Minister Kacır presented the awards to the winners of the "Science-Themed Painting Competition at the Poles on the 100th Anniversary of our Republic".

In the primary, secondary, and high school categories, third-place winners Asel Keskin, Kasımcan Arıkanoğlu, and Belinay Başar received cameras and TÜBİTAK books.

Tablets and TÜBİTAK books were presented to Esma Koca, Berra Kaplan and Zeynep Topçu, who are the second-place winners. First-place winners Elif Mina Taşocak, Ceylin Ebcim and Rümeysa Suna Öcal in their respective categories were honored with computers and TÜBİTAK books.

Gift of a 60-Million-Year-Old RockPresented to Minister Kacır

During a special ceremony, TÜBİTAK President Prof. Dr. Hasan Mandal presented a special 60-million-year-old rock to the Minister of Industry and Technology Mehmet Fatih Kacır. Mandal explained, “This rock was collected within the scope of the First National Antarctic Science Expedition in 2017, from Horseshoe Island at 68 degrees southern latitude, where our national research camp is located. The rock that we presented to our Minister is a gabbro consisted mostly of pyroxene and plagioclase minerals, representing the latest magmatic activity in the region. All necessary analyzes of the rock have been completed.” He clarified the importance of this gift in his statements.

The 7th National Polar Sciences Symposium and the 3rd Polar Festival will last two days.