Researcher, Antarctic Glaciers, Dr. Lucy Clarke: A Day in the GeoLife Series @DrLucyClarke

NAME:  Lucy Clarke

CURRENT TITLE:  Postdoctoral Researcher at the British Antarctic Survey

AREA OF EXPERTISE:  Fluvial geomorphology, glacial change and image analysis


EDUCATION:  PhD in Geography (University of Exeter, UK), MSc in Geography & Surveying (University of Otago, New Zealand), BSc Hons in Geography (Durham University, UK)


What’s your job like? Having finished my PhD a couple of years ago I have spent the intervening time employed on a series of short-term teaching and research contracts to broaden my experience and help to prepare myself for (hopefully) a permanent job in academia. I am currently employed as NERC funded postdoc at the British Antarctic Survey in the UK investigating the spatial and temporal distribution of 20th Century glacier mass change on the Antarctic Peninsula. This is using historical aerial photographs dating back to the 1940s to try to extend the record of glacier change in this area.

What’s a typical day like? My job can really be divided into 2 parts. The first element is the actual data collection, generation and analysis, which takes up the majority of my time. So having identified modern and historic aerial photos of my area of interest I use specialist photogrammetry software on the overlap from adjacent photographs to reconstruct 3D models of glaciers to quantify changes that have occurred. This forms my general daily routine, but an important part of my job is also to disseminate the results of the project which involves presenting at conferences and writing papers for publication. So the second part of my job is preparing for these and so I have days that are spent writing, drawing figures or putting together slides.

What’s fun? Getting to look at all the historic aerial photos of Antarctica and having daily access to the incredible archive here at the British Antarctic Survey as part of my job is so amazing. As part of the photogrammetric workflow I work in 3D and so spending my day exploring remote areas of Antarctica is such a privilege and I absolutely love it!

What’s challenging? Being a postdoc there is a constant pressure to achieve in order to secure the next job, and so juggling current research, writing papers from past work, keeping up-to-date with new publications, attending conferences and having a life can be difficult. There’s lots of aspects to an academic career and in particular in the early stages it is difficult to maintain a work-life balance when you are being paid to work on a single project during your working hours but have lots of other commitments and deadlines that you need to keep as well. So that can be challenging but I find that the benefits still outweigh the negatives and I am passionate about my research and my work and can’t imagine doing anything else.

What’s your advice for students? Find what you love to do and then work hard to pursue it – work is so much easier if you are enthusiastic about what you are doing. And also make the most of any opportunity that comes your way, this can lead to new avenues of work, travel, meeting people and it generally makes things much more enjoyable.