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About the Office of Polar Programs

Deputy Director :  Kelly K. Falkner

The Office of Polar Programs (OPP) manages and initiates National Science Foundation funding for basic research and its operational support in the Arctic and the Antarctic. The funds are provided as NSF grants to institutions (mainly U.S. universities), whose scientists perform the research at the institutions or in a polar region, and as cooperative agreements or contracts to support organizations including contractors and the U.S. military.

OPP supports individual investigators or research teams and U.S. participation in multinational projects. Projects can involve investigators from many disciplines and institutions over several years.

Organizationally, OPP has two science divisions - one each for the Arctic and the Antarctic. A third division  manages the provision of logistics and support operations including field stations, camps, and laboratories.  Environmental, health and safety issues are handled by the Office of Polar Environment, Health and Safety.

The United States is a leading nation in polar science, and research results have global significance. As well, the polar regions intrigue the public and provide opportunities for educational enrichment.

Polar regions are unique natural laboratories. A range of research can be undertaken only there or best there. OPP considers supporting polar research in these areas:

  • Understanding Earth and its systems. Goals include achieving better understanding of polar regions' influence on and response to global heat distribution in the oceans and the atmosphere, adaptations of organisms to polar extremes, and the valuable records of past climates and atmospheric constituents in ice cores, polar ocean sediments, and other indicators.
  • Exploring the geographical frontier. Many fields of science are exploring the still unevenly understood polar frontiers. For example, the central Arctic Ocean and the Southern Ocean are the least studied oceans, especially during winter.
  • Performing science enabled by the polar setting. Polar conditions can enable research either not possible elsewhere or less effective elsewhere. Examples are the extremely dry atmosphere over the South Pole as a window for astrophysical study of the origins of the universe, arctic social sciences, and antarctic medical sciences.


(Additional related links are available on OPP's Related Polar Links page.)

NSF Links

International Polar Year Links

Polar Links

Antarctic Policy Related Links

Arctic Policy Related Links

Office of Polar Programs SITE MAP!


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