Sian Henley

Polar Scientist in the Spotlight

Learn about all sorts of careers that polar scientists have as we explore their different research areas through the featured Polar Scientist of the Month.

Sian Henley

Independent Research Fellow, University of Edinburgh, UK

What do you do?

I conduct fieldwork in Antarctica and the Arctic; laboratory work in field locations, the UK and the US; and analysis, interpretation and reporting of results based in Edinburgh.


What is the best thing about your job?

I love my job for many reasons, but the best thing about it is the opportunity to travel to some of the most beautiful places on Earth – the Antarctic and the Arctic – and learn first hand how ocean processes there are affecting, and being affected by, large-scale climate and environmental change.

What is the most important tool you use for research?

Isotopes! Subtle differences in these chemical signatures of dissolved nutrients and organic particles give us so much information about nutrient and carbon dioxide uptake, primary production, the fate of organic particles and the recycling of nutrients in the ocean.

Why is what you do important?

The polar regions play a critical role in the exchange of heat and dissolved gases between Earth’s atmosphere and oceans, and the biological and chemical processes that I study are important regulators of air-sea exchange of climate-active gases like carbon dioxide. My work also informs on the health of polar marine ecosystems, by examining biological processes at the base of the food web. Both polar regions are experiencing rapid change and variability, and it is crucial to understand how these physical phenomena will affect biological and chemical systems now and in the future.

Polar ICE