Prestigious award for leading polar expert


Ian Brooks, Professor of Boundary Layer Processes at the University of Leeds, has been awarded the Polar Medal.

The Polar Medal is awarded by the Queen to people who have given valued service in the polar regions. The award recognises Professor Brooks’ outstanding contribution to our understanding of atmosphere-ocean interactions in the Arctic and Antarctic regions.

Professor Brooks, of Leeds’ School of Earth and Environment, said: “It is a great and unexpected honour to be awarded the Polar Medal. It feels a little odd to receive a personal honour like this for what is inherently a collaborative endeavour – polar science can't be carried out alone.

“My reason for going to the poles is the science – to try and understand the processes controlling polar climate, and the accelerating changes taking place there.

“It’s a privilege to get to spend time in such beautiful, fragile places. There is something very special about working there which draws many of us back, again and again. Every time I return, I worry I might not get to go back.”

“It's a privilege to get to spend time in such beautiful, fragile places.”

Professor Ian Brooks

Professor Simone Buitendijk, Vice-Chancellor of the University of Leeds, said: “It is a remarkable achievement. The University of Leeds is at the forefront of polar research and the impact of climate change on this vulnerable region. Professor Brooks’ work in this field and his role in international research expeditions – often in harsh conditions – is well worthy of this recognition.”

Having worked with researchers from around the world, including PhD students and post-doctoral colleagues, Professor Brooks said: “I have benefited greatly from collaborating with research partners.

“Working in, even simply accessing, remote and hostile polar environments requires a lot of logistical support. I'm grateful to have had fantastic support from the British Antarctic Survey over several cruises in the Southern Ocean, and the Swedish Polar Research Secretariat during four expeditions on the icebreaker Oden.

“Most recently, the Alfred Wegener Institute in Germany supported me during my time on their icebreaker Polarstern as part of MOSAiC, the largest Arctic science programme ever undertaken.”

Professor Dame Jane Francis, Director of the British Antarctic Survey and Chancellor of the University of Leeds, extended her congratulations: “Ian has been at the forefront of understanding how our climate works, particularly the important interactions between the atmosphere and ocean in the polar regions. 

“He has bravely worked right at the junction of ocean and sky, being tossed around on research ships on the incredibly stormy seas in the Arctic and Antarctica! Ian’s Polar Medal is well deserved.” 

“He has bravely worked right at the junction of ocean and sky, being tossed around on research ships on the incredibly stormy seas in the Arctic and Antarctica!” 

Professor Dame Jane Francis

Professor Brooks joined the Institute of Climate and Atmospheric Sciences in the School of Earth and Environment at the University in 2002 after spending a number of years working on marine boundary layer meteorology at Scripps Institution of Oceanography in San Diego.

He has extensive experience in marine expeditions in the Polar regions and brings particular expertise in the technical aspects of atmospheric science instrumentation.


John Eager, Operations Director at the National Centre for Atmospheric Science, has also been awarded the Polar Medal in 2022 for his outstanding and sustained leadership in the UK’s Antarctic programme during his years of service as Head of Polar Operations at the British Antarctic Survey.

Professor Brooks and Mr Eager join an illustrious list of Polar Medal recipients that includes Captain Robert F Scott, Sir Ernest Shackleton, Sir Edmund Hillary, Sir Vivian Fuchs and also Professor Dame Jane Francis.

Initially, the Polar Medal set out to reward the participants of the first successful expedition to the Antarctic region, but in recent decades most awards have been made to people who – over prolonged periods of time and often in harsh conditions – have worked to advance knowledge of the polar regions.

Further information

Main image: Professor Ian Brooks in a polar landscape. Credit: Amy Richman.

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