Dr Alison Cook

        Head shot of smiling Dr Alison Cook.

Polar Geospatial Data Analyst

I am a geospatial data analyst whose research has covered glaciers, sea ice and shipping in polar regions, using GIS, remote sensing and fieldwork. I currently focus on the impacts of increasing Arctic shipping due to reductions in sea ice. I have produced publicly accessible geospatial datasets and have >30 peer-reviewed papers and published maps.

Contact details:

My research includes the following:

Generation of new polar geospatial datasets, including: glacier front positions; Digital Elevation Models; glacier basin outlines; Arctic shipping data such as ship characteristics and ship tracks. 

Spatial and temporal analysis of polar geospatial datasets, including: glacier changes over the past few decades and their oceanic/atmospheric drivers; changes in shipping in relation to distances travelled, ship characteristics and risk taking; sea-ice trends in relation to shipping 

Arctic shipping research: trends associated with ship characteristics and tracks; the impacts of the increase in shipping in particular regions, such as risks to Inuit communities 

Mapping: production of maps for a range of purposes, such as to sell to the public, for fieldwork planning, or for publication in papers 

GIS: Data generation, management and visualisation 

Photogrammetry and remote sensing: for the purpose of dataset and map generation 

Fieldwork: experience includes aerial photography and GPS surveying for glaciology and mapping 

Paper publication: writing-up research findings in peer-reviewed journals 

Outreach: working with others to share the findings from our Polar research

Current Research

CINUK2021, Funded by UKRI and the Canadian Government, 2022-2025

Meredith, M.P., Inall, M.E., Brearley, J.A., Ehmen, T., Sheen, K., Munday, D., Cook, A., Retallick, K., Van Landeghem, K., Gerrish, L., Annett, A., Carvalho, F., Jones, R., Naveira Garabato, A., Bull, C., Wallis, B., Hogg, A. and Scourse., J. 2022. Internal tsunamigenesis and ocean mixing driven by glacier calving in Antarctica. Science Advances8(47), p.eadd0720, https://doi.org/10.1126/sciadv.add0720

Kochtitzky, W., Copland, L., Van Wychen, W., Hugonnet, R., Hock, R., Dowdeswell, JA., Benham, T., Strozzi, T., Glazovsky, A., Lavrentiev, I., Rounce, D.R., Millan, R., Cook, A.J., Dalton, A., Jiskoot, H., Cooley, J., Jania, J. and Navarro, F. (2022) The unquantified mass loss of Northern Hemisphere marine-terminating glaciers from 2000–2020. Nat Commun 13, 5835. https://doi.org/10.1038/s41467-022-33231-x

Copland L., Dawson J., Tivy A., Delaney F., and Cook A.J. (2021). Changes in shipping navigability in the Canadian Arctic between 1972 and 2016. FACETS 6: 1069–1087. https://doi:10.1139/facets-2020-0096  

Van Luijk, N., Dawson, J. and Cook, A.J. (2020) Analysis of Heavy Fuel Oil use by ships operating in the Canadian Arctic Waters from 2010 to 2018. FACETS 5: 304–327. https://doi.org/10.1139/facets-2019-0067 

Cook, A. J., Copland, L., Noël, B.P.Y., Stokes, C. R., Bentley, M. J., Sharp, M .J., Bingham, R. B., & van den Broeke, M. R. (2019). Atmospheric forcing of rapid marine-terminating glacier retreat in the Canadian Arctic Archipelago. Science Advances, 5. 

Seehaus, T., Cook, A. J., Silva, A. B. & Braun, M. (2018). Changes in glacier dynamics in the northern Antarctic Peninsula since 1985. The Cryosphere, 12, pp. 577-594. 

Huber, J., Cook, A. J., Paul, F. & Zemp, M. (2017). A complete glacier inventory of the Antarctic Peninsula based on Landsat 7 images from 2000 to 2002 and other pre-existing data sets. Earth Sys. Sci. Data; 9, pp. 115-131. 

Cook, A. J., Holland, P. R., Meredith, M. P., Murray, T., Luckman, A., & Vaughan, D. G. (2016). Ocean forcing of glacier retreat in the western Antarctic Peninsula. Science, 353 (6296), pp. 283-286. 

Cook, A. J., Vaughan, D.G., Luckman, A. & Murray, T. (2014). A new Antarctic Peninsula glacier basin inventory and observed area changes since the 1940s. Antarctic Science, 26 (6), pp. 614-624. 

Cook, A. J., Murray, T., Luckman, A., Vaughan, D.G. & Barrand, N.E. (2012). A new 100-m Digital Elevation Model of the Antarctic Peninsula derived from ASTER Global DEM: methods and accuracy assessment. Earth System Science Data, 4, pp. 129 - 142. 

Cook, A. J. and Vaughan, D. G. (2010) Overview of areal changes of the ice shelves on the Antarctic Peninsula over the past 50 years, The Cryosphere, 4, pp. 77-98. 

Cook, A. J., Poncet, S., Cooper, A. P. R., Herbert, D. J. and Christie, D. (2010) Glacier retreat on South Georgia and implications for the spread of rats. Antarctic Science, 22 (3), pp. 255-263. 

Cook, A. J., Fox, A. J., Vaughan, D. G. and Ferrigno, J. G. (2005) Retreating Glacier Fronts on the Antarctic Peninsula over the Past Half-Century, Science, 308, pp. 541-545 

Other Publications

Cook, A. J. The Antarctic Peninsula: Glaciers, Ice shelves and Sub-Antarctic Islands. In: Turner, J. Antarctic Climate Change and the Environment: A contribution to the International Polar Year 2007-2008. Cambridge; 2009:246-252. 

Fox, A.J., Cook, A. J. & Cziferszky, A. Using historic aerial photography for measuring glacial change on the Antarctica Peninsula. In: Cowley, D. From archives to applications: using archival aerial photography to monitor environmental change. Oxbow:Oxford; 2010. 

Published Maps

I designed and compiled original versions of 14 published maps. Latest editions are available for purchase online (https://www.bas.ac.uk/data/our-data/maps/). A selection of my published maps: 

Cook, A. J., Cziferszky, A. & Fox, A. J. The Arctic and Antarctica (BAS IPY Sheet 1) Scale 1:10 000 000. 

Cook, A. J., Cziferszky, A. & Fox, A. J. Antarctic Peninsula and the Scotia Arc (BAS UKAHT Sheet 1A and 1B). Scale 1:4 000 000 and 1:10 000 000. 

Cook, A. J. Northern Antarctic Peninsula, 1:250 000, BAS (UKAHT) Map Series Sheet 3A and 3B. 

Cook, A. J. Anvers Island and Brabant Island (SQ19-20/3&4) Satellite Image Map (Topographic), 1:250 000 

Cook, A. J. Thatcher Peninsula, South Georgia, 1:25,000, BAS (UKAHT) Map Series 5, Sheets 4A and 4B.  

Ferrigno, G. J., Cook, A. J., Mathie, M. A., Williams, R. S., Swithinbank, C., Foley, M. K., Fox, A., Thomson, W. J. & Sievers, J. Coastal-change and glaciological map of the Larsen Ice Shelf area, Antarctica: 1940–2005. 

Employment history

Nov 2021 to present - Postdoctoral Research Associate, SAMS

2018 - 2020 - Postdoctoral Fellow, University of Ottawa

2015 - 2018 - Research Fellow, Durham University

2000 - 2010 - Geographic Data Analyst, British Antarctic Survey


2014 - PhD, “Spatial and temporal changes in marine-terminating glaciers on the Antarctic Peninsula since the 1940s”, Swansea University

1999 - MSc, Geographical Information Science, Edinburgh University

1998 - BSc, Geography, University of St Andrews


Antarctic fieldwork experience 

Three austral seasons in the Antarctic Peninsula (Nov 2002 – Mar 2003, Nov 2004 – Feb 2005, and Jan-Feb 2009), and one in South Georgia (Nov-Dec 2008). Tasks included:

- Lead role in planning and preparation of field tasks such as compilation of flight line maps and maps of field sites; prioritising sites for survey, such as the geodetic survey network and ground control locations

- Installation and operation of aerial photography camera; leading aerial surveys and training colleagues

- GPS surveying in the field, which included mountaineering and camping

- Post-fieldwork field reports and data processing.


Fieldwork in the Canadian Arctic

Expedition to the Canadian Arctic Archipelago (Jul-Aug 2017) on-board the CCGS Amundsen. Tasks included:

- Planning and preparation of maps of proposed flight lines and ground control locations

- Helicopter aerial photography survey of glaciers and assistance with colleagues’ glaciology fieldwork

Two weeks in Resolute, Nunavut, in March 2019. I contributed to the Arctic Corridors and Northern Voices project. Tasks included:

-Planning and preparation of maps prior to visiting the community; involvement in workshops and teaching young people how to make maps; production of maps during and after the visit.



- Royal Scottish Geographical Society (RSGS) William Speirs Bruce Medal, 2010

Awarded quinquennially, the medal is awarded for making a notable contribution to the study of the Polar Regions. The first female recipient of the medal since its inception in 1926, my award recognised my significant contributions to Antarctic science and fieldwork. I have been made a Fellow of the RSGS. W S Bruce Medal | The Royal Scottish Geographical Society (rsgs.org)

- Cartographic awards:

British Cartographic Society Stanfords Award, 2007: production of the first large-scale topographic map of Ryder Bay, Antarctica. This used novel cartographic techniques, including ortho-photograph base imagery using images I took during my Antarctic fieldwork.

Maps of Antarctica and the Arctic that I designed and compiled were chosen for display in the entrance hall at the Scott Polar Research Institute, Cambridge.



Press conference at the Royal Institute in London, on release of Cook et al. (2005) paper in Science.

- Frequent presentations given to the general public and at schools, such as 6 talks at my home school (Dollar Academy) to P5 classes about fieldwork in Polar regions (2014-2021). Other schools have included Chafyn, Salisbury (2015) and St Godricks School, Durham (2017).

- Additional presentations to the public have included talks on Antarctic mapping and fieldwork at the International Festival of the Sea in Portsmouth (2005). I took part in the public days on-board the HMS James Clark Ross as part of the Antarctic Treaty Consultative Meeting (2006) in Edinburgh and have given talks about Polar mapping and fieldwork to societies including Stirling Mountaineering Society (2009), Dollar Museum (2011), and Durham church (2018).

- I presented my research at a scientific outreach event about climate change for writers in London (2016).


Speaking engagements

Invited speaker at the following meetings:

-Scott Polar Research Institute guest lectureship (2004)

-Royal Scottish Geographical Society (2011)

-Ice2Sea North/South Workshop in Copenhagen (2013)

-Swansea University guest lecturer (2015)

-OCNRS conference in Ottawa (2016)

-NE England Meteorological Society (2016)

-Edinburgh University Glaciology Society (2018)

-University of Ottawa and Washington University televised panel meeting on ‘Arctic Melt: Impacts on Governance’ (2020).