In the face of climate variability and change, science in Antarctica needs to address increasingly complex questions. Individual small studies are being replaced by multinational and multidisciplinary research programmes. The Latitudinal Gradient Project (LGP) is one such approach that combines a series of smaller studies under a single broad hypothesis to provide information that uses a gradient in latitude as a surrogate for environmental gradients, particularly climate. In this way latitudinal differences can be used to indicate climate change differences. The Key Questions for the LGP were developed via national workshops in Italy, New Zealand, and the USA and via two international workshops at SCAR conferences. Science and logistics are currently jointly shared by New Zealand, Italy and the USA, and cover marine and inland ecosystem studies along the Victoria Land coast from 72° to 78°S with plans for extensions to 85°S. The LGP forms part of the SCAR Programme Evolution and Biodiversity in Antarctica. This Special Issue summarizes some of the work in the first three years of the LGP (2002–2005), between McMurdo Sound and Cape Hallett, to form a basis for future comparative studies as the research shifts along the latitudinal span in the next decade.