ECO Antarctica will establish a network and a series of public events including a conference that will embark on deriving key research questions for implementation over the next decade to help protect Antarctica.
The network will discuss environmental, legal and cultural challenges posed by human interactions with the Antarctic.
Antarctica is the most remote, coldest, driest and windiest continent on Earth; this makes it one of the harshest and most unique environments on the planet.
It has been 100 years since humans first occupied the continent and 180 years since seafarers first saw the islands of the Antarctic Peninsula. During the last 100 years our impacts include harvesting some Antarctic species to the verge of extinction for economic benefit, killing and disturbing other species, contaminating soils, discharging sewage to the sea and leaving rubbish, cairns and tracks in the even the most remote regions of the continent. Changes to climate including the ozone hole and greenhouse gases are also having profound impacts.
The areas free of ice are rich in biodiversity, consisting of highly specialised Antarctic flora and fauna, which have evolved over long periods of isolation, largely devoid of human influences. These areas now host the majority of research stations (three of which are Australian bases), increasing the susceptibility of Antarctic life to adverse environmental impacts. Tourist operators are also tapping into the huge demand to visit the last great wilderness on Earth. Paradoxically, both science and tourism have the potential to damage the very qualities drawing them there.
ECO (Environment, Community, Outreach) Antarctica will look to assess and identify the best transferable technologies for mapping and monitoring the ecosystem health and human impacts. It will also look at the political and cultural barriers and consider ways to avoid them as well as explore the idea of volunteer tourism and citizen science.
For the latest news on the project, follow the ECO Antarctica blog.
This interdisciplinary project brings together researchers from the Faculties of Science, Medicine and Health, Social Sciences and Law, Humanities and the Arts.
Associate Professor Dianne Jolley is an environmental toxicologist and chemist, with 15 years experience investigating the mechanisms of contaminant toxicity in biological systems, and the development of tools to access and predict bioavailable contaminants. Dianne is in School of Chemistry in the Faculty of Science, Medicine and Health at UOW.
Professor Sharon Robinson is a plant ecophysiologist with nearly 20 years (10 Antarctic seasons) experience investigating impacts of climate change and the ozone hole on the Antarctic terrestrial ecosystems. Sharon is in the School of Biological Sciences within the Faculty of Science, Medicine and Health at UOW.
Professor Laurie Chisholm uses multi-scale spatial techniques to evaluate dynamics of plant physiological responses and the impact of disturbance events on ecosystems dynamics, and works within mixed- methods frameworks. Laurie is in SEES in the Faculty of Science, Medicine and Health at UOW.
Associate Professor Brogan Bunt is a media artist, current exploring the aspects of writing, photography and lived action. He has produced multimedia logs for Antarctic cruise companies (2005-2007), new media art work focusing on fragmented video footage of Antarctic landscape – Ice Time (Faculty of Creative Arts Gallery, 2005), and digital prints of Antarctic Peninsula for ZeitBytes exhibition (2010, Project Contemporary Artspace). Current interests include contemporary artistic engagement with Antarctic landscape/politics.
Professor Greg Rose brings legal and policy scholarship, combined with practical expertise. He is a member of ANCORS, publishes principally on marine governance law, including Antarctica, fisheries and whaling and environmental protection and with 30 years of experience as an international lawyer in environmental protection. Greg is in the School of Law within the Faculty of Law, Humanities and the Arts at UOW.
Professor Garry Hoban is a world leader in creating new media forms that are simple enough for students of any participants to create as an innovative way to engage with and communicate science (ARCDP (2008 -2011) in slowmation (slow animation) and an Office of learning and Teaching National Senior Fellowship). Garry is in the Faculty of Social Sciences.
Professor Gordon Waitt has made an outstanding contribution to inter-disciplinary debates in tourism studies drawing on quantitative and qualitative approaches (e.g. debates about the collective and individual impacts of festivals; the theoretical question of authenticity; and the role of tourism in sustaining and undoing colonial myths). Gordon is in the School of Geography and Sustainable Communities in the Faculty of Social Sciences.
Dr Michael Ashcroft is an early career researcher with expertise in microclimatic and species distribution modelling and a particular interest in climate change refugia. Michael is in the School of Biology within the Faculty of Science, Medicine and Health.
Dr Ben Maddison travelled to Antarctica as part of a research expedition marking 100 years since explorer Sir Douglas Mawson (and his crew) ventured the very same sub-zero path revisiting century-old measurements to collect new data for records about the earth’s health. He is a senior lecturer in History in the Faculty of Law, Humanities and the Arts. His major research interest is in polar and exploration history. His most recent book is entitled Class and Colonialism in Antarctic Exploration 1750-1920 (Pickering and Chatto 2014).
Constance Johnson is an HDR student in the School of Law within the Faculty of Law Humanities and Arts. As a legal specialist at Australia’s Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade, Constance worked on law of the sea issues including Australia’s submission to the Commission on the Limits of the Continental Shelf and the development of the liability annex to the Protocol on Environmental Protection to the Antarctic Treaty. Constance was also the inaugural manager of WWF-Australia’s Antarctic and Southern Ocean Initiative.
Diana King is a HDR student in the School of Biological Sciences within in the Faculty of Science, Medicine and Health. Diana is developing new methodologies to assess Antarctic terrestrial biodiversity health. Her research helps to inform the Department of Environmental on best management practice for the Australian Antarctic Territory through the Australian State of the Environment reporting system
Darren Koppel is a HDR student in the School of Chemistry within the Faculty of Science, Medicine and Health. Darren’s research aims to provide high quality toxicology data for use in the development of polar Water Quality Guidelines, and provide comparative data for the response of polar, temperate, and tropical species to metal contaminants. This information will assist in the refinement of models of aquatic toxicology.
Rhys Wyber is an HDR student in the School of Biological Sciences within the Faculty of Science Health and Medicine. Rhys is developing new methodologies to monitor plant health and productivity remotely using a new chlorophyll fluorescence instrument. The aim is to develop systems which could measure plant health from drones and could be used in a range of locations from Australian crops to Antarctic moss beds.
Merin Adams is a research scientist from the CSIRO. She is an ecotoxicologist within Land and Water with 15 years experience in aquatic toxicology.
Dr Johanna Turnbull is an early career plant ecophysiologist interested in stress ecophysiology, photosynthesis and plant responses to climate change. Johanna’s research focuses on Antarctic plant community responses to climate change and has been involved with long term monitoring of Antarctic mosses at Casey station, East Antarctica.
Dr Melinda Waterman is an early career researcher from the School of Biological Sciences within the Faculty of Science Medicine and Health examining the secondary metabolites and protective mechanisms of Antarctic and temperate moss species. Melinda also has expertise in radiocarbon dating of long cores of moss shoots and photosynthetic pigments within plants.
This project includes a number of external participants from CSIRO, Australian Antarctic Division, Terraluma Group at UTAS, NASA and Southern Cross University.