Macquarie Island science

Anna in red jacket laying on ground beside Giant Petrel sitting on nest
Ranger reading NGP leg band for a northern giant petrel population census (Photo: Duncan Bullock)
A female scientist stands in front of several neatly arranged small soil pots

Macquarie Island is a breeding place for millions of seabirds, mostly penguins. The island is home for 25 bird species, including four penguin species. Seals are also prevalent, and haul onto the beaches for breeding. The large population of wildlife on Macquarie Island ensure that biological sciences remain an important part of the overall research program.

Other scientific programs undertaken on Macquarie Island include upper atmosphere physics, geoscience, medicine, meteorology, remediation, and climate change studies.

Due to its position as the only base between Australia and Antarctica, Macquarie Island is an important global monitoring location for scientific research, including monitoring southern hemisphere climatic data. For many years, the Australian Geological Survey Organisation (now Geoscience Australia) has maintained a magnetic observatory on Macquarie Island, which commenced regular recording of the magnetic field in April 1952. Sporadic absolute measurements were made on the site as early as 1950. Geoscience Australia also undertakes regular seismological measurements.

Monitoring is also undertaken for the Australian Radiation Protection and Nuclear Safety Agency (ARPANSA). Macquarie Island has one of the 80 radionuclide stations installed around the world to detect radioactive debris from atmospheric explosions or vented by underground or underwater nuclear explosions. There are seven Australian radionuclide monitoring stations (Macquarie Island, Melbourne, Townsville, Cocos Islands, Darwin, and Perth). They monitor the Southern Ocean for any forms of nuclear event and toxic gases present in the atmosphere which could have been release by other nations illegally.