Heard Island a focus of 2003-04 science grants

Heard Island in the southern Indian Ocean is to be a major focus of research supported in 2003–04 with Australian Antarctic Science (AAS) Grants. The subantarctic island study includes eight of the 57 projects allocated funding from the $700,000 available from the Federal Government under the scheme (see details in PDF table).

Announcing the grants, the Parliamentary Secretary for the Antarctic, Dr Sharman Stone, said that research approved for Heard Island would enable the study of land-based predators such as seals, penguins and albatrosses and their prey, important for determining levels of sustainable fishing around the island.

The Heard Island projects are timed to coincide with continuing studies into where predators are feeding, in which scientists are using the Antarctic research vessel Aurora Australis to track seabirds and their prey, mainly krill, to provide better information for managing future sustainable fisheries. The studies are part of a larger, wide-ranging examination of the ecosystem of Heard Island which, along with the nearby McDonald Islands, is part of the world's largest marine reserve.

Other Antarctic projects approved for 2003–04 include:

  • investigation of climate variability and sea level changes using several sources such as ice cores, 19th century Antarctic plants and data collected from the Amery Ice Shelf;
  • comparisons between Antarctic and Arctic middle and upper atmosphere conditions to improve our understanding of how the hemispheres compare;
  • determining the level of lead and other contaminants in the Australian Antarctic Territory; and
  • ozone depletion and its effect on the Antarctic food web and, through this, on climate.

The 57 projects to receive funding under the AAS grants scheme are among 130 to be undertaken in Australia's Antarctic Territory and subantarctic islands in 2003–04.

Rob Easther
Heard Island Project Manager, AAD