Live the dream! Be an Antarctic station leader.
Graham Cook Mawson station leader
Hi, I am Graham Cook. I am the station leader at Mawson Station in Antarctica. I work with the Australian Antarctic Division in what I think is one of the best jobs in the world.
Why do I do it? Because there are so many reasons why I do it!
So many people talk about living the dream. Well with this job I get to do what other people are dreaming about. Every day here is so different. Some days I will be helping the chef in the kitchen, another day I will be working with the plumber outside in minus 20 degrees. I get to spend time with scientists working on programs that I would never be introduced to and learning a lot from that.
Where else in the world would you get to work with such a diverse group of people and such diverse programs? We have flying programs, science programs, building programs, there is just so much that happens down here, that keeps my mind going, and I learn so much from the people that I work with. It is such a pleasure to go to work every day.
In a week or two’s time we will get to watch ten thousand new visitors arrive in the form of emperor penguins as they march across the ice to set up camp and breed for the winter.
When was the last time you looked out your office window, saw a snow-clad mountain range in the distance, a glacier creeping towards the coast, an iceberg on your doorstep?
I just love working here. It’s an amazing place. Friends and family tell me I am so lucky to be here and they are right, I am. But I helped to make this luck. I put an application in for this job. And I managed to get it. You can do it too.
Narelle Campbell Casey Station leader
Hi, I am Narelle Campbell and I am the station leader here at Casey station and it is actually a privilege to be able to come down here and work for the Australian Antarctic Division, supporting the various science and work programs down here.
The best part, as I said, of being down here is being with the team, and the various personalities. They’re people that you don’t know, that you have just first met back in Kingston doing the training. We all come together as a team and learn to live together and share each others’ experiences down here.
Mike Gasson, Macquarie Island station leader
Hi, my name is Mark Gasson. I am the station leader at Macquarie Island in the subantarctic. I work for the Australian Antarctic Division. Why do I want to be a station leader? It’s the most amazing job. It’s incredible. You get to be down in this beautiful location - it’s phenomenal - working with the most incredible team of people. You’ve got all kinds of different people here and I like working with people, I get quite a lot of enjoyment. It has been pretty awesome so far, I am loving it. It is a crazy adventure, unlike anything I have ever done before. We are isolated, we are miles away from anywhere, who knows what’s going to happen next? The whole thing is pretty much a mystery and the craziest thing is we’re getting paid to do it. So, it’s pretty awesome, I’m loving it.
Dr Martin Riddle – Terrestrial and Nearshore Ecosystems Theme Leader
Dr Martin Riddle - Terrestrial and Nearshore Ecosystems Theme Leader
I am a marine biologist originally. My work has always been applied I did my PHD in Scotland to do with the effects of the North Sea Oil industry on the environment. I came to Australia as a post doc in 1985. I spent 7 years working on the Great Barrier Reef. I moved down to Sydney to work for the Sydney water board on the effects of ocean disposal of sewerage. Then came a little further south to establish the human impacts research program at the Australian Antarctic Division in 1994.
The Terrestrial and Nearshore Ecosystems program undertake research to inform environmental protection and management for the Antarctic Territory and to support Australia’s policy positions in the international Antarctic Treaty system.
So we’ve got two major themes, there is environmental risk assessment, which is in essence does it matter, are the impacts or the activities of the people in the Antarctic causing serious effects on the ecosystems and on the biodiversity of Antarctica. The other part of course is, how do we fix it?
We’ve got a major research effort looking at cleaning up Antarctic contaminated sites. So 50 years ago it was standard practice to leave all the waste from a station in a landfill site adjacent to the station. But times have changed in the 1980’s and the 1990’s the international community negotiated the environmental protocol to the Antarctic Treaty. It was agreed that we would clean up those sites. We would also change our practices and return to the country of origin all the waste currently being generated.
The other is an ongoing problem and this is oil spills. Our programs are entirely dependent on fossil fuels. So we’ve been developing the technologies for cleaning up fuel spill sites on land and what we are doing is using the native micro-organisms, the bacteria in the soils, so that they feed on the oils, they break it down and they turn it into harmless substances.
Look I love the Antarctic environment, I love being there, it’s a wonderful place both from the natural aspects of it, it’s also wonderful just to be part of the community down there. The impacts that we have are a blot on the environment there, there’s no question about that, but they are localised to our stations. Personally I feel very optimistic about it because I know we can solve these problems, they are not insurmountable. It’s a challenging area to work in but it’s a very rewarding area also.
Dr Tas van Ommen – Climate Processes and Change Theme Leader
Dr Tas van Ommen – Climate Processes and Change Theme Leader
I am a physicist by training. I started my research career as an astronomer and worked overseas for a while, came back to Australia and fell sideways into a position here at the Antarctic Division doing the physics of glaciers, so I have become a glaciologist in my career.
So the Climate Processes and Change theme covers four areas. The first of those is the ice sheet itself, the second area is the ice that floats on the ocean and oceanography all wrapped up into super sub-theme. The third area we look at is the atmosphere above Antarctica and the fourth strand to our research is looking at past climate mainly from looking at ice cores that go back in time.
Looking back in the past is really the only way you can get enough information to test your understanding of the way the climate system works. And we’ve used the really detailed ice cores that we get from Law Dome, which is near Casey station, and they’ve allowed us to look in great detail at climate change and understand it in a way that you can’t do from most ice-cores just because of this high detail.
For example we have looked at changes in snow fall in the area over the last several centuries. We’ve found quite a clear link between rainfall in Western Australia or the drought that has been there and snowfall in East Antarctica. We’ve been able to use the very long records from the ice cores to say that what we are seeing now is unusual and very likely connected to climate change itself.
One of the projects I have been involved in actually was looking with a plane that has radar under the wings, shining the radar through the ice sheet to actually get a map of the bedrock underneath. And that was fascinating because we were flying along looking at the computer traces coming back from the radar and seeing for the first time the way the bedrock had deep valleys and high mountains underneath and for the first time being able to map out large areas of Antarctica.
There are still really important questions to answer about where Antarctica and the climate system is headed. We need to understand better for example how the ice sheets are going to respond in a warming climate because any loss of the ice in the Antarctica translates to sea level rise.
One of the highlights of this career is being able to actually go into the field and do some research. Drilling for an ice core where you might be hundreds of kilometers away from the nearest other party of human beings in extreme environments, experiencing the almost sensory overload of the wind, the cold, and the stunning visual environment that you are in, it’s really invigorating.
Antarctic blue whale voyage
DR BRIAN MILLER, LEAD ACOUSTICIAN
I couldn't imagine a better bunch of scientists or crew to work with. They're all dedicated and hard-working, getting up every morning at 5.00 am, putting on their heavy clothes, going out into the sometimes driving snow, looking for whales, it's not an easy task.