Aurora Basin: ice core science
The Aurora Basin project is an ice core drilling project where we expect to get an ice core which covers the last 2000 years. This is a very important time in the Earth’s climate history and currently we have a lack of data covering this period from Antarctica.
My name is Dr Mark Curran and I am an ice core research scientist with the Australian Antarctic Division.
The Aurora Basin project has been about seven years in planning and it’s the culmination of a lot of efforts by a range of scientists and logistics personnel here in Australia and overseas.
Aurora Basin is situated 550 km inland from Casey station in East Antarctica. We are very excited about the science that will be coming out from the project and there is a level of anticipation to get to this region and establish a remote ice core drilling camp.
The initial party to Aurora Basin will go via traverse from the French station Dumont D’Urville. This will take about 15 days. When they arrive on the site there will be three members of the Australian program and the team will establish a camp at Aurora Basin. A ski way will then be groomed and this will allow the Australian program to bring in their plane and the rest of the people from Casey Station into the Aurora Basin camp.
Two of the biggest challenges that we will face are the altitude and the temperature. It is a high altitude site and therefore once people arrive on site they will have to rest for a couple of days before they start their work. In terms of the temperature on the site we expect average daily temperatures of −25°C which will be very testing for both the people and the equipment that we use.
Minister's welcome message for Strategic Science in Antarctica conference 2013
G’day, it’s Tony Burke – the Environment Minister for Australia. I wish I could be with you in Hobart for the Strategic Science in Antarctica conference. I think it’s a great initiative, and I’m really glad we’ve got so many scientists from Australia, but also who’ve come from New Zealand, and some from even further afield.
The work that you do is important, and I think it symbolises everything about the decisions that were made some years ago about Antarctica. The whole concept – and to reflect on it now – to think that decision, we had that moment in time where people said let’s set aside an entire continent for scientific research, is worth reflecting on itself. But what’s made it such a permanent conservation decision isn’t just that everyone got together and made that decision, but the quality of the science that has now come about as a result, is second to none, and doesn’t just inform us about Antarctica – it informs us about the whole world: the rest of our planet.
The work on whales that’s done there, for the full migratory path they have from the southern ocean all the way through north. The work that’s being done now with the protection of some large marine parks through the CCAMLR process and the biodiversity benefits that can come through with that. Those of you who work also in the marine environment in looking at phytoplankton and krill – two foundation species, and the possible impact that we get from changes in the qualities of our ocean – in ocean acidification; in ocean temperature, and how quickly the species are able to adapt to that. Knowing of course the extent to which they then underpin so much more marine life. Probably the most obvious of all examples, those of you who work with ice cores, which have provided and unlocked so many of the secrets of the history of our planet and allowed us to have the understanding of the modern science of climate change to give the warning signs to our nation and to the world; to give governments the opportunity, if they’re smart enough to take it, to act, and take action in time, before it’s too late.
That work is all possible because of those twin decisions. One, the fact that we put aside the Antarctic for science research, conservation and peace. Secondly, because of the quality of the work that then came, has been able to provide so much of a benefit.
So to all of you, I’m glad that you’re there; and I’m terribly glad, sincerely glad of the work that you do. You’re providing answers to some of the most important questions on our planet. There’s no other way of summarising what you do. Congratulations. Enjoy the meeting. Keep doing more of it. Thanks.
East Antarctic Marine Protected Areas
The icy waters of the Southern Ocean off East Antarctica support some of the richest and most diverse ecosystems in the world. Marine mammals, penguins and seabirds frequent the area to gorge on the abundant food supplies. It’s also the breeding area for key species of fish and Antarctic krill.
The critical importance of this area for the overall health of our oceans is now being recognised through a joint push from Australia, France and the European Union to establish a system of Marine Protected Areas, or MPAs in East Antarctica. The East Antarctic Marine Protected Area proposal aims to conserve seven regions of open ocean and seabed biodiversity.
This representative system will provide reference areas for understanding the effects of fishing, as well as the consequences of climate change on Antarctic and Southern Ocean ecosystems.
An important feature of the MPA proposal is that it is based on the principle of ‘multiple-use’. This allows activities, such as fishing, that will not affect the MPAs achieving their conservation and scientific objectives. The proposal was initially developed in 2010 using extensive scientific evidence and the principles of comprehensiveness, adequacy and representativeness.
It was endorsed by the scientific committee of the Commission for the Conservation of Antarctic Marine Living Resources, or CCAMLR, at its 2011 meeting as being based on the best scientific evidence available. Whilst a consensus on establishing the MPAs was not achieved at CCAMLR’s annual meeting last year, the importance of MPAs was recognised when member countries agreed to hold a Special Meeting in Germany in July 2013.
The seven Southern Ocean Marine Protected Areas covered in this proposal are in the high latitudes of the Indian Ocean sector. The regions represent unique continental ridge and seamount features; distinct endemic molluscs; highly productive coastal and oceanic food webs and foraging areas for marine mammals and Adélie and Emperor penguins; important nursery areas for Antarctic krill and toothfish; diverse sea floor environments on the shelf and slope, particularly in relation to canyons and ice shelves; areas representing important shelf, canyon and slope biodiversity; and areas important for our understanding of climate change such as sites where Antarctic Bottom Water forms.
The MPAs will provide vital insights into the impacts of climate change and human activities, on these unique and ecologically significant regions. MPAs provide one of the most effective means of ensuring the long term conservation and sustainable use of marine environments – principles that underpin CCAMLR’s core objective.
It is now up to member countries to ensure the protection of the unique and fragile ecosystems of the Southern Ocean now and into the future.
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.