Antarctic pioneer acknowledged

21 June 2004

An Australian scientist who has been instrumental in educating the world about Antarctic flora has today been awarded the Australian Antarctic Medal.

The award was officially announced today by His Excellency the Governor General, Major General Michael Jeffery, AC, CVO, MC (Retd).

Dr Sharman Stone, Parliamentary Secretary responsible for the Australian Antarctic Division, congratulated Dr Patricia Selkirk, a terrestrial scientist from Turramurra in New South Wales, and said the medal was a tribute to her dedication as a scientist and the lasting contribution she has made to Antarctic research.

"Dr Selkirk has given selflessly of her time and energy to further community understanding of Antarctic science through her numerous publications and media involvement over many years with appointments on several significant national and international scientific committees," Dr Stone said.

"She is a pioneer, having been the first woman to spend a summer at Australia's Casey station in 1982/83 despite many having opposed her travelling south as it would require her husband to mind the children in her absence. 

"Since 1979, Dr Selkirk has been a member of 17 Australian National Antarctic Research Expeditions and Antarctica New Zealand Expeditions. 

"Dr Selkirk was the first researcher to value the role of the sub-Antarctic region as the outer edge of the Antarctic Zone in monitoring climate change. She was also part of the team that first discovered plant viruses in the sub-Antarctic.

"Dr Selkirk co-produced the first vegetation map of Macquarie Island and her research has formed much of the foundation for subantarctic plant biology. 

"Her contribution to scientific literature includes over 67 publications on Antarctic terrestrial science alone and she has also completed a history of the achievements of geographer and geologist LR Blake who was part of Douglas Mawson's expedition to Macquarie Island.

"It is thanks to people of Dr Selkirk's calibre, drive and determination that women today are able to play such an active role in Antarctic scientific research and station leadership. She has played a continuing mentoring role to many younger Antarctic scientists, in particular women, aiding their development through undergraduate and postgraduate teaching at Macquarie University."

This page was last modified on 21 June 2004.