Meet Australia's new Station Leaders

Mark Williams will be Station Leader at Mawson from December, bringing more than three decades experience as a Queensland Police Officer to the role.

Mark Williams – Mawson station leader 2011

Video transcript

Mawson Station Leader Mark Williams:

My name’s Mark Williams I’m from Brisbane in Queensland and I am a Police Officer by occupation. I am going down to Mawson for the winter of 2011.

I have been in the Police for over 30 years now and most of that time was spent with criminal investigation anything from basic crime, right through to murders. I love the outdoors, I am tri-athlete, I go bushwalking, surfing, it’s going to be a challenge to realign the things I like to do down south. I’ve looked for this sort of a job for the last 10 years. It’s an opportunity to do something that is really different and to follow in the footsteps of some of the greatest explorers that Australia has ever known.

I’ve worked with people for many years, I really enjoy the interaction with people. The opportunity to work in a small environment with very enthusiastic people is something that I have always dreamed of and to be a platform for the launching of some great scientific expeditions, in particular the Adelie penguins.

Some of the challenges I may face over the next year will be during the winter period, when we have periods of darkness and really bad weather and to keep the morale of the people high and keep them busy so they continue to enjoy their stay.

I am the luckiest guy on earth, if you asked me could I pick a station to go to, I would have picked Mawson. I have been a fan of Sir Douglas Mawson for many many years and to go to Mawson station as the Station Leader for a year is probably one of the highlights of my life.

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Career army officer, Dave Buller will take over the reins at Australia’s busiest station, Casey.

Dave Buller – Casey station leader 2011

Video transcript

Casey Station Leader Dave Buller:

My name is Dave Buller, I am a lieutenant colonel in the army, so I am still currently in the Army and I am going to be going to Casey station both for the summer and the winter of 2010/11.

I’ve had about 23 years logistics background and also an amphibious background. I’ve been to Bougainville, I’ve been to East Timor, been to the Solomons, been to Afghanistan, but clearly looking for a unique deployment with the Division later on this year, so something to really look forward too.

Whilst I don’t have any inherent experience, as far as the specifics to what stations leaders do and the climate and everything else, certainly it’s the man management and leadership skills that we tend to develop and enhance through not only our experience within the army but also the diversity of roles we tend to do.

I am expecting hardship from the fact that I will be separated from family. So for me that’s a really really big one. I have got a 3 and an 8 year old and whilst I have been in the army and they are sort of used to dad being away a little bit, you can never quite close that gap. So that’s going to be very hard for me and therefore if it’s hard for me, it’s got to be harder for others. Particularly some of the younger guys in the team, perhaps that haven’t gone before, aren’t aware of how separations can affect families.

I think given the strengths that I have already seen from the diverse range of people that we have here and the dynamic people as well as the organisation, I think we will meld together pretty quickly and pretty easily to form a strong team and then overcome some of those hardships that we are inevitably going to face.

Over the next year there is a range of projects that occurring both from a base maintenance perspective, as well as scientific programs that obviously support Australia’s strategic interests in that area. So there is going to be a diverse range of field deployments both on water and on land. I guess from my perspective that gives myself and my team a great opportunity not only to get out and see things, but also for my tradies to interact with the scientists and get a bit of an understanding of what a scientist does. Then overlay that with all the operational, the flights coming in and the ships coming in and a couple of international visitors as well and also we have some dignitaries coming in this season and media groups as well. So that’s going to certainly keep the interest level high.

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Graham Cook will return to Antarctica this season to lead Davis station. He’s already spent three winters on the frozen continent at Mawson (2005), Davis (2007) and Casey (2009) stations.

Graham Cook – Davis station leader 2011

Video transcript

Davis Station Leader Graham Cook:

Hi I’m Graham Cook, commonly known as Cookie, I’m off to Davis this winter. This is my fourth trip to Antarctica. I’ve been a station leader at Mawson, Davis and Casey in the past, I have a background in people and project management and I head South because I love it. As a 12 year old I read a book about Frank Hurley called “Once more on my adventure” and was inspired to work in Antarctica as a result of reading that book. It took me till I was about 52 to get there, so I am pretty slow, but I did get there.

Your first trip to Antarctica and any subsequent trip after that is an absolutely amazing experience. My first iceberg was quite a small iceberg but wow it was amazing. My first time cracking through sea ice, I stood on the bow of the ship with several other people and one of them said to me, “I’m sorry I’ve got tears in my eyes”, and I said “So have I”, and the person next to me said “Well so have I”. It ended up five of us on the bow of the ship had tears in our eyes from this amazing first experience. Once you get through the ice and step on the land it’s the culmination of a dream, pretty amazing stuff.

Davis has a major infrastructure program this summer to finish off a new LQ (Living Quarters) there. A lot of exciting science, there’s a fair size flying program which will take some of our Geoscience Australia guys into the Prince Charles mountains. We have some Chinese working with our AAD scientists at Amanda Rookery with emperor penguins. We have some guys doing some snorkelling looking at the near shore marine environment and the impacts of our habitation and other impacts like ocean acidification. Work on the Amery Ice shelf and some comings and goings between the stations. Which is going to make it an exciting summer and a few programs during the winter that will keep us busy as well.

Working through the winter there is a few challenges for the station leader. Some of those are the separation issues, it’s not unusual for relationships to either end or become fragile, so you work with your expeditioners through those. There’s obviously the community living type things, we live together, we have a long period of darkness and sometimes we are not that happy with one other, but we work through that and nut it out and usually end up a fairly happy family by the end of it.

This winter there’s a few things that I would like to do, I would like to explore some of the areas of Davis that I didn’t get to see last time. I get a great deal of pleasure out of watching the people that are there for the first time enjoy the place and hopefully can show them some places that add to the enjoyment that they have.

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On sub Antarctic Macquarie Island the Station Leader role will be shared between two people over the next year. For the summer period, veterinarian, microbiologist and army scientific officer Ivor Harris will lead the Station.

Ivor Harris – Macquarie Is. station leader, summer 2011

Video transcript

Macquarie Island Station Leader Ivor Harris:

I’m Ivor Harris and I will be going to Macquarie Island as the summer station leader for 2010/11 summer.

I have previously been to Casey station in 2003 and Mawson station in 2006. I think I have well and truly got Antarctica in my veins and looking forward now to the experience on Macquarie Island through the summer. I come from Brisbane and I originally qualified as a vet and have spent most of my career in more of a scientific profession as a microbiologist and parasitologist. I currently am in the regular army as a Scientific Officer at the Army Malaria Institute in Brisbane.

The attraction of the Station Leader role and the experience in Antarctica is a multi-faceted sort of thing I guess. Firstly the job itself is a fascinating mix of the logistic and administrative and planning sort of aspects and the operational aspects, but also the personnel management side of it is a challenge and a very interesting side of the role.

On Macquarie Island this summer we’ve got a number of very interesting projects happening with fur seals and sea birds. The Albatross and Giant Petrel projects are happening. We’ve got some remediation of damaged sites with old oil spills, projects that are researching the best ways to remediate those sites. There are also some botanical projects happening looking at the effects of climate change on the botany of the island. In addition to that there is ongoing involvement with the Tasmanian Parks and Wildlife, maintaining the environment on Macquarie Island and that includes showing the tourists from the tourist ships around as well. We’ll be monitoring the effects of the commencement of the pest eradication program last winter, that’s been put on hold for the time being and we’ll start again in earnest next winter.

The things I am looking forward to most on Macquarie Island is the opportunity to experience the sub Antarctic wildlife breeding through the summer. That will be different to the wildlife experience on the Antarctic continent of course, the elephant seals, fur seals and all the breeding seabirds will be a whole new dimension to Antarctic biology that I haven’t experienced yet so I am looking forward to seeing all that first hand.

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Trish Macdonald will take over the Station Leader role on Macquarie Island for winter, having previously worked in natural resource management, wildlife research and the outdoor industry.

Trish Macdonald – Macquarie Is. station leader, winter 2011

Video transcript

Macquarie Island Station Leader Trish McDonald:

My name is Trish McDonald and I am going to be the Station Leader at Macquarie Island starting next winter. I am originally from Canberra and have spent lots of time working in the mountains. I have worked in outdoor education and guiding and then followed that up with about 22 years in national parks, both as a ranger following through to a wildlife ecologist. I have done quite a bit of work in feral pest control and feral press programs and research.

I had always had a keen interest in Macquarie Island and had worked with a botanist who had spent quite a bit of time down there, so I have worked in bog communities. You know it was always one of those things that would be lovely to do but you would never get to do it. And I am lucky enough to be here and to be going down next winter.

One of the reasons I am really excited about going to Macquarie Island is because of the rabbit eradication program and I think that is one of the quintessential conservation projects that is happening in Australia at the moment. So I am really looking forward to that. It will be a complex project and there will be lots of challenges in achieving that, but if it can be achieved it will be fantastic for conservation.

The challenges that you would normally face in terms of the isolation and the quietness of the winter period actually won’t occur next year at Macquarie Island because we will be incredibly busy. We will be working on a project that is really important and I think everyone will work together to achieve the aims of that project and so some of the isolation and the filling in the long hours of winter we will be really busy and so some of those components won’t be there. So people management is probably overall the largest challenge but I have a feeling that things will work quite well.

Personally the conservation benefits that will come from the rabbit eradication program are one of the goals that I have for going down there. As well as having the opportunity to see and assist researchers with the fauna research that is going on down there, all the seal research, I have never worked on marine species and so that will be a thrilling opportunity.

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Australia's new Station Leaders are preparing to go south to take up their positions at Mawson, Davis and Casey stations, and on Macquarie Island.