Meet the project team

Dr Klaus Meiners.
Dr Klaus Meiners. (Photo: Expeditioner photo)
Sea ice physicist Dr Petra Heil.Sea ice physicist Dr Pat Langhorne from the University of Otago, New Zealand.Sea ice scientist Dr Rob Massom.Engineer, Mark MilnesPhD student Pat Wongpan from the Department of Physics, University of Otago, New Zealand.

Klaus Meiners – Chief Investigator (project #4298)

I am a Hobart-based biological oceanographer working with both Australian Antarctic Division and Antarctic Climate and Ecosystems Cooperative Research Centre (ACE CRC). My science focusses on understanding links between the sea ice physical environment and Antarctic marine ecosystem structure and function. During our fieldwork at Davis, I plan to use an instrumented Remotely Operated Vehicle (ROV) to measure sea ice thickness, ice algal density and the distribution of small crustaceans (such as amphipods) that graze at the sub-surface of the sea ice. I will also do a lot of ice thickness and snow thickness measurements, and will take biological samples to ground-truth the ROV measurements. I aim to understand what drives the seasonal development of ice-associated algae and how important these algae are for the Antarctic coastal food web.

I have been to Antarctica seven times – mainly on ships and working in the pack-ice zone off the continent. Last season I worked with New Zealand colleagues at Scott Base. We did some fast ice sampling which laid the basis for our current trip. I am looking forward to returning to the continent and continuing this work at Davis. I am also excited to learn more about the difference between ice-covered coastal and offshore ecosystems.

Petra Heil - Investigator (#4298) and Chief Investigator (#5032)

As a sea-ice physicist with a keen interest in near-coastal climate (project 5032), I am keen to participate in the 2015-16 Davis summer project. I am Senior Research Scientist with the Australian Antarctic Division and affiliated with the ACE CRC through the University of Tasmania. I have been involved in fast-ice research since the mid-1990s, and spent 1999 at Davis station researching the spatial variability of fast-ice parameters. I have been coordinating the Australian Antarctic Program's station-based fast-ice observations for about 15 years, and leading the international Antarctic Fast-Ice Network (AFIN) for several years. AFIN aims to obtain frequent (weekly) measurements of fast-ice thickness, freeboard (height above the ocean surface) and snow depth from numerous sites to build a long-term database of fast-ice variables. These are then used to derive a baseline and track change.

In Nov/Dec 2015 I will focus on three contrasting sites to study the effect of the snow cover and upper ice-surface conditions on the physical state of the fast ice, including permeability and density. Regular ice-thickness measurements together with analysis of repeat ice cores will be undertaken. Of particular interest will be any identification of platelet ice (growing in the water column and being integrated into the fast-ice column), which has been observed intermittently at Davis.

Following on from the first all-winter collection of snow-density data at Davis during 2015, I look forward to expanding the snow study into the early summer season. It will be interesting to measure the spatial distribution of the snow, which can be done systematically using a newly acquired instrument called the Magna Probe. This ice-physics work will complement the ecosystem investigation led by Klaus.

Pat Langhorne: Co-investigator (#4298)

Since 1988 I have been teaching physics and researching sea ice physical processes at the University of Otago, New Zealand. Working with post-graduate students and with national and international collaborators, I have taken part in about 20 research visits to Scott Base in the Ross Sea. The coastal sea ice of this part of Antarctica is significantly influenced by its proximity to an ice shelf. The sea ice preserves a record of the ice shelf-influenced oceanographic conditions at the time of its formation during the Antarctic winter. Our group is interested in the challenge of interpreting this ocean signature, and understanding its relation to the properties of the sea ice cover.

I am thrilled to have the opportunity to visit Davis station where the sea ice conditions are subtly different from those in the Ross Sea. We are interested in how the detail of the physical features of the sea ice influence its viability as an algal habitat. An exciting prospect for me is the opportunity to travel through the pack ice on the Aurora Australis.

Rob Massom – Co-Investigator (#4298)

I am based in Hobart, where I work as a sea ice scientist with the Australian Antarctic Division and ACE CRC. The focus of my research is:

  • To improve understanding of the sea ice physical environment and processes, to better inform climate models and ecosystem studies.
  • To develop improved means of measuring and monitoring polar snow and ice from space.
  • To combine satellite and other data to detect large-scale patterns of sea-ice change/variability and assess their causes and impacts. Sea ice is particularly sensitive to climate change/variability, given its intimate association with atmospheric and oceanic circulation and temperature.

Although I’ve been south on ships on numerous occasions since 1986, this will be my first time setting foot on the Antarctic continent. I love cross-disciplinary research, and I’m very excited to be working on the fast-ice off Davis with Klaus and Petra and our New Zealand colleagues. My contribution to this important project will be to acquire detailed measurements of snow thickness and properties, in concert with sea ice thickness and core (properties) measurements. Snow plays a key role in determining the growth and characteristics of the underlying sea ice, and also strongly affects the amount of light available to sea ice algae for photosynthesis. Even after over 35 years involvement in sea ice research, I’m still drawn by the magical lure of polar regions - driven by the fact that the more I learn, the more I realize I don’t know.

Mark Milnes - Technician

I’m an Electronic Design Engineer based in Hobart. I have a pretty broad range of interests and experience across the field including hardware, software, firmware, communications, sensing, test and measurement and remotely operated vehicles.

This summer I’ll be the project technician, working with the rest of the team to make sure the technical aspects of the project function correctly. I’ve previously spent two summers and a winter in Antarctica, all at Davis station, as well as a marine science voyage in the Weddell Sea on Polarstern in 2013. Last summer (2014-15) I was the engineer for the Antarctic Free Ocean Carbon Enrichment experiment, which deployed scientific equipment under the sea ice.

Pat Wongpan – PhD student

I am a PhD student at Department of Physics, University of Otago. For this expedition, I am a member of project 4298. Last year, the team and I went to Scott Base, Antarctica to measure biogeochemical and physical properties of fast ice near McMurdo Sound. For this year we will do the comparative study of fast ice near Davis station. The goal of my PhD thesis is to understand the physical controls of Antarctic fast ice on the algal biomass. This will be my first experience on the ship, Aurora Australis, so I am so excited to be a part of this journey. Apart from research, I am a volleyball, soccer, and table tennis player. I am also an amateur cyclist and trail runner. During my spare time, I love to play Thai flute (I was born in Thailand), taking care of my beloved Siamese fish and capturing light with my camera.