Frontier science

Iridescent nacreous clouds over Mawson Station
Iridescent nacreous clouds
A large-scale map of the Antarctic continental margin and ocean basins showing large, geomorphic features including seamonts, deep canyons, ridges and plains. The moving colours of an aurora australis in Antarctica.

The Frontier Science theme aims to encourage and support high quality research that falls outside the priorities of the other research themes, but within Australia’s national research priorities [PDF].

Frontier Science projects are chosen on scientific excellence and on the need for the work to be possible only in Antarctica or the Southern Ocean.

A number of science areas that have had a long and successful history of engagement in Antarctica will be considered under the banner of Frontier Science, examples of which are listed below.

Astronomy

Sites within the Australian Antarctic Territory (AAT) are the focus of major international investment in astronomical infrastructure. This will provide an opportunity for Australian astronomers to continue to play a leading role in the characterisation and understanding of these sites and continue to engage with the international community to ensure that the advantages of Antarctica as a platform for scientific observations can be fully realised.

Geosciences

The Antarctic continent and its surrounding sea floor have been shaped into their present form by glacial and tectonic processes. Understanding these processes and their interconnectedness provides valuable clues to Antarctica's geological, geomorphological and climate past, from which predictions for the future can be made.

Much of the research in this area is currently conducted through or in collaboration with Geoscience Australia. Other collaborators include Macquarie University, Australian National University and the University of Tasmania.

Human biology and medicine

Future priorities for research in this field, set by the Scientific Committee on Antarctic Research (SCAR) Expert Group on Human Biology and Medicine, focus on research on and healthcare of humans in Antarctica (e.g. biomedical sciences, social and behavioural sciences, and medicine). Areas of particular interest include research into the effects of isolation, cold, altitude and light and dark. The use of the Antarctic as a space analogue has recently become of interest to the international polar medicine community.

Space weather

While routine measurements are made at all stations (part of underpinning science activities), a full understanding of space weather impacts at high latitudes is a complex evolving science task. Space weather research is of high value to Antarctic air, sea and land operations via continuity of communications and navigation right across the polar region.

Fundamental biology and physiology

The unique attributes of Antarctic biota will always provoke fundamental questions of scientific interest.

Theme Leader: Chief Scientist Dr Nick Gales

This page was last updated 2015-07-23.