Dr Barbara Wienecke joined the AAD in 1993 when she was employed as a seabird ecologist to overwinter at Mawson in 1994. She spent 14 months in Antarctica conducting a field program on emperor penguins at Auster and Taylor Glacier. Working on emperors in the severe Antarctic winter and spring was not for the faint hearted and Barbara completed the work program to a very high standard under the most trying conditions.
Her performance was also exemplary in 2001 as member of an albatross tracking study at Diego de Almagro Island in the Patagonian region of Chile. Almagro lies on the Humboldt coast, it is uninhabited, cold, windswept and rains most days of the year. None of the facilities typical of AAD-conducted field camps was available and being functional there required tolerance of adverse working and camping conditions, hard physical work and loads of perseverance. Barbara (and co-worker Roger Kirkwood) conducted the research program to a very high standard under the toughest conditions. In addition to field ecology on seabirds Barbara has on many occasions worked at sea on longline fishing vessels on projects designed to minimise impacts of longlining on threatened albatrosses and petrels.
In 2003 she worked on an industrial longline vessel, the Janas, in the ling fishery off southern New Zealand. The crew of the Janas comprised 23 kiwi and Maori seamen, some of whom held a hard attitude towards seabird bycatch research per se and a negative attitude to the presence of women on the vessel. None of this phased Barbara. She completed everything expected of her, winning the crew over with her personality and professionalism, work ethic and unflappable attitude to the living and working conditions.
In a similar vein, in 2006 Barbara and Dr Graham Robertson completed a seabird deterrent experiment on a chartered Spanish system longliner off southern Argentina. The vessel, the Marunaka, was crewed by 21 Argentina and Chilean pescadores. As with the Janas, working on this vessel probably fitted the description (to most people at least) of “exceptional circumstances”. Once again Barbara won the crew over with her personality, hard work and wholesale commitment to the job at hand. The project on the Marunaka turned out to be an epic and Barbara’s unique contribution to the outcome cannot be overstated.