Patricia Selkirk

Scientist sitting at top of rocky cliff overlooking bay
Patricia Selkirk at Sandell Bay

Antarctic achievements

A pioneering scientist in Antarctic terrestrial ecosystems, plant biologist Patricia Selkirk was awarded her doctorate from the University of Sydney in 1969. A trail-blazer in Antarctic science, Selkirk is a role model for female scientists.

In 1982/3, Selkirk spent a summer at Casey station at a time when women working in Antarctica were a rare occurrence. In addition to research in Antarctica, Selkirk’s studies led her to remote, field-based locations at sub-Antarctic Heard, Kerguelen and Macquarie Islands. From 1979 to 2004, Selkirk undertook 11 expeditions to Macquarie Island to studying plant taxonomy, adaptations and genetics, landscape ecology and vegetation mapping.

The author of more than 80 papers on a diverse range of Antarctic subjects including landscape-level geomorphology, vegetation history, plant reproduction and sub-cellular genetics, Selkirk specialised in bryophytes such as mosses and liverworts. She co-authored the seminal book Subantarctic Macquarie Island: environment and biology.

Awards and honours

Selkirk served on the Antarctic Scientific Advisory Committee (1995–2001), Australian National Committee for Antarctic Research (ANCAR) and the Antarctic Research Evaluation Group (AREG). In 2004, she was awarded the Australian Antarctic Medal for outstanding service in support of Australian Antarctic expedition. In 2018, Selkirk was awarded the Phillip Law Medal.

On Macquarie Island, Selkirk Creek is named in recognition of her contribution to science.