A trail-blazer in Antarctic science, plant biologist Patricia Selkirk is a role model for female scientists.

Antarctic achievements

Patricia Selkirk is a pioneering scientist in Antarctic terrestrial ecosystems. Selkirk was awarded her doctorate from the University of Sydney in 1969.

In 1982/3, Selkirk spent a summer researching at Casey station. At this time, women working in Antarctica were rare.

Selkirk’s studies also 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 study plant taxonomy, adaptations and genetics, landscape ecology and vegetation mapping.

Selkirk specialised in bryophytes such as mosses and liverworts. She is 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 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.

Selkirk Creek on Macquarie Island is named in recognition of Patricia Selkirk’s contribution to science.