Primary research activities at Mawson include cosmic ray, space and atmospheric physics, studies in space weather, geophysics, glaciology, ecology of seabirds and marine mammals, meteorology and polar medicine. Many of the instruments supporting physical research operate remotely and automatically send data back to scientists in Australia.
Scientists have collected cosmic ray data at Mawson for several decades. Underground and surface cosmic ray telescopes provide information on the influence of interplanetary and geomagnetic fields on the spread of galactic and solar cosmic rays. They also measure the occurrence of large solar events that potentially pose a radiation hazard to aviation and space operations.
The use of an underground seismometer and radionuclide atmospheric sampler also contributes to monitoring undertaken by the Australian Radiation Protection and Nuclear Safety Agency (ARPANSA) in support of the international ban on nuclear testing.
Two long-running investigations of penguin populations and demographics are supported out of Mawson.
An emperor penguin colony at Taylor Glacier has been studied continuously since 1988, after intermittent research between 1959 and 1987. A monitoring program of Adélie penguins conducted on Béchervaise Island each summer since 1987 provides information to the Commission for the Conservation of Antarctic Marine Living Resources (CCAMLR).