Future directions

The Australian Antarctic Division, like Antarctica, is in a state of change, in terms of both our staff and our strategic direction. To help steer us through these changes is new Director, Lyn Maddock, and new Chief Scientist, John Gunn.

Among the challenges the Division faces is the development of a clear understanding of our priorities in Antarctica — given budget pressures, an increase in the number of nations active in Antarctica, the importance of climate change research, and changes in the way we operate in Antarctica. Within this context, our scientists are also working hard to develop a new science strategy that will guide research in Antarctica for the next five years.

This issue of the magazine introduces you to Lyn and John and what’s at the top of their ‘to do’ lists. It also acknowledges the important contribution of three of our departing executives, who have helped shape our policy, scientific and operational priorities and activities for many years. Our former leaders reflect on their time with the Antarctic Division and their hopes for the future of Antarctica and the Australian Antarctic program.

Change is also afoot in Antarctica with the conclusion of the International Polar Year (IPY). One of the four key goals of the IPY was to leave a legacy of infrastructure and observational systems to support research into the future. For some countries this has meant the construction of new Antarctic stations in strategic locations for scientific research. For others it has meant new, enhanced, or automated observation systems that will continue the work begun during the IPY. More broadly it has also meant the collection of significant data sets, which will be shared amongst nations; establishment of new or improved international links between scientists and scientific institutions; and new opportunities for future polar scientists. These and other outcomes from the IPY set the stage for new ways of working in Antarctica that will strengthen our ability to answer scientific questions of global importance.

This year is also significant in marking the 50th anniversary of the signing of the Antarctic Treaty. In a speech to a joint meeting of Antarctic Treaty Parties and the Arctic Council, US Secretary of State, Hillary Clinton, reflected on the importance of the Treaty in ensuring international cooperation in Antarctica and its continued relevance today — both in Antarctica and as an example of the benefits of global cooperation generally.

Finally, this issue of the magazine updates you on some of the latest activities in polar science, medicine and art. These include the discovery of four new tick-borne viruses in penguins on Macquarie Island, and a policy-science collaboration looking at new remote monitoring technology to assist with our management responsibilities at Heard and McDonald islands. Enjoy your reading.