Antarctic Medal Awards

Four people were awarded the Antarctic Medal this year for outstanding service to the Australian Antarctic program.

Oceanographer Dr Steve Rintoul, medical practitioner Dr James Doube, and the late meteorologist Dr Neil Adams, each received an Antarctic Medal, while seabird ecologist Dr Graham Robertson received a clasp to the Antarctic Medal.

Dr Steve Rintoul

Oceanographer, Dr Steve Rintoul, received his award for leadership and his outstanding contribution to science and Australia’s Antarctic program. He has undertaken 15 marine science voyages, 12 as Chief Scientist, and has spent more than 13 months in the Southern Ocean.

His major research focus has been to develop a new concept of the dynamics of the Southern Ocean in which three-dimensional ocean circulation, such as eddy fluxes, wind forcing and topographic interactions, are intimately linked.

‘Dr Rintoul’s work has shown that deep Antarctic water is becoming fresher and warmer at a much higher rate than previously thought — an observation of crucial importance for future climate predictions,’ Federal Environment Minister Tony Burke said.

This year Dr Rintoul was also awarded the prestigious Martha T. Muse Prize for Science and Policy in Antarctica — a prize awarded to an individual who has demonstrated potential for sustained and significant contributions that will enhance the understanding and/or preservation of Antarctica. In 2005 Dr Rintoul was the inaugural winner of the Georg Wüst medal by the German Society of Marine Research. He was elected a Fellow of the Academy of Science in 2006 and appointed a CSIRO Fellow in 2007 — CSIRO’s highest accolade for science excellence. He is a program leader at the Antarctic Climate and Ecosystems Cooperative Research Centre and co-Chair of the new Southern Ocean Observing System, on behalf of the Scientific Committee on Antarctic Research. Much of his work feeds into the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change reports, the latest of which will be published in 2013.

Dr James Doube

Medical practitioner Dr James Doube received his Antarctic Medal for outstanding service to Antarctic expeditions to Macquarie Island between 2006 and 2012.

Dr Doube commenced his service with the Australian Antarctic Division as a registrar and completed his Fellowship of the Australian College of Rural and Remote Medicine with advanced skills in General Practice Surgery.

As well as his medical responsibilities, Dr Doube took the role of Field Training Officer and led Search and Rescue teams on Macquarie Island. He was extensively involved in boat operations, commanding both inflatable craft and amphibious LARCs, all of which require enhanced ability in the Macquarie Island environment. He also contributed substantially to seal, seabird and botanical research, in which his former qualifications in biology proved valuable.

Dr Doube also made a significant contribution to the success of the Macquarie Island Pest Eradication Program. This ranged from conducting bait trials and developing methods using thermal imaging equipment to count rabbit populations, to planning and operational strategy, and developing emergency response capacity in the challenging environment.

‘Dr Doube is a multi-skilled expeditioner whose enthusiasm and abilities embraced all aspects of ship and station life and he substantially contributed, both as an individual and team member, to the success of each voyage and expedition in which he was involved,’ Federal Environment Minister Tony Burke said.

‘As well as his skills in generalist medicine, expedition medicine, public health and occupational medicine, he has honed his skills in biology and science, communications, media, search and rescue and field support. Dr Doube is an inspiration to other doctors practicing remote medicine.’

Dr Neil Adams

The late Dr Neil Adams received a posthumous Antarctic Medal for the development of the science of Antarctic meteorology. His exceptional abilities as a forecaster contributed immensely to the achievement of Australia’s Antarctic scientific programs for three decades.

Dr Adams was the Manager of the Bureau of Meteorology’s Antarctic Meteorological Section, based in Tasmania, and he spent three decades supporting Australia’s Antarctic program, including three summers and one winter in Antarctica. He was responsible for the development and implementation of polar research and services, as well as the operational use of polar observations.

Federal Environment Minister Tony Burke said the observation and forecasting infrastructure which underpins the Bureau’s Antarctic forecasting service is testimony to Dr Adams’ work.

‘The polar Numerical Weather Prediction (NWP) suite; the observational data and NWP model output viewing system; the Australian Antarctic Division’s aviation-based Automatic Weather Station network; and the Bureau’s satellite facilities in Antarctica: these have all greatly benefited from his insightful contributions and hands-on input,’ Mr Burke said.

Dr Adams made, and his Antarctic meteorological team continue to make, an enormous impact on the work of the Australian Antarctic Division. Dr Adams was the lynchpin of the familiar relationship between the Division and the Bureau of Meteorology, which is crucial to the operations of the Antarctic Division. The Bureau’s forecasts support the Division’s station, traverse, shipping, flights and deep field activities, while contributing to the safety of personnel and infrastructure.

Dr Adams passed away in March 2012.

Dr Graham Robertson

Dr Robertson received his first Antarctic Medal in 1989 for his contribution to the scientific knowledge of emperor penguins. The previous year he had spent much of the winter living in a remote field hut studying the emperor penguins at Auster Rookery, near Mawson. In the summer of 1988–89 he spent a further three months in the field studying the Taylor Glacier emperor penguin rookery.

Dr Robertson’s second medal recognises his research on ways to reduce seabird bycatch in longline fisheries, including developing an underwater bait setting machine.

Since 1989 Dr Robertson has spent several years conducting research related to seabird bycatch in fisheries controlled by the Convention on the Conservation of Antarctic Marine Living Resources (CCAMLR). This work includes:

  • Research to understand the ‘mechanics’ of setting and hauling fishing lines (for example, the effects of prop wash and turbulence, how weighted lines behave under water, and measuring line sink rates), as well as studying how different fishers behave and the consequences of both the mechanical and the human factors on fishing practices.
  • Designing, developing and testing innovative mitigation measures to reduce seabird bycatch.
  • Developing observation protocols for fisheries observers to gather data on fishing practices and gears, and the impacts on seabirds.

Federal Environment Minister Tony Burke said Dr Robertson is an influential force in domestic and international scientific forums, including CCAMLR.

‘He has the rare ability to work collaboratively with a wide variety of people from different cultures and has successfully bridged the gap between, science, conservation and industry to help reduce the number of seabirds dying on our oceans,’ Mr Burke said.


Australian Antarctic Division