Global and regional climate change and managing the Southern Ocean ecosystem are the main study themes among the 54 Antarctic research projects granted Australian Government funding totalling $670,000 for 2002–03. Announcing the Australian Antarctic Science (AAS) grants, Dr Sharman Stone, Parliamentary Secretary responsible for the Antarctic, said the scheme illustrated the Government’s commitment to supporting long-term Antarctic research, both for understanding regional and global processes and for helping to preserve the region’s natural qualities.
'Australia leads the world in research into managing Southern Ocean fisheries, covering development of a sustainable fishery and the conservation of animals — notably seabirds — endangered by that activity. It is important that we sustain this level of research if we are to continue to have an influence in the international forums that regulate the fishing industries,' Dr Stone said.
The Australian Antarctic Division’s Chief Scientist, Prof. Michael Stoddart, said that with the Australian research program’s five-year science plan now three years old, a more complete picture of fundamental processes and changes in the region was beginning to emerge.
Among projects supported this season are:
- an intensive Australian-German study of the physical and climatic history of Antarctica’s remote southern Prince Charles Mountains, seeking to fill major gaps in knowledge of a period when Australia and Antarctica were one continent;
- a study of the production and movement of extremely cold, dense ‘Antarctic Bottom Water’ to improve climate forecasting models and understanding of their influence on Southern Ocean ecosystems;
- analysis of contaminated sites in Antarctica to guide work to manage the contaminants and rehabilitate the sites producing new technology with application to similar sites elsewhere in the world;
- studies of fur seals on Australia’s subantarctic islands which have indicated rapidly rising numbers with implications for Southern Ocean fisheries;
- investigations of the upper atmosphere above Antarctica and near-Earth space to develop our understanding of the role and influence of this coldest part of the Earth’s atmosphere on weather and climate throughout the world; and
- use of robot technology to investigate growth patterns of microscopic plants that grow on the under-side of sea ice off the coast of Antarctica.
The 54 projects awarded an AAS grant this year — among 130 research projects being conducted next summer — involve universities and government research agencies throughout Australia and other countries.