After a decade of guiding Australia’s science program in Antarctica, Chief Scientist Michael Stoddart, is moving on.

Professor Stoddart leaves the Australian Antarctic Division today after a significant contribution to nurturing and administering Australia’s scientific endeavours in Antarctica and the Southern Ocean.

“Antarctica holds the key to understanding climate and the spotlight has fallen more sharply on the continent in recent years, as we search for answers about the future,” he said.

Professor Stoddart joined the Division in 1998 after an impressive academic career in Scotland and the United Kingdom, before his appointment as Professor of Zoology at the University of Tasmania in 1985 and to the position of Deputy Vice-Chancellor at the University of New England in 1993.

His arrival at the Australian Antarctic Division coincided with an earnest push for an airlink between Hobart and Antarctica.

Some years later, in 2004, he played a central role in a presentation to government of Antarctic science and the importance of an air capability.

"The establishment of an airlink last year was a fantastic leap forward for Australia's engagement with Antarctica. It allows scientists to get in and out more quickly, giving them more time to spend on research and less on travelling," Professor Stoddart said.

“The airlink has been a great accomplishment which will serve Australian polar science well into the years ahead.”

The creation of the Southern Ocean Ecosystems Program within the science branch of the Antarctic Division, permitted a focus on the science needed by government to underpin its policy position in the Convention on the Conservation of Antarctic Marine Living Resources (CCAMLR).

“Australia is a key player in CCAMLR, the International Whaling Commission and the Agreement on the Conservation of Albatrosses and Petrels and our contribution to these organisations is highly-regarded.

“The past five years has also seen the development of a whale research program and the creation of the Australian Marine Mammal Centre at the Antarctic Division,” he said.

Professor Stoddart has been a driving force behind Australia's coordinating role in the Census of Antarctic Marine Life, an International Polar Year project.

The Census has been an ambitious survey of the Southern Ocean by many nations, focusing on the diversity of marine organisms and the environmental conditions in which they live.

During the International Polar Year, Australia is leading eight scientific projects, co-leading three and participating in a further 46 international projects.

While Professor Stoddart leaves the Australian Antarctic Division today, he will continue his work with the Census of Antarctic Marine Life until 2010 and his connection with the Antarctic programs of Malaysia and France.