Dr. Tas van Ommen – Overview of the Antarctic Climate Program and Million Year Ice Core
Antarctica and the Southern Ocean play a major role in global climate and have a strong influence on weather and climate in Australia. The AAD Antarctic Climate Program researches the system of interacting processes across the atmosphere, ice and ocean which are responsible for this impact. This is aimed at supporting Australia’s requirements for improved weather forecasts and climate prediction and policy needs to guide climate adaptation, resilience and mitigation strategies. The research focuses on changes in sea ice, the high-latitude atmosphere and the continental ice sheet, particularly its vulnerability and the implications for sea level rise in a warming world. The program also extends the short observational climate record by using ice cores to study change over past millennia. This has revealed, among many insights, the long-term history of rainfall and drought in Australia. AAD has commenced a project to extend the ice core record as far as possible, reaching beyond a million years old, to explore the long-term stability and behaviour of the climate system and better understand the future impacts of current emissions.
Dr. Ben Galton-Fenzi – From ice to islands: constraining future Antarctic Ice Sheet loss impacts on sea level and hydroclimate for Australia and its neighbours
The Antarctic Ice Sheet is shrinking due to more melting at its margins, which is leading to the acceleration of glaciers into the oceans and an associated increased rate of Sea Level Rise (SLR) and changes in ocean circulation. The East Antarctic Ice Sheet (EAIS) contains about 56 m of potential SLR as freshwater, and observations of changes in the EAIS and projections of substantial future mass loss from the region have invigorated international focus. Australia has a comprehensive approach to considering the contribution of the region to global and regional sea-level change and global heat and freshwater budgets, through the Australian Antarctic Science Program (AASP). The approach includes investigating changes in the mass of the entire ice sheet, and sea ice, atmospheric and oceanic processes driving those changes, and understanding the reasons for the past and projected changes. Outcomes suitable for societal use when planning for adaptation and mitigation of climate change are needed that include complete assessments of how we understand ice sheet stability, including risks of rapid ice loss, for constrained projections of sea level rise, and the influence of changes to the freshwater budget of the oceans.
Dr. Virginia Andrews-Goff – Innovative whale science
To support our engagement in the International Whaling Commission (IWC), the Commission for the Conservation of Antarctic Marine Living Resources (CCAMLR), and domestically, we need an in-depth understanding of the post-exploitation status, health, population dynamics, foraging ecology and movements of whales so that we can mitigate threats, identify environmental linkages and conserve and manage whales throughout their range. However, studying whales in the Southern Ocean is notoriously challenging and has necessitated the development of new, innovative and efficient non-lethal methods. When combined with established approaches such as satellite tagging, biopsy sampling, photo-identification and passive acoustic detection, we can generate management-relevant information for the cetaceans that move through Australian and Southern Ocean waters, especially humpback, blue, fin, southern right and minke whales.
Dr. Rob King – RSV Nuyina, A Gamechanger for Krill Ecosystem Research
Antarctic krill are a fundamental component of Southern Ocean ecosystems and perturbations to krill populations have ramifications for the entire ecosystem. Krill are fished across the Southern Ocean and sustainable management of this fishery is a high priority for the Australian Government. RSV Nuyina delivers a technological leap forward in terms of krill ecosystem research capability. In this talk we will look at what makes this vessel so capable as a scientific research platform with specific emphasis on the vessel's live specimen capabilities and ability to interface with terrestrial research facilities. We also look at how innovation in the field of autonomous devices is extending the reach of the vessel into monitoring the krill ecosystem over spatial and temporal scales well beyond the endurance of individual voyages.
Dr. Aleks Terauds – Science in the Southern Ocean
The Southern Ocean is rich in biodiversity and resources, and plays a key role in the global climate systems. Our Southern Ocean science focuses on both ecosystem and physical processes. It informs the sustainable management of krill and finfish fisheries, increases our understanding of climate and climate change impacts, and supports the conservation of iconic wildlife inhabiting these waters. This overview of Southern Ocean marine science will provide insights into the policy drivers of this science, the type and nature of the data that is collected, how these data are brought together in scientific outputs, and finally, the importance of this work to a range of national and international end users.
Dr. Barbara Wienecke – Long-term status and trend of Emperor penguins. Loss of an Antarctic icon?
In the bird world, Emperor penguins are unique as they breed on the fast ice during the winter. Emperor penguins are also one of the few species for which we have modelled forecasts for the global population across the whole species range. These forecasts present a bleak outlook due to changes in the sea ice environment. Climate change is affecting Antarctic ecosystems already, and therefore Emperor penguins. At the Antarctic Peninsula, currently the fastest warming region in Antarctica, the Emperor Island colony had vanished by 2009, most likely due to shorter sea ice seasons and a rise in local temperatures.
The southern-most colonies (>77°S) were once considered potential climate refugia but in recent years, two colonies experienced complete breeding failure when the fast ice broke out too early. One was at Halley Bay, Weddell Sea, where ~22,000 breeding pairs lost the entire cohort of chicks in three consecutive years.
Australia is responsible for 22 of the 60 known colonies, which include the only 2 land-based colonies. Climate change is the major threat to the species’ future. Environmental feedback mechanisms need to be better understood. Meanwhile, coordinated conservation actions are urgently needed to protect breeding and foraging habitat.
Dr. Leonie Suter – Using environmental DNA to survey Antarctic krill
Antarctic krill (Euphausia superba) is a keystone species in the Southern Ocean ecosystem, and monitoring its distribution and abundance is crucial for sustainable management of expanding fisheries targeting the species. Environmental DNA (eDNA) is genetic material shed by organisms into the environment, that can be collected and analysed to detect the presence of species of interest, including krill. Survey methods using eDNA could complement conventional krill surveys, however, their applicability is limited by a lack of knowledge on eDNA persistence and decay in the Southern Ocean. We aimed to develop a method that can quantify Antarctic krill eDNA from small seawater samples. We developed a set of genetic markers targeting Antarctic krill DNA and determined eDNA decay characteristics under experimental conditions. We employed this new method to quantify Antarctic krill eDNA collected across a 4800 km Southern Ocean transect, demonstrating its potential to add an important novel, dynamic layer of information to future krill surveys. Our method could not only determine where Antarctic krill eDNA is present, but also shed light on how krill may be using certain habitats, expanding our understanding of the life cycle of this important species and contributing to more accurate abundance and distribution estimates.
Dr. Jonny Stark – Life under the ice – biodiversity in Antarctic coastal ecosystems
Coastal Antarctic marine ecosystems are dynamic, productive and have high levels of biodiversity. Some areas have very special communities and habitats, the like of which can be found nowhere else on earth. However most of what we know about coastal marine life in East Antarctica comes from just 2 places, Casey and Davis, so most of our territorial claim remains unknown to us. The BEAUT project (Biodiversity of East Antarctica: Underwater and Terrestrial) aims to address this knowledge gap, to expand and enhance knowledge of the biodiversity of AAT and to make this information highly visible and accessible. BEAUT will survey areas in AAT that have not been visited or sampled, extend knowledge of our station areas, and consolidate historical biodiversity information. Field campaigns will utilise Australia's icebreaker RSV Nuyina, as well as deploying teams to Antarctic stations, coastal ice-free oases in east Antarctica and subantarctic Islands. Knowledge of biodiversity in space and time is vital for area protection and management, and will be made available through IDEA (Integrated Digital East Antarctica), including identification guides, a biodiversity atlas and database, and will contribute baseline data to EAMP (East Antarctic Monitoring Program). BEAUT will also facilitate collaboration with the SAEF SRI.
Phil Boxall – At the nexus of technology and science – new developments and initiatives within the Australian Antarctic Program
Science and technology are intertwined; both help the other to advance. Scientific curiosity drives the creation of new technologies, and in turn, new technologies make it possible for scientists to explore nature in different ways and to make new discoveries. There is probably nowhere that demonstrates this symbiotic relationship between science and technology better than the work undertaken through the Australian Antarctic Program, where the two complement one another in advancing Australia’s understanding, management and influence within Antarctica and the Southern Ocean. This presentation will outline the technology and innovation that is being undertaken by the Australian Antarctic Division (AAD) in support of science, and how the AAD will maintain its position as a world leader in Antarctic science through increased technical capability.
Dr. Johnathan Kool – A new era of Antarctic exploration – Australia’s East Antarctic Mapping Initiative
With strong support from the Commonwealth Government, the AAD will be embarking on an ambitious program of mapping and charting in East Antarctica. The Division will be leveraging increased capability offered by autonomous vehicles, and advances in earth observation through the Digital Earth program, while continuing to support data collection in the field. The East Antarctic Mapping Initiative will have strong links with the East Antarctic Monitoring Program, and the Integrated Digital East Antarctica Program (IDEA) to enable world-leading scientific research.
Andy Sharman – Leadership in Environmental Stewardship – A Cleaner Antarctica
Australia championed the development of the 1991 Protocol on Environmental Protection to the Antarctic Treaty, which provides for comprehensive protection of Antarctica as a natural reserve, devoted to peace and science. The Environmental Stewardship Program (ESP) leads Australia’s commitment to the comprehensive protection of Antarctic and sub-Antarctic environments. The Program conducts world class research and integrates science from across the AAD with engineering and operational expertise to develop best-practice management, mitigation and remediation strategies that improve environmental outcomes and enhance Australia’s scientific and environmental leadership in Antarctica. A Cleaner Antarctica is our flagship science project. This multidisciplinary research program will lead Australia’s assessment, remediation and monitoring of contaminants, legacy waste and human impacts in the Antarctic and sub-Antarctic. Over the next 5 years we will be undertaking systematic assessments of risk to biodiversity, environmental and human health risk from waste and contamination at Australian stations and field camps. This project will build on our knowledge and expertise in site biodiversity and ecological risk assessments, environmental toxicology, and remediation in Antarctica and Macquarie Island. It will deliver a comprehensive, prioritised and actionable clean up strategy for Australia’s contaminated sites as well as a suite of assessment tools and remediation technologies.
Dr. Dana Bergstrom – Biodiversity, extreme events and butterfly wings
This year has seen numerous extreme weather events occurring across Australia and Antarctica. For example, multiple floods events have impacted large areas along the east coast of Australia, the Great Barrier Reef experienced its first coral bleaching during a la Niña year and the south-western temperate rainforests of Tasmania experienced drought. In March in Antarctica, an extreme heatwave penetrated deeply into the Antarctic continent, raising air temperatures to almost 40oC above average, and it rained at Antarctic coastal oases. We* have been trying to untangle the causes behind this extraordinary collection of compound weather events and have found interactions with Rossby wave trains, unusual patterns in the Madden-Julian Oscillation, blocking high pressure systems, east coast lows, atmospheric rivers, the splitting of a cyclone near Madagascar, a widespread marine heatwave and possibly aerosols from the Tongan volcano. These short-term extreme events will most likely have long-term impacts across a range of ecosystems, their populations and processes.
*Extensive teams including scientists from DCCEEW, BOM, national and international universities.
Dr. Justine Shaw – Post eradication monitoring of a sub-Antarctic ecosystem: a conservation success story
After more than 150 years of impacts cats, rats, mice, and rabbits were eradicated from World Heritage, Macquarie Island. These feral animals had caused the decline of numerous species of threatened and endemic birds, plants and invertebrates. The $24.5 million eradication program was implemented through partnership of the Tasmanian State Government and the Australian Antarctic Division and declared a success in 2014.
Given the investment in the program and threatened species reporting requirements recovery, there was a desire to assess recovery. A research and monitoring project was undertaken to understand how an island ecosystem responds to removal of feral predators and what it means for ecosystem conservation more broadly. Threatened seabirds, native predatory birds, vegetation and invertebrates were all monitored. Novel survey techniques complimented traditional field surveys. These included remote sensing, eco-acoustics, eDNA, geo-location devices and infra-red cameras.
Monitoring revealed seabird populations and vegetation cover are now increasing. It highlighted, not all species respond at the same rate and some species were negatively impacted by eradication. Prior monitoring and baseline data is essential to inform conservation targets. These findings impact other restoration and monitoring programs in Australia and internationally. The island is recovering.
Charlton Clark - Developing and delivering operational capability in Antarctica
Operational support for the AAP is being transformed with the introduction of new capabilities to support science. This presentation provides an overview of the roadmap for enhanced shipping, aviation, summer field camps, over-snow transport, communications, clothing and training to support the delivery of science over the coming decade.
Dr. Jaimie Cleeland - Science supporting sustainable Southern Ocean fisheries
The Australian Antarctic Division leads a long-term collaborative research program to support the sustainable and ecosystem-based management of toothfish and icefish fisheries at Heard Island and McDonald Islands, Macquarie Island, in East Antarctica and in the Ross Sea region. Core to this program are stock assessments for key target species, methods for reducing bycatch and understanding the effect of climatic variability to provide evidence-based scientific advice to the Australian Government and the Commission for the Conservation of Antarctic Marine Living Resources.
Dr. Rob Massom – Antarctic Sea Ice – Why Does It Matter?
Sea ice that seasonally covers up to about 19-20 million km2 of the Southern Ocean is an important component of our planet’s cryosphere and the wider Earth system, and sea-ice change has serious consequences – for global weather and climate, ocean properties and circulation, marine ecosystems (including krill), ice-sheet stability and sea-level rise, and human activities.
This talk provides a brief overview of how Antarctic sea ice has changed/varied over recent decades, and observed impacts. It further highlights priority challenges (emphasised by IPCC), including the need to address critical knowledge gaps around the complex interactive ice-ocean-atmosphere processes responsible for driving observed sea-ice patterns (including an unanticipated decrease since 2016). This is crucial to improving representation of the Antarctic sea-ice system in weather, climate and Earth-system models – to bolster forecasting capability and substantially reduce current large uncertainties in predicted future sea-ice conditions and impacts.
Australia has a key role to play, by leading a sustained and coordinated measurement and monitoring program of the coupled East Antarctic sea ice-ocean-atmosphere-biosphere system that combines cross-disciplinary observations and process studies (involving sophisticated sensor packages and autonomous robotics) with satellite remote sensing and modelling – and that exploits the remarkable new capabilities of RSV Nuyina.