Dr Dana Bergstrom — applied Antarctic ecologist

Scientists of the Antarctic: Dr Dana Bergstrom

Video transcript

I’m an applied Antarctic ecologist and what that effectively means is that I’m a problem solver. My focus is on protecting and conserving the living things in Antarctica and I mainly work on the things on land and not the ones in the ocean.

We want to protect the Antarctic and the sub-Antarctic because they’re really rare ecosystems. There’s intrinsic value of wildlife, plants, animals and fungi that have been there for a long long time, but there’s also scientific value. To study a place that’s gone through lots and lots of ice ages and greenhouse times, to understand how those plants and animals survive.

That helps us understand how evolution works and how organisms survive climate change today, which is really relevant with regard to what’s going on in the world.

One of the projects we did was a thing called Aliens in Antarctica. It was about the way things can hitchhike to Antarctica and disturb the natural ecosystems.

We were able to organise a huge international project which involved 22 nations, so many ships and planes, and we were able to get a picture of what humans were carrying to Antarctica.

One of the things we did was build a state-of-the-art quarantine facility down at the Hobart wharf, in response to what the science was telling us.

We stopped rats getting in, we stopped mice, we stopped seeds, we stopped spiders. All action towards protecting Antarctica.

It’s really heart-warming to be part of something that’s focussed on environmental stewardship.

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Dr Dana Bergstrom: BSc, MSc, PhD

Research interests

I am an applied Antarctic ecologist with a focus on understanding and protecting Antarctica at the highest level, while communicating the global importance of the region and its science to the world. My work revolves around studying how Antarctic organisms and ecosystems work, identifying risks to these Antarctic ecosystems and finding solutions to mitigating such risks, especially in terrestrial ecosystems. I’m particularly focused on the impact of humans in Antarctica on large scales (e.g. climate change) as well as regional and local scales (e.g. the impact of non-native species and human footprint).

I have played major leadership roles in international science in the area by initiating programs and driving the construction of science plans for three major international Antarctic science programs: Scientific Committee on Antarctic Research (SCAR) ‘Regional Sensitivities to Climate Change'; SCAR ‘Evolution and Biodiversity in Antarctica'; and the International Polar Year (IPY) ‘Aliens in Antarctica'. Approximately 70–80% of all researchers in my field globally have participated in one of these programs over the last 10 years. As a result, I have a history of bringing together large groups of scientists to address specific regional-based topics and working with them to produce comprehensive outputs and outcomes. For example, the Aliens in Antarctica project has resulted in major changes in how most national programs and tourist operations operate with regard to biosecurity measures in Antarctica.

Recent research has focused on evidence-based conservation planning and the understanding rapid ecosystem collapse in alpine areas of Macquarie Island.

National and international representations/collaborations

  • Instigator and member — SCAR-ANTOS (Antarctic Nearshore and Terrestrial Observing System) Action Group (2014–present)
  • Australian Delegate — SCAR (2011–2014)
  • Co-Chair — SCAR Open Science Conference International Steering Committee Auckland 2014
  • Instigator and Co-Chair — IPY Aliens in Antarctica International Science project (2006–2011)
  • Executive Member — SCAR, Evolution and Biodiversity of Antarctica (2006–2011)
  • Member — SCAR Life Sciences Standing Scientific Group (2004–2005, 2010–present)
  • Member — SCAR International Steering Committee, various conferences (2004, 2006, 2008, 2010, 2011)
  • Member — International science review committee, South African Antarctic Program (2009)
  • Member — Editorial Advisory Council Polar Science (2008–present)
  • Member — SCAR Special Program Development Group — Evolution and Biodiversity in Antarctica (2003–2004)
  • Chief Officer — SCAR Regional Sensitivity to Climate Change in Antarctic Terrestrial and Limnetic Ecosystems (2003–2005)
  • Member — Steering Committee SCAR Regional Sensitivity to Climate Change in Antarctic Terrestrial and Limnetic Ecosystems (1999–2002)
  • Instigator — SCAR Regional Sensitivity to Climate Change in Antarctic Terrestrial and Limnetic Ecosystems (1999)

Related links

Selected Publications

Bergstrom, D.M., Bricher, P.K., Raymond, B., Terauds A., Doley, D., McGeoch M.A., Whinam, J, Glen, M. , Yuan Z., Kiefer K., Shaw, J.D., Bramely-Alves, J., Rudman, T., Mohammed, C., Lucieer, A., Visoiu M., Jansen van Vuuren B., Ball, M.C (2015) Rapid collapse of a sub-Antarctic alpine ecosystem: the role of climate and pathogens. Journal of Applied Ecology, 52: 774–783.

Bennett, J.R., Shaw, J.D. Terauds, A., Smol, J.P., Aerts, R., Bergstrom, D.M., Blais, J.M., Cheung, W.W.L, Chown ,S.L., Lea, MA., Nielsen, U.N., Pauly, D., Reimer, K.J., Riddle, M.J., Snape, I., Stark, J.S., Tulloch, V.J., and Possingham H.P. (2015) Polar lessons learned: long-term management based on shared threats in Arctic and Antarctic environments. Frontiers in Ecology and the Environment 2015 13:6, 316–324

Rolland, V, Bergstrom, D.M., Lenné, T., Bryant, G., Chen, Hua, Wolfe, J., Holbrook, N.M., Stanton, D.E. and Ball, M.C (2015) Easy come, easy go: capillary forces enable rapid refilling of embolized primary xylem vessels. Plant Physiology DOI:10.1104/pp.15.00333

See more of Dr Bergstrom’s publications on Google Scholar.