Antarctica research program funded $36 million by federal government

Dr Phill Cassey joins program which aims to secure Antarctica’s environmental future.

Led by Monash University, this research project also includes other leading universities and scientific bodies. It aims to “forecast environmental change across the Antarctic” as well as secure the region as a natural reserve “devoted to peace and science”.

Dr Phill Cassey from the University of Adelaide’s School of Biological Sciences is a Chief Investigator in the program. He says he’ll be investigating the risk of invasive alien species to Antarctica and the Southern Ocean, and biosecurity planning in order to protect Antarctica well into the future.

“Increased tourism and trade, and warmer conditions, means there is an increased risk of new pests and disease being successfully introduced to the Antarctic,” Dr Cassey said.

“Human activity in the region is increasing; with novel biosecurity risk through increased infrastructure, development and research exploration.

“We need to map out which transport pathways pose the greatest risk of introducing new pests and diseases to the area, and rank the activities to abate these threats in order of importance.”

The funding is through the federal governments’ Securing Antarctica’s Environmental Future (SAEF) program. SAEF is a joint program with the University of Adelaide, South Australian Museum, Queensland University of Technology, University of Wollongong, University of New South Wales, James Cook University and Western Australian Museum. The funding will be provided over 7 years.

SAEF’s collaboration extends to 30 organisations in Australia and abroad, including links with the Antarctic national programs of Chile, Norway, South Africa and the UK, and with the Department of Conservation in New Zealand.

Peak industry bodies, include the Australian Antarctic Division, Geoscience Australia, Australian Nuclear Science and Technology Organisation and Bureau of Meteorology.

The centres’ summary includes:

The Centre will revolutionise predictions of the future of East Antarctica and the Southern Ocean. Changes in the Antarctic will be profoundly costly to Australia, including sea-level and fisheries impacts; but the speed and scale of future change remains poorly understood. A new national-scale and interdisciplinary Centre is required to understand the complex interactions of the ocean, ice sheets, atmosphere and ecosystems that will govern Antarctica’s future.

The Centre will combine new field data with innovative models to address Australia’s Antarctic science priorities, train graduate students, develop leaders, engage the public, and enable major economic benefit as Australia adapts to climate change in the coming years and beyond.

For more information see the University of Adelaide’s press release.

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