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Day 1 afternoon plenary

Title: Geo-heritage in the Australian Antarctic Territory

Presenter: Chris Carson

Geoscience Australia

Authors: Chris Carson1, Edward Grew2, Martin Riddle3, Sandra Potter3, Rebecca Malcolm3

1 - Geoscience Australia, GPO Box 378, Canberra ACT 2601,

2 - University of Maine, School of Earth and Climate Sciences, Orono, Maine 04469-57,

3 - Australian Antarctic Division, 203 Channel Highway, Kingston, Tasmania 7050 Australia,,,


With improving accessibility of Antarctica, the need for proactive intervention, protection and management of sites of intrinsic scientific, historic, aesthetic or wilderness value is becoming increasingly important. The Protocol on Environmental Protection to the Antarctic Treaty (the ‘Madrid Protocol’) includes provisions to protect such locations. Whereas, these provisions have been primarily utilised to protect sites of biological or cultural significance, sites of geological or geomorphological significance may also be considered. To date, only two sites within East Antarctica (Marine Plain, Vestfold Hills; Mount Harding, Grove Mountains), have been declared as Antarctic Specially Protected Areas (ASPA) in recognition of their unique geological or geomorphological significance.

More recently, Stornes, a peninsula in the Larsemann Hills (Prydz Bay), has also been identified as an ASPA candidate due to an abundance and diversity of extremely rare granulite-facies borosilicate and phosphate minerals. The Stornes example illustrates a growing awareness of the intrinsic scientific value of geological and geomorphological features across the AAT, including rare mineral and fossil localities. This awareness is identified within the current Australian Antarctic Science Strategic Plan emphasising that geosciences can actively contribute to, and influence the development of management plans, and can actively support Australia’s commitments to Annex V of the Madrid Protocol. Wider recognition of sites of geological significance can be achieved by invoking the provisions for area management, including requirements for permission to enter by a responsible national authority. Area management should mitigate casual souveniring, oversampling and accidental or deliberate damage caused by ill-advised construction or other human activity.

Title: Seabird response to environmental variation and change: identifying drivers of key ecological processes

Presenter: Louise Emmerson

Australian Antarctic Division

Authors: L Emmerson, B. Wienecke and C Southwell

Australian Antarctic Division, Channel Highway, Tasmania, AUSTRALIA


Identifying potential threats from a changing environment on Antarctic seabird populations requires understanding key ecological processes and their driving factors. Here we outline the focus of the AAS project on Seabird response to environmental variation and change. Our objectives are to identify driving factors and key ecological processes and to develop quantitative explanatory models that relate site- and regional-scale variation in breeding success, phenology, foraging habitat and long-term population changes with spatially and temporally coincident data on physical and biological characteristics (e.g. fast-ice, pack-ice, primary production, krill biomass). Where possible, predictive models will be developed to explore outcomes of expected environmental change on seabird populations. We outline the relevance of some of this work for species conservation and management. For example, results from seabird tracking studies will be used for the spatial delineation of prey consumption in east Antarctica by taking into account the spatial needs of predators for CCAMLR. Distinguishing between the effects on higher-order predators from fishing and those due to climate change or natural environmental variability presents a challenge for fisheries management. Insights of driving factors will improve CCAMLR's ability to distinguish between fisheries and other impacts in the feedback management procedure and could help identify sensitive marine indicator species required to track the impacts of environmental change.

Title: Perspectives and processes for warming and ice melt on the Antarctic Peninsula

Presenter: Nerilie Abram

British Antarctic Survey and the Australian National University

Authors: Nerilie Abram1,2, Robert Mulvaney1

1 - British Antarctic Survey,

2 - Australian National University,


The Antarctic Peninsula has experienced rapid warming in recent decades, which has led to extensive summer ice melt, the collapse of ice shelves and the acceleration of glacial outflow. But the short observational records of Antarctic climate don’t allow for an understanding of how unusual the recent conditions may be? We present reconstructions of temperature and melt history from a highly resolved ice core record from James Ross Island on the northeastern Antarctic Peninsula. We use the deuterium isotope proxy for mean annual temperature, in conjunction with similar records from previously published ice core records, to differentiate the spatial features of climate variability and recent warming across the Antarctic Peninsula and the West Antarctic Ice Sheet. We also present a record based on visible melt layers in the James Ross Island ice core to examine the response of ice melt to changing temperatures on the Antarctic Peninsula over the last 1000 years. Our results demonstrate the non-linear relationship between temperature and melt intensity, with implications for future ice shelf and ice sheet stability in regions where summer temperatures are near to the zero degree melt threshold. Our results also examine the role that strengthening of the Southern Annual Mode has played in recent warming of the northern Antarctic Peninsula and allow for an assessment of the ability of CMIP5 climate simulations to simulate the patterns and timing of Antarctic Peninsula climate changes in response to natural and anthropogenic climate changes over the last millennium.

Title: ANDRILL Coulman High Project: Resolving Antarctic Ice Sheet behaviour during periods of climate forcing by higher than present CO2

Presenter: Richard Levy

GNS Science

Authors: R Levy1, R DeConto2, D Harwood3, B Luyendyk4, T Naish5, D Pollard6, F Rack3, A Shevenell7,
C Sorlien3, D Wilson3

1 - GNS Science, Lower Hutt, New Zealand

2 - University of Massachusetts, Amherst, MA, USA

3 - University of Nebraska – Lincoln, Lincoln, NE, USA

4 - University of California, Santa Barbara, Santa Barbara, CA, USA

5 - Victoria University of Wellington, Wellington, New Zealand

6 - Penn State University, University Park, PA, USA

7 - University of South Florida, St Petersburg, FL, USA


Ice volume estimates from BEDMAP 2 data suggest that ocean-driven melt of marine based sectors of Antarctica’s ice sheets (AIS) could contribute up to 22 meters to global sea level rise. Furthermore, data derived from geological records of sea level and proxy-based reconstructions of atmospheric CO2 indicate that sea level was up to 22 metres higher than present when CO2 concentrations last exceeded 400 ppm. These results provide compelling but indirect evidence that marine ice sheets are vulnerable to atmospheric CO2 concentrations above preindustrial levels.

Geological records from the Antarctic margin provide the only means to acquire direct evidence of past ice sheet behaviour and test inferences made from far-field data sets. Between 2006 and 2008, the ANtarctic DRILLing (ANDRILL) Program recovered two > 1km long rock and sediment cores from the western Ross Sea that span the last 20 million years. These paleoclimate records indicate that marine ice sheets retreated for extensive periods during times when CO2 levels breached the 400 ppm threshold. ANDRILL now aims to utilise its proven approach to drill two ~900 m holes into 20 to 40 million year old sediments beneath the Ross Ice Shelf. Recovery of targeted strata will provide high-quality stratigraphic records from a period when atmospheric CO2 was persistently higher than 400 ppm. These records will reveal direct information on physical and biological conditions in the Ross Sea and will provide new constraints on ice sheet dynamics under CO2 concentrations similar to those projected for the next century.

Latest news

  • Conference prize winners
    27 Jun 2013

    The Strategic Science in Antarctica conference concluded yesterday and two days of workshops have commenced. Congratulations to those who were awarded prizes for their contributions to the conference.

  • Watch the welcome message from Australia's Environment Minister
    24 Jun 2013

    In a welcome message via video from Canberra, Australia’s Environment Minister, Tony Burke, reflected on the foresight of earlier decision-makers who agreed to set aside an entire continent for scientific research.

  • Last minute information for attendees
    20 Jun 2013

    There's not too long to wait until the start of the Strategic Science in Antarctica conference, and we hope you’re as excited as we are! Read on for more information about the final program, registration, Twitter, presenters, posters and social functions.

More news…

Key dates

  • 11th June 2013
    Registrations close
  • 21st June 2013
    Registrations at the AAD open for staff
  • 24th June 2013
    Registrations at the venue open
  • 24th June 2013
    Conference commences
  • 26th June 2013
    Conference concludes

More key dates…

This page was last modified on 6 June 2013.