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Day 1 morning plenary

Title: Climate change science for Australian Government policy

Presenter and Author: Alison McMorrow

Climate Change Science Team - Department of Industry, Innovation, Climate Change, Science, Research and Tertiary Education. Australian Government


Australian climate change policy is underpinned by climate science, and our scientists are at the forefront of global efforts to understand the changing climate system.

Australia has a unique interest and responsibility for climate change science in the Southern Hemisphere. Research conducted in the Antarctic and Southern Ocean regions plays a significant role in improving understanding of the climate system and possible impacts in Australia. It is critical that this research effort is incorporated into Australian Government policy.

Significant efforts have been made in coordinating the delivery of climate change science in Australia to meet policy needs. In 2009, the Government endorsed the Australian Climate Change Science: A National Framework (the Framework), which identified key challenges where climate change science was needed to inform decision making over the next decade.

Following the Framework, a High Level Coordination Group (HLCG), comprised of senior government representatives and climate scientists, was established to oversee the delivery of climate change science in Australia. The HLCG developed A Plan for Implementing Climate Change Science in Australia (the Plan) which was adopted by the Government in 2012.

The HLCG is currently leading a national process to align the delivery of climate change science across Australia to the policy needs identified in the Plan. This process will coordinate the science delivered through the Australian Climate Change Science Program with allied activities such as the Centre of Excellence for Climate System Science and our national Antarctic Science Program currently delivered through the Australian Antarctic Division and the Antarctic Climate and Ecosystems Cooperative Research Centre.

Title: Retreat history of the East Antarctic Ice Sheet since the Last Glacial Maximum

Presenter: Andrew N. Mackintosh

Antarctic Research Centre, Victoria University of Wellington

Authors: Andrew N. Mackintosh1, Elie Verleyen2, Philip E. O’Brien3, Duanne White4, Robert McKay1, Damian B. Gore3, Robert Dunbar5, David Fink6, R. Selwyn Jones1, Alexandra L. Post7, Hideki Miura8, Amy Leventer9, Ian Goodwin3, Katherine Lilly10, Xavier Crosta11, Nicholas Golledge1,12, Bernd Wagner13, Sonja Berg13, Tas van Ommen14, Dan Zwartz1, Dominic A. Hodgson15, Steven J. Roberts15, Wim Vyverman2, and Guillaume Masse16

1 - Antarctic Research Centre, Victoria University of Wellington, PO Box 600 Wellington, New Zealand.

2 - Ghent University, Protistology and Aquatic Ecology, Krijgslaan 281 S8, 9000 Gent, Belgium.

3 - Department of Environment and Geography, Macquarie University, NSW 2109, Australia.

4 - Institute for Applied Ecology, University of Canberra, ACT, 2601, Australia.

5 - Environmental Earth System Science, Stanford University, Stanford CA, 94305, USA.

6 - Institute for Environmental Research, ANSTO, Menai, New South Wales 2234, Australia.

7 - Geoscience Australia, GPO Box 378 Canberra ACT 2601 Australia.

8 - National Institute of Polar Research, 9-10 Kaga, 1-Chome, Itabashi-ku, Tokyo I 73, Japan.

9 - Department of Geology, Colgate University, Hamilton, NY 13035 USA.

10 - Department of Geology, University of Otago, PO Box 56 Dunedin, New Zealand.

11 - Environnement et Paléoenvironnement Océaniques, UMR5805, Université Bordeaux 1, Avenue des Facultés, 33405 Talence Cedex, France.

12 - GNS Science, PO Box 30-368, Lower Hutt 5040, New Zealand.

13 - Institute of Geology and Mineralogy, Unversity of Cologne, Zuelpicher Strasse 49a, 50674 Cologne, Germany.

14 - Australian Antarctic Division and Antarctic Climate and Ecosystems Cooperative Research Centre, Private Bag 80, Hobart 7001, Tasmania, Australia.

15 - British Antarctic Survey, Natural Environment Research Council, High Cross, Madingley Road, Cambridge CB3 0ET, UK.

16 - LOCEAN, UMR7159 CNRS/UPMC/IRD/MNHN, Université Pierre et Marie Curie, 4 Place Jussieu, 75252 Paris, France.


The East Antarctic Ice Sheet (EAIS) is the largest continental ice mass on Earth, and documenting its evolution since the Last Glacial Maximum (LGM) is important for understanding its present-day and future behaviour. As part of a community effort, we review geological evidence from East Antarctica that constrains the ice sheet history throughout this period (~30,000-6,000 years ago). This includes terrestrial cosmogenic nuclide dates from ice-free regions, 14C chronologies from onshore and the continental shelf, and ice sheet thickness changes inferred from ice cores. We also include new 14C dates from the George V Land – Terre Adélie Coast shelf. We show that the EAIS advanced to the continental shelf margin in some parts of East Antarctica, and that the ice sheet characteristically thickened by 300-400 m near the present-day coastline at these sites. This advance was associated with the formation of low-gradient ice streams that grounded at depths of >1 km below sea level on the inner continental shelf. The Lambert/Amery system thickened by a greater amount (800 m) near its present-day grounding zone, but did not advance beyond the inner continental shelf. At other sites in coastal East Antarctica (e.g. Bunger Hills, Larsemann Hills), very little change in the ice sheet margin occurred at the LGM, perhaps because adjacent ice streams accommodated any excess ice build up. Evidence from nunataks indicates that the amount of ice sheet thickening diminished inland at the LGM, an observation supported by ice cores, which indicate thinning of the ice sheet interior by ~100 m at this time. Ice sheet recession may have started ~18,000 years ago in the Lambert/Amery glacial system, and by ~14,000 years ago in Mac.Robertson Land. These early pulses of deglaciation may have been responses to abrupt sea level rise events such as Meltwater Pulse 1a. It is unlikely, however, that East Antarctica contributed more than ~ 1 m of eustatic sea level equivalent to post-glacial meltwater pulses. The majority of ice sheet recession occurred after Meltwater Pulse 1a, between ~12,000 and ~6,000 years ago, during a period when the adjacent ocean warmed significantly. Large tracts of East Antarctica remain poorly studied, and further work is required to develop a robust understanding of the LGM ice sheet expansion, and its subsequent contraction. This will allow the contribution of the EAIS to post-glacial sea level rise to be better defined.

Title: The environmental impacts of a sewage outfall at Davis Station, Antarctica

Presenter: Jonathan S Stark

Australian Antarctic Division

Authors: Jonathan S Stark1, MJ Riddle1, I Snape1, S Stark1, CK King1, GJ Johnstone1, A Palmer1, G Hince1, L Wise1, James Smith2, Michelle Power3, Julie Mondon4, T Corbett4, Rhys Leeming5

1 - Terrestrial and Nearshore Ecosystems Theme, Australian Antarctic Division, Channel Hwy, Kingston Tas 7050,

2 - Queensland University of Technology, Qld, Australia,

3 - Biological Sciences, Macquarie University, NSW Australia,

4 - School of Life & Environmental Sciences, Deakin University, Vic Australia,

5 - CSIRO, Hobart, Tas, Australia,


In 2010 an environmental impact assessment of the Davis Station sewage outfall was done to provide information to direct the upgrade of wastewater treatment facilities. The aims were: 1) Determine the properties of wastewater effluent; 2) Assess the hydrodynamic characteristics of the nearshore marine environment; 3) Describe the nature and extent of impacts. Thirty sites were surveyed for sediment chemistry, sewage biomarkers, micro and macrobiological impacts. The marine environment is heterogeneous with a range of habitat types, sediment properties and exposure. Wastewater was high in BOD, nutrients, solids and contaminants. Levels of faecal indicator bacteria were typical of untreated human sewage. Wastewater was lethal to local marine invertebrates at dilutions as low as 3%. The direction of primary current flow and effluent dispersal in summer is south-west along the coast, however, there was retention of effluent around the wharf. Faecal indicator bacteria and contaminants were detectable in sediments up to 1.5 km from the outfall. The rate of dispersal is insufficient to prevent accumulation of contaminants in local habitats. Histopathological deformities were observed in fish, consistent with exposure to contaminants present in wastewater. There was no evidence of impacts on macrobiological communities, but analysis of nitrogen stable isotopes indicated sewage and associated contaminants are making their way into the food chain. Genes encoding for anti-microbial resistance carried by non-native organisms have been introduced into the Davis marine environment as evidenced by their presence in a filter feeding mollusc. The results formed the basis for recommendations on adequate dilution, dispersal and treatment of discharge.

Title: Predictive modelling for Antarctic marine ecosystems: directions and links to policy

Presenter: Jess Melbourne-Thomas

Australian Antarctic Division
Antarctic Climate and Ecosystems Cooperative Research Centre

Authors: Jess Melbourne-Thomas1,2, Andrew Constable1,2 and Stuart Corney2

1 - Australian Antarctic Division, Channel Highway, Kingston, Tasmania 7050 Australia

2 - Antarctic Climate and Ecosystems Cooperative Research Centre, Hobart Tasmania 7001, Australia


Uncertainty about changes to habitats and marine communities under environmental change in the Southern Ocean, both now and in the future, poses a challenge to decision-makers. In particular, sustainable management of Antarctic fisheries and top predators requires information regarding the potential responses of krill, fish, marine mammals and birds to management actions and climate change. While ecosystem models are increasingly recognised as important tools for addressing this challenge, there are still many who argue that such models cannot be used as predictive tools.

In this presentation we evaluate current gaps in terms of capability for predictive marine ecosystem modelling, both for the Southern Ocean and more generally. We also address important differences between perceptions and understanding of model outputs – including the way they are used in decision-making – between researchers, policy-makers and the general public. We highlight the need to communicate results from models in terms of ‘likelihoods’ of different future outcomes, as opposed to predictions of future state. While this interpretation is becoming more broadly accepted in ocean and climate modelling spheres, there is still a need to ‘bridge the gap’ in ecosystems research.

Latest news

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    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.

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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.