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27 May 2009

Antarctic Division

ANDREW JACKSON: (Policy Manager Australian Antarctic Division) Welcome to the Australian Antarctic Division, my name is Andrew Jackson. I'm going to tell you a little bit about why this is such a wonderful place to work and all the exciting things that we do. We're here at Kingston, just outside of Hobart. Here we do all sorts of interesting things looking after Australia's national interest in the Antarctic. We do research. We do policy work. We run the ships and aircrafts, which get our people to and from Antarctica. Australia has a very long association with Antarctica. In fact our very first Australian to go to the Antarctic was a Tasmanian in 1899.

But more famously is Douglas Mawson who first went to Antarctica with Shackleton's expedition in 1908 when they famously climbed Mt Erebus - the active volcano and then went to the magnetic South Pole. Douglas Mawson himself returned in 1911 to 1914 in the famous expedition to that place we now call the home of the blizzard. And again he returned in 1929 to 1931 and did some extensive coastal mapping, which ended up with what we call the Australian Antarctic Territory. And then the modern Antarctic program has been active since 1947 on the Antarctic continent and on the sub Antarctic islands. The Australian Antarctic Division was established in 1948 after the first of the Australian national Antarctic research expeditions. The government decided that the first expedition has been so successful that we should continue with a national Antarctic program. Some of our research is done in Antarctica and some of it is done here in Tasmania where we have excellent research facilities. One of the very exciting pieces of research that we are doing here at Kingston Tasmania is relating to Southern Ocean ecosystems - the life of krill. Krill is an important part of the ecosystem. Most other organisms in the Antarctic and ocean environment either eat krill or are eaten by krill - they're central. We have been over many years collecting live krill from the Antarctic to understand their life cycle.

What we have been able to do here in the laboratory in Kingston is culture the food that the krill eat, so that when we bring back alive, we can keep them going and keep the study underway. Other research that we do relates to ice, atmosphere, climate and climate change. There's some very important work that's being done. Antarctica can tell us a lot about past climate change and help us predict the future. Some of that work is being done here and we are doing it collaborately (sic) with other nations. Its most important research to the future of the world and our understanding in Antarctica's role in that. Another area of our research is to do with environmental protection and change. What do we need to do to protect the Antarctic environment? Or what would be the effects in Antarctica itself of climate change and other changes, which are happening elsewhere in the globe? Australia's very closely involved in Antarctic research. One of the main reasons is because Antarctica is just so close to Australia - do you know that siting here in Hobart, we are closer to the Antarctic than we are to Perth. It's very close to Australia and therefore it has very important regional influences on Australia. Apart from the weather, there are other things which make Antarctica very influential on what happens here in Australia. But also it's important for us to do research because of the resources of Antarctica, for example the fish. We need to do research about the fish so that we can understand how many fish there are to take. What will be the effects on the ecosystem when we take the fish out of the sea? In addition we are doing some important research on the future management of Antarctica, to look after the Antarctic environment. To understand what happens when human are present in Antarctica - they have environmental effects. What can we do to minimise these effects? What can we do to ensure that the Antarctic continent is protected well into the future? Antarctica is a remarkable place. It's a continent which has never seen war, which is entirely protected for its environmental values; therefore it's unique in the world, especially on that scale. We see Antarctica as very remote and distant from the trouble of elsewhere in the world, but we can't be complacent. Although Antarctica is in good shape at the moment, there are potential threats. The rate of tourism in the Antarctic for example is increasing. There is increasing interest in the potential resources of the Antarctic. The Antarctic is governed by an Antarctic treaty system whereby countries interested in the region cooperate together. If that system where to change, Antarctica's management might change. The level of control we have over protecting the environment might be weakened. So we are working on a number areas - science, environmental management and in diplomacy to ensure that Antarctica remains as it is, and is protected for the future.