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Science Update

June 2018




Applications for the three leadership roles (Platform Director and two Programme Leaders) close on Friday 29th June 2018, with interviews scheduled between Monday 9th and Wednesday 11th July 2018. Information about these positions can be found here, or contact Antarctica New Zealand’s Acting Chief Scientific Advisor, Fiona Shanhun (+64 21 408 909) or the Antarctic Science Platform Steering Group Chair, Gillian Wratt (+64 21 548 110).

The 2018/19 Season plan has been approved in principle by the Antarctica New Zealand Chief Executive, and the Environmental Impact Assessments are now with MFAT for sign off.

Event Managers should now be able to see dates for their Event activities in EMPEROR, on the Event Report when  clicking on the ‘Print’ tab. Please note— activities and their timing may differ between the Event Report and what is displayed on the EMPEROR Plan tab due to data coming from different databases. The Event Report displays the latest information.

Support Level Agreements (SLA) will be sent out to Event Managers in July confirming logistics support for the 2018/19 season. It is important that the SLA is communicated with Event members and organisations, to ensure there is an early understanding of each Event plan and responsibilities.

The EMPEROR Personnel Portal will be opened from 1 July. Event Personnel will receive an email from the Antarctica NZ Admin team when they are able to access the Portal to complete personal details and e-Learning. 

The Event Manager workshop will be held on 18 July in the Antarctic Passenger Terminal. The agenda will be sent out in a separate email to all external Event Managers. This is a great opportunity for Event Managers to connect with the Event Planning team to discuss the upcoming season, and developments for the future.


Congratulations to our Antarcticans on these recent publications:


Carlig E., Di Blasi D., Ghigliotti L., Pisano E., Faimali M., O’Driscoll R., Parker S., Vacchi M. (2018). Diversification of feeding structures in three adult Antarctic nototheniid fish. Polar Biology DOI:10.1007/s00300-018-2310-9


Malekar V.C., Morton J.D., Hider R.N., Cruickshank R.H., Hodge S., Metcalf V.J. (2018Effect of elevated temperature on membrane lipid saturation in Antarctic notothenioid fishPeerJ 6. DOI:10.7717/peerj.4765

O’Driscoll R.L., Canese S., Ladroit Y., Parker S.J., Ghigliotti L., Mormede S., Vacchi M.  (2018). First in situ estimates of acoustic target strength of Antarctic toothfish (Dissostichus mawsoni). Fisheries Research, 206. DOI:10.1016/j.fishres.2018.05.008

Piazza P., Cummings V., Lohrer D., Marini S., Marriott P., Menna F., Nocerino E., Peirano A., Schiaparelli S. (2018). Divers-operated underwater photogrammetry: applications in the study of Antarctic benthos. The International Archives of the Photogrammetry, Remote Sensing and Spatial Information Sciences, Volume XLII-2. DOI:10.5194/isprs-archives-XLII-2-885-2018

Rintoul S.R., Chown S.L., DeConto R.M., England M.H., Fricker H.A., Masson-Delmotte V., Naish T.R., Siegert M.J., Xavier J.C. (2018).  Choosing the future of Antarctica. Nature 558. DOI:10.1038/s41586-018-0173-4


If you would like your publications featured here please email our Science Team about your papers as they go to press.



Yet another stunning Aurora from Winter Base Leader, Jonny Harrison.



A recent issue of Nature has focused on the future of Antarctica and implications of change in Antarctica on the rest of the planet, with multiple papers in the issue co-authored by kiwi researchers. What follows is a summary of the significance of the paper (Rintoul, Chown,, 2018)

Choices made in the next decade will have long-term consequences for Antarctica and the globe, according to research published this month in Nature. The authors, including Victoria University of Wellington’s Professor Tim Naish, are experts in a range of disciplines, including biology, oceanography, glaciology, geophysics. They say Antarctica and the Southern Ocean are closely coupled to the rest of the globe and so change in the region will have widespread consequences for the Earth and humanity.

The study, Choosing the future of Antarctica, contrasts two narratives on the future of Antarctica and the Southern Ocean, from the perspective of an observer in the year 2070 looking back on the past 50 years. Each narrative highlights the long-term ramifications of decisions made today. In the first scenario, greenhouse gas emissions remain unchecked, the climate continues to warm, and little policy action is taken to respond to environmental and social factors affecting Antarctica. In the second scenario, ambitious action is taken to limit greenhouse gas emissions and to establish policies that reduce anthropogenic pressure on the environment, slowing the rate of change in Antarctica.

These science-based scenarios represent plausible alternative futures rather than forecasts, the authors say. “The trajectory that will play out over the next 50 years depends on choices made today,” said the paper’s lead author, Dr Steve Rintoul of the Centre for Southern Hemisphere Oceans Research and Antarctic Climate and Ecosystems Cooperative Research Centre in Hobart, Australia. “Greenhouse gas emissions must start decreasing in the coming decade to have a realistic prospect of following the low emissions narrative and so avoid global impacts associated with change in Antarctica, such as substantial sea level rise,” he said.

Professor Naish says under the high emissions narrative, Antarctica and the Southern Ocean undergo widespread and rapid change, with global consequences. “What these narratives show us is that reducing greenhouse gas emissions, in line with the Paris climate agreement, and implementing effective policy can still minimise change in the Antarctic environment and the rest of planet. Under the low emissions scenario in this paper, Antarctica looks much as it did in the earlier decades of the century and global sea-level rise remains under 1 metre,” he says. In contrast, the global consequences set out under the high emissions narrative include dramatic loss of major ice shelves, sea warming, sea ice retreat and ocean acidification, and degradation of the environment caused by unrestricted growth in human use of Antarctica and introduced invasive pests.

"The approach of looking back is a creative way to communicate the immediacy of the problem. You can’t help but feel the necessity to act to ensure the right policy pathways are taken”, says Professor Craig Cary, Director of the New Zealand Antarctic Research Institute who helped fund the research. Professor Naish and Associate Professor Nicholas Golledge from Victoria’s Antarctic Research Centre are also authors in a second paper published today in the same edition of Nature. It reveals that the East Antarctic Ice Sheet may eventually contribute to multi-metre  global sea-level rise if we choose not to take action and  greenhouse levels in the atmosphere continue to rise over coming decades.

“If we don’t get on top of climate change and make good policy decisions now, we will end up with a world we haven’t seen for 3 million years, with a sea level up to 30 metres higher than now.” 

Thanks to Victoria University of Wellington for the summary; for more information contact Tim Naish.


New Zealand's contribution to the international Antarctic community has been recognised by the recent election of two of our Antarcticans to leadership roles. Congratulations to Peter and Gary on these significant appointments.

Antarctica New Zealand’s Chief Executive Officer, Peter Beggs, has been elected Vice Chair for the Council of Managers of National Antarctic Programmes (COMNAP).

COMNAP was formed in 1988 to develop and promote best practice in managing the support of scientific research in Antarctica. It brings together National Antarctic Programmes that deliver and support scientific research in the Antarctic Treaty Area on behalf of their respective governments. COMNAP has just finished its 30th AGM in Garmisch-Partenkirchen, Germany. Twenty-nine of the 30 COMNAP Member organisations attended the meeting. With more than 200 participants, it was one of the largest gatherings COMNAP has held.

At COMNAP AGMs, members engage in collaborative discussions and share pre-season information. This year focused on how best they can collaborate to support Antarctic science. This included discussions on Health and Safety, and it was announced that an international Search and Rescue Workshop will be held in New Zealand in May 2019.

Peter Beggs is thrilled with his election and adds another Antarctic link to the Gateway city of Christchurch which also hosts the COMNAP secretariat. “I am honoured to be elected to the Council and look forward to a productive three-year tenure. New Zealand is a world leader of Antarctic Science, and this position presents another forum to facilitate collaborative discussions.” Mr Beggs joins COMNAP Vice Chairs: Jafed Beg (India), John Guldahl (Norway), Agnieszka Kruszewska (Poland) and Uwe Nixdorf (Germany). Michelle Rogan-Finnemore is the Executive Secretary (also based in Christchurch) and Dr Kelly Falkner from the US National Science Foundation is the Chair.

Antarctica New Zealand Chief Executive, and COMNAP Vice Chair, Peter Beggs. Photo: Kylie Wood.


Antarctica New Zealand is delighted to announce that Professor Gary Wilson has been elected Vice President of SCAR (Scientific Committee on Antarctic Research). Thirty-two voting nations and a number of International Science Unions elected University of Otago’s Professor Wilson for the four-year term.

SCAR is responsible for initiating, developing and coordinating high quality international scientific research in Antarctica and the Southern Ocean, and on the role of the Antarctic region in the Earth system. SCAR provides independent scientific advice to organisations, particularly Antarctic Treaty Consultative meetings.

Professor Wilson says he’s honoured to be elected by the SCAR member countries. “SCAR is an important part of Antarctic research, it’s where we develop international strategy in how we tackle the challenges of Antarctic research and I’m very pleased to help lead that” he says. Professor Wilson joins new Vice Presidents Dr M Ravichandran (India) and Dr Catherine Ritz (France) along with Prof Jefferson Simões (Brazil), Prof Steven Chown (President) and Dr Chandrika Nath (SCAR Executive Director) on the SCAR Executive Committee. Antarctica New Zealand Acting Chief Scientific Advisor, Dr Fiona Shanhun, is thrilled New Zealand has a seat at the leadership table. “This is an excellent result and highlights the esteem in which Professor Wilson, and New Zealand, is held in the international Antarctic research community” says Dr Shanhun.

SCAR Vice President, Professor Gary Wilson. Photo: Jason O'Hara.

With many of our community attending and presenting at the recent POLAR18 meeting in Davos, we'd love to hear some highlights and perspectives from you and share these with the wider community. We will be producing a bumper issue in July; if you wish to contribute perspectives, updates, photos or news, please send submissions to Rebecca McLeod by 20 July (and preferably a quick heads-up prior). 




New Zealand has significant and enduring interests in Antarctica and the Southern Ocean.  These include peace, security and effective governance in Antarctica, together with environmental, scientific, conservation, reputational and economic interests. These interests are outlined in the 2002 Revised New Zealand Statement of Strategic Interest, available here.

Although New Zealand’s interests have not changed substantially, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade (MFAT) think the Statement could benefit from a “plain English” approach that clearly articulates our enduring interests and how New Zealand will engage to promote those interests. MFAT propose this "plain English" statement of New Zealand’s Interests in Antarctica and the Southern Ocean and welcome your feedback on this draft. 

Comments may be sent by email until 30 July 2018 to


Photo: Killian Russell.

A new paper on the presence of microplastics in the Southern Ocean is available on the Environments Portal; the synopsis is provided below.

The Southern Ocean has the lowest densities of floating macroplastic litter in the world. It was thought that the region was relatively free of microplastic contamination. However, recent studies and citizen science projects have reported microplastics in deep-sea and shallow sediments and surface waters. Microplastics have been shown, in both laboratory experiments and field-based studies elsewhere in the world, to negatively impact a range of marine species including pelagic and benthic organisms. After reviewing available information on microplastics (including macroplastics as a source of microplastics) in the Southern Ocean, we present estimated microplastic concentrations, and identify potential sources and routes of transmission into the region. Estimates suggest that the amounts of microplastic pollution released into the region from ships and scientific research stations are likely to be negligible at the scale of the Southern Ocean, but may be significant on a local scale. Furthermore, predictions of microplastic concentrations from local sources are several orders of magnitude lower than levels reported in published sampling surveys. Sea surface transfer from lower latitudes is a likely contributor to Southern Ocean plastic concentrations. 


Entries for the 2018 Prime Minister’s Science Prizes are now open, with New Zealand’s most talented established and emerging scientists, science teachers and science communicators able to apply for awards worth a combined value of $1 million across five categories.

You've got to be in to win... you can apply here.


Applications for Rutherford Foundation PhD scholarships and Postdoctoral Fellowships are now open. The Rutherford Foundation aims to build human capability in science and technology by providing early career support for New Zealand’s brightest and most promising researchers.
For 2018, the Foundation offers the following funding opportunities:


  • Cambridge-Rutherford Memorial Scholarship: intended to provide full support to enable completion of a PhD at the University of Cambridge in pure or applied science. More information here.
  • New Zealand Postdoctoral Fellowships: will enable recipients to undertake full-time research programmes within New Zealand in areas of science, technology, engineering or mathematics at an eligible research institution.  This year there are up to ten positions on offer. Researchers whose doctoral degrees were conferred no more than 4 years prior to the application closing date are eligible to apply. More information here.

Applications for Scholarships and Fellowships close August 2, 2018.


Two postdoctoral fellowships at Universidad de Chile have been advertised, on the biogeography of:

(1) the microbiota in Antarctic and sub-Antarctic areas;
(2) marine fauna in the Southern Ocean.


These calls are made in the context of the PIA Conicyt Chilean project: Genomics insight into the past and present of Antarctic Biodiversity: a tool to assess the fate of a unique ecosystem in a changing world? Applications close 27 July 2018; for more information contact Dr Elie Poulin.



The ARC team are seeking to recruit two PhD students to join their international glaciology and climate modelling team. The project, supported by the Royal Society Marsden Fund, aims to identify the drivers of the Antarctic Cold Reversal, a Southern Hemisphere climate change that occurred around 14,000 years ago.

Position 1 – Glacial geology and Beryllium-10 dating

The candidate will carry out geological/geomorphological field work in a small team on and around the beautiful and remote glaciers in New Zealand’s Southern Alps. In Wellington, this student work in the cutting edge cosmogenic nuclide laboratory. This student may also, depending on aptitude, skills and experience, contribute to the development or application of glacier models to palaeoclimate problems.

Position 2 – Glacier and palaeoclimate modelling

The candidate will carry out numerical modelling of glaciers in modern and past climates. This student will be based in the glacier modelling group, but will also have the opportunity to work in other, international climate modelling centres. This student will also have the chance to join fieldwork in the New Zealand Southern Alps.


Further information can be found here, or by contacting Professor Andrew Mackintosh.


The IPCC has selected the author teams that are now preparing the Special Report on the Ocean and Cryosphere in a Changing Climate (SROCC). The selected experts took on roles of Coordinating Lead Authors (who draft each individual chapter) and Review Editors, who ensure that comments by experts and governments are given appropriate consideration as the report develops. The teams are working together to produce the Special Report, set to be finalized in September 2019.


The full list of Coordinating Lead Authors, Lead Authors and Review Editors is available here. If you have a contribution for this initiative, it must be submitted by 15 October 2018; contact the working group for more information.


SCAR and COMNAP have again joined forces to launch fellowships for early-career researchers. SCAR will offer 3 to 4 fellowships of up to USD $15,000 each for 2018 and COMNAP will offer up to 1 fellowship with funding of up to USD $15,000.  The fellowships enable early-career researchers to join a project team from another country, opening up new opportunities and often creating partnerships that last for many years and over many Antarctic field seasons. Note that the application process for SCAR and COMNAP fellowships are now separate and the eligibility criteria differs. The deadline for SCAR and COMNAP fellowship applications is 11 July 2018.


The SCAR and COMNAP schemes are launched in conjunction with the Scientific Scholarship Scheme of the Commission for the Conservation of Antarctic Marine Living Resources (CCAMLR).  The CCAMLR Scholarship provides funding of up to AUD $30,000 to assist early-career scientists to participate in the work of the CCAMLR Scientific Committee and its working groups over a period of two years.  The objective of the scheme is to build capacity within the CCAMLR scientific community to help generate and sustain the scientific expertise needed to support the work of CCAMLR in the long-term.  The deadline for CCAMLR scholarship applications is 1 October 2018.

All three schemes are being jointly promoted by the three organisations.  


Find more information about SCAR and COMNAP Fellowships here, and information about the CCAMLR Scholarships here


If you have any news, items, great images, or recent publications that you would like to feature in the monthly update, please send them to our Science Team.