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Antarctic scientist receives international honour

26 April 2006

Antarctic scientist receives international honour

Professor Peter Barrett, Director of the Joint Antarctic Research Institute at Victoria University, has been awarded the Scientific Committee on Antarctic Research (SCAR) prestigious President's Medal for Outstanding Achievements in Antarctic Science.

This inaugural award of the Medal will be presented by SCAR President Professor Jörn Thiede at SCAR’s Open Science Conference at Hobart in July.

SCAR is an inter-disciplinary committee of the International Council for Science charged with initiating, developing and coordinating high quality international scientific research in the Antarctic region, and on the role of the Antarctic region in the Earth system. Established in 1958, it has 28 full member countries and four associate member countries. The biennial joint conferences with the Council of Managers of National Antarctic Programmes are the major international fora of the Antarctic scientific research and logistics support communities, and the Hobart conference is expected to attract close to 1000 scientists, managers and officials from countries involved in the Antarctic region.

In a citation accompanying the Medal, the President notes Professor Barrett’s contribution to bringing Antarctic science to a wider public audience and his role in establishing the international programme on Antarctic Climate Evolution.

“His early work focused on the Beacon Supergroup of the Transantarctic Mountains but today he is universally recognised as the supremo of the geological drilling community in the Antarctic.”

In 1973, he was on the first cruise of the deep-sea drilling ship Glomar Challenger into the Ross Sea, and the cores showed that Antarctic glaciation began more than 20 million years earlier than previously thought. Since that time he has been chief scientist on several drilling projects in McMurdo Sound to study the history of the East Antarctic ice sheet.

Professor Barrett says he feels privileged to have worked with great colleagues and students on a particularly challenging and sensitive part of the earth.

“The award also recognises the success of my community at Victoria University, at GNS Science and at Antarctica New Zealand, as well as our many colleagues abroad. Our understanding of past Antarctic ice sheet behaviour has improved enormously in recent years. Today this has increasing relevance with satellite monitoring now showing the beginnings of Antarctic ice melting around the edges,” he says.

Three medals will be presented at the Hobart conference, with Dr Paul Mayewski (United States) receiving the SCAR Medal for Excellence in Antarctic Research and Dr David Walton (United Kingdom) the SCAR Medal for International Scientific Coordination.

ENDS

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