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Three Leading Antarctic Scientists Honored

Scientific Committee on Antarctic Research

Media Release

Three Leading Antarctic Scientists Honored

Wednesday 12 July 2006

Three prominent international Antarctic scientists have been honoured for their outstanding achievements by the world’s peak Antarctic science organisation – the Scientific Committee on Antarctic Research (SCAR).

The President of SCAR – Professor Jorn Thiede – presented the awards during the Committee’s 2006 meeting, which is currently underway in Hobart, Tasmania.

The President’s Medal for Outstanding Achievement in Antarctic Science was awarded to New Zealand scientist Professor Peter Barrett, who is the Director of the Victoria University’s Antarctic Research Centre in Wellington, New Zealand.

Professor Barrett is universally recognised as a leader of the geological drilling community in the Antarctic and has been Chief Scientist for several projects investigating the history of the East Antarctic ice sheet. He has done much to communicate Antarctic science to a wider public audience, including through a BBC programme on the history of the Antarctic ice sheet and emphasising its importance in the global context.

The SCAR Medal for Excellence in Antarctic Research was awarded to Professor Paul Mayewski, who is the Director of the Climate Change Institute at the University of Maine in the United States.

Professor Mayewski’s primary research interests are climate change and change in the chemistry of the atmosphere. He is the founder of a project to reconstruct Antarctic climate and atmospheric chemistry over the last 200 years and the Chair, since 1990, of the Executive Committee, which coordinates this programme.

The SCAR Medal for International Scientific Coordination was awarded to Dr David Walton from the British Antarctic Survey, United Kingdom.

Dr Walton has been Chairman of the Standing Committee on the Antarctic Treaty System since 2002; a member of the Steering Committees for the 6th and 7th SCAR Antarctica Biology Symposia and has represented SCAR at 14 Antarctic Treaty Consultative meetings since 1992. He is Editor in Chief of the scientific journal Antarctic Science and has contributed to, compiled and edited six books on research in Antarctica.

NOTE: Detailed information on each of the recipients is attached.

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SCIENTIFIC COMMITTEE ON ANTARCTIC RESEARCH

PRESIDENT’S MEDAL FOR OUTSTANDING ACHIEVEMENT IN ANTARCTIC SCIENCE

Peter Barrett

Peter graduated in Geology MSc (Hons) in 1963 at the University of Auckland. He was a Fellow in the Institute of Polar Studies at Ohio State University where he was awarded his PhD degree in 1968. One of his early papers, published in Science (1968), recorded his discovery of the first tetrapod remains in Antarctica, a ground-breaking discovery in support of the theory of continental drift, that was also reported in Time and Newsweek magazines. His early work focused on the Beacon Supergroup of the Transantarctic Mountains but today he is universally recognized as the supremo of the geological drilling community in the Antarctic. In 1973, Peter 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. The CIROS-1 drill hole was the first to show that 20–30 million years ago the Antarctic ice sheet was much warmer and less stable than it is today. This success was followed by the international Cape Roberts Project (1992–99) that he nursed through financial and logistic difficulties to a successful conclusion. The results from this core showed that the ancient Antarctic ice sheet fluctuated on Milankovitch Cycle frequencies. In addition he has also written fundamental papers in sedimentology, one of which concerns the shape of rock particles that is published in one of the most widely cited texts on sedimentology and stratigraphy. He has also done much to bring Antarctic science to a wider public audience, including a BBC programme on the history of the Antarctic ice sheet, and to emphasize its importance in a global context. In SCAR he was the New Zealand Representative to the Working Group on Geology (1977–2002), a member of the Group of Specialists on Environmental Affairs and Conservation (GOSEAC) (1988–2002), and a member of the Antarctic Off-shore Stratigraphy (ANTOSTRAT) Steering Committee (1990–2000). He was instrumental in establishing the international programme on Antarctic Climate Evolution (ACE) that has now been adopted as one of the SCAR Science Research Programmes. He has also served as the national Delegate to SCAR at several meetings. At Antarctic Treaty meetings he has been Head of the New Zealand Delegation to the Committee for Environmental Protection where his knowledge and experience of Antarctic research were invaluable.

SCIENTIFIC COMMITTEE ON ANTARCTIC RESEARCH

SCAR MEDAL FOR EXCELLENCE IN ANTARCTIC RESEARCH

Paul Mayewski

Professor Paul Mayewski has had a long and distinguished career conducting climate change research in Antarctica. Paul's primary research interests are climate change and change in the chemistry of the atmosphere. He has pursued these interests by collecting snow samples and ice cores not only from the Antarctica, but also in the Arctic, the Andes, New Zealand and the Himalayas and Tibetan Plateau. He is the founder and Chair of the Executive Committee for the International Trans-Antarctic Scientific Expedition (ITASE), which is reconstructing the Antarctic climate and chemistry of the atmosphere for the last 200 years. From its original formulation in 1990, primarily as a result of Paul's efforts, the aim of ITASE has been the collection and interpretation of a continent-wide array of environmental parameters, assembled through the coordinated efforts of scientists from 15 nations. Because of the remoteness of the continent, Antarctica is an ideal location to monitor biogeochemical cycles and local-to-global scale climate change. This remoteness has prevented the collection of as much instrumental data as in the northern hemisphere, yet these data are required to assess Antarctica's role in and response to environmental and climate change. ITASE has been focused on determining the spatial variability of Antarctic climate parameters, such as accumulation, air temperature and atmospheric circulation over the last 200 years, and, where the data are available, the last 1000 years. ITASE was adopted as a key science initiative by both the International Geosphere-Biosphere Programme and SCAR. Paul is the Field Leader of the US ITASE expedition and has led more than 35 scientific expeditions to the Antarctic, where a peak is named for him and where he explored uncharted territories. He has also worked extensively in the Arctic, where he led fellow scientists in the recovery of a 250,000-year long record of climate change from Greenland. In the Himalayas he led the first scientific expedition into the glaciers of interior Ladakh since the early 20th century. He has also worked on the Tibetan Plateau. Along with Frank White, Paul published a book for popular audiences - "The Ice Chronicles" - that captures the adventure of scientific research in remote reaches of the Earth. He has developed strong collaborative activities with numerous international institutions, including those of China, Nepal, Australian and New Zealand. He has also helped to foster public understanding of climate change issues with several museums, including the Museum of Science in Boston and the American Museum of Natural History in New York.

SCIENTIFIC COMMITTEE ON ANTARCTIC RESEARCH

SCAR MEDAL FOR INTERNATIONAL SCIENTIFIC COORDINATION

David Walton

David graduated in 1967 with a BSc (Hons) degree in Botany and joined the British Antarctic Survey to undertake botanical research on South Georgia, including the winter of 1970. He was awarded a PhD in 1974 for his thesis entitled: Some studies on the genus Åcaena. He continued botanical research at BAS, apart from a two-year period as a micrometeorologist. In 1986 he was appointed Head of the Terrestrial and Freshwater Life Sciences, Human Physiology and Medicine Division. Administration then constituted a major part of his workload but he maintained his scientific interests that also broadened as he took a lively interest in the other sciences that had come under his wing. In 1999 he was appointed Head of the newly formed Environment and Information Division. His first involvement in SCAR was at the meeting of the Working Group on Biology in 1988 when he was invited to convene a new ad hoc Group on the Introduction of Non-indigenous Organisms to the Antarctic. He attended every one of the 12 meetings of the Group of Specialists on Environmental Affairs and Conservation (GOSEAC) and was its Convenor from 1992–2002. He has been Chairman of the Standing Committee for the Antarctic Treaty System (SCATS) from 2002 to the present. He has been a member of the Steering Committees for the 6th and 7th SCAR Antarctic Biology Symposia. He has also represented SCAR at 14 Antarctic Treaty Consultative Meetings since 1992, particularly at the Committee for Environmental Protection (CEP) and its predecessor, the Transitional Environmental Working Group (TEWG). David takes an interest in almost everything that crosses his desk and, as Editor-in-Chief of Antarctic Science, this interest has covered the entire spectrum of Antarctic research. He has contributed to, compiled and edited six books on research in Antarctica. He has used this accumulated knowledge to good effect in SCAR committees and especially in the Treaty forum. As the Convenor of GOSEAC, he was the obvious choice to represent SCAR at the ATCM and present SCAR’s views on environmental matters. Often, in answer to a question, this would mean developing a SCAR view on the hoof, which frequently prompted criticism as SCAR did not actually have a view, opinion or policy on the particular matter. On several occasions the question was asked: “Is this David Walton’s view, the BAS view, or the view of the British government?” The answer was always that it was David’s opinion that this is what the SCAR view would be. Such criticisms have been almost universally replaced by comments such as: “It’s a good thing there is someone like David to represent SCAR!”


ENDS

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