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Antarctic research strengthens w greater awareness


13 December 2007

Antarctic research strengthens with greater awareness

Research programmes in Antarctica have come of age amid a growing awareness about the environment and the effects of global warming, says the newly-appointed Director of the University's Antarctic Research Centre, Associate Professor Tim Naish.

Deputy Director of the Centre for the past three years, Dr Naish has been appointed to the role after an international search to replace Professor Peter Barrett. Professor Barrett – named Wellingtonian of the Year in 2006 – will continue his involvement in research programmes in the Centre and supervise the work of postgraduate students.

Dean of the Faculty of Science, Professor David Bibby, says Professor Naish's appointment will ensure the Centre continues to grow in terms of expertise and strength of research capability.

"We are delighted to appoint someone of Tim's calibre to follow the brilliant example of Peter, and to take the Centre further into the future.

"Tim's work with the ANDRILL programme has placed the Centre at the forefront of Antarctic research and we can expect more highly-focused and innovative research from the very talented group of senior and up-and-coming researchers in the Centre."

For the past 3 years Professor Naish has led a Marsden-funded collaborative project between researchers from GNS Science, where he holds a 20% research position, and the Antarctic Research Centre. Drawing to a close, the collaborative project contributed to ANDRILL – an international Antarctic drilling programme which this year completed it first, very successful drilling season at McMurdo Station. Tim continues to lead the Foundation of Research Science and Technologies $5 million Antarctic Drilling Programme which supports researchers at GNS Science, Victoria University of Wellington, and the Universities of Canterbury and Otago.

Core samples of the Antarctic ice shelf were extracted using new technology, including a hot-water drill system to gain access through the Ross Ice Shelf invented by Victoria technician Alex Pyne, who has more than 30 years' geological drilling experience. Professor Naish says the ANDRILL team, setting a new record with a 1.28 km length core sample, is now in the process of analysing it to compile a unique record of the history of the Ross Ice Shelf spanning the last 13 million years.

"This core has the potential to answer some of the key questions about Antarctica's climate, ice sheet behaviour and its tectonic history. The work promises useful new understanding of the behaviour of Antarctic ice shelves and ice sheets under conditions of global warming," Professor Naish says.

He is currently in the United Sates at an annual meeting of the America Geophysical Union that is expected to gather more than 15,000 geophysicists. There, he will give an invited presentation on the bi-polar connections between the Arctic and Antarctica. The Union’s flagship weekly newspaper will feature a front page article in its meeting issue on the exciting initial results of the ANDRILL Programme.

Professor Naish will take up the role on 3 January and will continue his part-time research role with GNS Science.

He can be contacted from 17 December on 04 463 6197


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