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Antarctic Leaders Welcome Release of Scientific Priorities

August 7, 2014

New Zealand Antarctic Leaders Welcome Release of Scientific Priorities

New Zealand’s Antarctic science leaders have welcomed the release of the six priorities for the next 20 years of Antarctic science.

Earlier this year Queenstown hosted 75 international leading Antarctic scientists, policy makers, environmental leaders and visionaries at the inaugural Antarctic and Southern Ocean Horizon Scan.

That event debated the most important research questions facing the continent in the next 20 years, from an initial list of more than 800 questions submitted by scientists from around the world.

The 80 most pressing questions have now been confirmed and themed into six broad priorities by the Scientific Committee on Antarctic Research (SCAR). Ten New Zealanders have been directly involved in the development of the inaugural publication of these priorities in the latest edition of the science journal Nature.

“The scale of the Horizon Scan event and the quality of the participants reflected the importance of Antarctica to the whole world,” said Peter Beggs, CEO of Antarctica New Zealand.

“The science of Antarctica is important now and for the future so having a roadmap for scientists, funders, governments and the managers of national Antarctic programmes is a critical milestone,” he said.

Antarctica is the keystone and most vulnerable part of global ocean and climate systems, according to Professor Bryan Storey, Director of Gateway Antarctica, Centre for Antarctic Studies and Research at the University of Canterbury.

“What happens in Antarctica affects the rest of the world and Antarctica is changing,” he said.

“Some of the best scientists and policy specialists have now identified the most pressing issues facing the frozen continent in the next two decades so we can collaborate and concentrate on the big questions that need to be addressed,” he said.

Professor Tim Naish, recipient of the 2014 Martha T. Muse Prize for outstanding Antarctic research and Director of Victoria University of Wellington’s Antarctic Research Centre, highlighted the need for international partnerships to respond to the challenges of Antarctica.

“The nature of Antarctic research is multidisciplinary, expensive and logistically complex and can only really be achieved through multinational collaboration and the pooling of resources,” he said.

“The confirmation of the big issues facing Antarctica through the Horizon Scan process will facilitate that collaboration and contribute to achieving the best outcomes from every dollar spent on Antarctic research,” he said.

New Zealand is at the forefront of planning to get the researchers to where they need to be to address the research priorities identified by the Horizon Scan, according to the New Zealand Antarctic Research Institute (NZARI).

“Antarctica New Zealand recognises the challenge of working in remote places but is launching a number of long-term efforts beyond Scott Base to facilitate challenging research,” said Professor Gary Wilson, Director of NZARI.

"NZARI is also launching some new initiatives over the coming seasons that will contribute directly to understanding Antarctica’s global reach, especially it’s unique connections via the Southern Ocean, addressing the questions of loss of ice mass and understanding the impacts of change on Antarctica’s unique wildlife,” he said.

The world of Antarctic science will be once again focused on New Zealand later this month when the country hosts close to 1,000 delegates at the biennial Scientific Committee on Antarctic Research (SCAR) Open Science Conference.

Representatives of all of the international Antarctic programmes will also be in New Zealand for the Council of Managers of National Antarctic Programs (COMNAP) Symposium and Annual General Meeting.

New Zealand’s contributors to the Horizon Scan included:
• Professor Gary Wilson (New Zealand Antarctic Research Institute)
• Professor Bryan Storey (University of Canterbury)
• Dr Daniela Liggett (University of Canterbury)
• Professor Craig Cary (University of Waikato)
• Professor Tim Naish (Victoria University of Wellington)
• Dr Nancy Bertler (Victoria University of Wellington and GNS Science)
• Professor Peter Barrett (Victoria University of Wellington)
• Dr Neil Gilbert (Antarctica New Zealand)
• Michelle Rogan-Finnemore (Council Of Managers of Antarctic Programs)

ENDS

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