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Publications archive - Annual reports


Key departmental publications, e.g. annual reports, budget papers and program guidelines are available in our online archive.

Much of the material listed on these archived web pages has been superseded, or served a particular purpose at a particular time. It may contain references to activities or policies that have no current application. Many archived documents may link to web pages that have moved or no longer exist, or may refer to other documents that are no longer available.

Department of the Environment and Heritage Annual Report 2002-03

Department of the Environment and Heritage, 2003
ISSN 1441 9335

Review of performance - Outcome three: Antarctica (continued)

Conducting scientific research of practical, economic or national significance (Departmental output 3.4)


The AAD undertakes and supports scientific work of practical, economic and national significance by providing data and support for Australian and international clients and conducting research in physical, biological and human science.


Antarctic marine living resources

Discussions with gear manufacturers have resulted in the development of internally weighted fishing lines to reduce seabird bycatch. These lines were further trialled in the Antarctic and sub-Antarctic in 2003.

Human impacts

Applied research by the AAD's Human Impacts Program is the basis for the ten-year plan to remove abandoned waste disposal sites in Antarctica consistent with the requirements of the Madrid Protocol. A targeted, three-tiered approach to environmental monitoring of the Thala Valley clean-up has been designed to ensure it does not cause more environmental damage. Facilities for chemical analysis in remote locations have been developed so that contaminants can be assessed on-site to Australian standards for measurement of metal contaminants.

A register has been established to record information on the status and management of contaminated sites in the Australian Antarctic Territory and the sub-Antarctic islands. The register is accessible on the internet and is compatible with the automated system for Antarctic State of the Environment reporting.


Research on organisms with biotechnological potential continued, including work on microorganisms with antifreeze proteins and enzymes that function at high temperatures.

Atmospheric science

Ionosonde, geomagnetic, global positioning system, riometer and optical data from all Australian Antarctic stations was utilised by IPS Radio and Space Services to provide forecasts and real-time monitoring of space weather conditions influencing the Australian and Antarctic regions.

Data collected at Casey by a digisonde ionospheric radar has been used in a new investigation to test and refine the best available electrodynamic model of the ionosphere. This model is an important tool in predicting the influence of space weather conditions on terrestrial systems at high latitudes.

Studies comparing cosmic ray detector responses from the northern and southern hemispheres have revealed precursor signals to some geomagnetic storms. These storms can disrupt radio communications, satellite operations and ground-based systems like power transmission. Reliable and timely forecasting is not yet available. A global network is being developed to advance the work.


Work continued at the Amundsen Scott South Pole station on the characterisation of the Antarctic atmosphere. Deployed were a terahertz radiometer (to measure atmospheric transparency and water vapour content), a fibre-optic spectrometer to measure the sky brightness and the effect of auroral emission lines, and a differential image-motion monitor to measure the quality of the astronomical images.

As part of a program to develop reliable, low environmental impact power systems for Antarctica, a Stirling engine was modified for the harsh, high-altitude environment and installed at the South Pole.

At Dome C, two battery-powered robotic instruments operated throughout the year gathering data on cloud cover. An Automated Astrophysical Site-testing International Observatory was built at the University of New South Wales ready for deployment to Concordia Station, Dome C, in 2003.

Human biology and medicine

Research continued into the effects of immunological, psychological and behavioural stressors and the effects of ultraviolet radiation on human health in the totally isolated groups in Antarctica. Preliminary results of collaborative human cold adaptation and thermal modelling studies of wintering Antarctic expeditioners have been presented at international forums and suggest some physiological adaptive response. Epidemiological studies continued to provide data to support and maximise safe and efficient provision of medical care in extreme environments.

Australian Antarctic data centre

The Australian Antarctic Data Centre's approach to scientific data management has been widely acknowledged as highly successful and the AAD's advice is sought by many organisations both within Australia and overseas. The approach is being used as a model by the Chinese Antarctic Data Centre, the Australian Institute of Marine Science, Antarctica New Zealand and the CSIRO.

The centre establishes and uses national and international standards for the management and delivery of scientific data.

The centre currently manages around 1600 metadata records, 29 major databases and hundreds of datasets containing millions of records. All scientific and mapping data is available online.

The centre has developed a biodiversity database for the Scientific Committee on Antarctic Research in conjunction with the Regional Sensitivity to Climate Change Program. This is one of the most ambitious projects undertaken in data management as the system needs to be able to manage and report on most biological observations in the Antarctic region. The database links with major international ecological initiatives such as the Global Biodiversity Information Facility and Species 2000. The first stage of the project has been completed: the taxonomic subsystem is in place, more than 300 000 observations have been included and entry and search forms are available online.