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Antarctic News

18 August 1999


Understanding of Antarctica's influence on the world's climate and environmental systems will be enhanced as a result of grants totalling $570,000 announced today by Senator Robert Hill, Minister for the Environment and Heritage.

The grants are for 49 Antarctic research projects to be undertaken in 1999/2000 by scientists from 20 Australian universities and other institutions. They are awarded annually on a competitive basis to projects of high scientific merit and relevance to Australia's Antarctic goals.

"These grants demonstrate the Federal Government's commitment to protecting the Antarctic environment and improving our understanding of the Antarctic region," Senator Hill said.

With the human presence in Antarctica growing each year, both from station personnel and tourism, the threat of introduced disease into the Antarctic wildlife has become an important concern. One project aims to assess the normal viral, bacterial and parasitic flora of Antarctic penguins across the Antarctic environment and across seasons and host life cycles.

Other animal species being studied include Adelie penguins, albatrosses, giant petrels and fur seal populations on Macquarie Island. Researchers will also look at how climate change is affecting plant species including algae.

Helping to combat climate change, an Australian-French cooperative study will examine the potential for the use of alternative renewable energy systems at Antarctic bases to reduce the quantity of fuel used and the impact on the environment.

"Understanding what happens in Antarctica is of considerable importance to Australia, not only because of the importance of the region for the global environment, including climate and ocean systems, but also because of the region's impact on Australia's weather patterns," Senator Hill said.

The projects supported cover a range of scientific disciplines including studies of the Antarctic atmosphere, the Antarctic ice sheet and sea ice, the nature of the Southern Ocean, and the life forms that inhabit the region.

For further details on projects, contact Australian Antarctic Division: Jenny Whittaker on 03 6232 3512

Commonwealth of Australia