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Media Release

Senator the Hon Ian Macdonald
Parliamentary Secretary to the
Minister for the Environment


21 July 1998

Understanding of Antarctica's influence on the world's climate and environmental systems will be enhanced as a result of grants totalling $559 000 announced today by Senator Ian Macdonald, Parliamentary Secretary for the Antarctic.

Senator Macdonald released details of the grants for sixty Antarctic research projects to be undertaken in 1998-99 by scientists from twenty Australian universities and other institutions. "These grants demonstrate the Federal Government's commitment to protecting the Antarctic environment and improving our understanding of the Antarctic region."

"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 change and ocean systems, but also because of the region's impact on Australia's weather patterns," Senator Macdonald said.

The grants are awarded annually on a competitive basis to projects of high scientific merit and relevance to Australia's Antarctic goals. 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. Other projects supported aim to improve our understanding and management of the Antarctic environment, including alternative energy systems, introduced species, the behaviour and effects of contaminants in Antarctic conditions, and the impacts of disturbance on wildlife.

Grants awarded to Tasmanian institutions totalled $185 085, about a third of the grant funding, with 21 projects being supported in Antarctica and sub-Antarctic Macquarie Island. These involve studies of wildlife, including royal penguins, crabeater seals and fur seals, as well as a major study of the role of polynyas - large areas of open water in pack ice - in global atmospheric and ocean circulation systems. Other Tasmanian projects involve studies of iceberg distribution and the Amery Ice Shelf.

Senator Macdonald said "The Federal Government supports the role of Hobart as the focus of Australia's Antarctic program. The fact that Tasmanian institutions so successfully competed for these grants reflects the strength of Antarctic science in these institutions as well as the Government's ongoing support for Hobart."

Research institutions involved in Antarctic science are concentrated in Hobart where the Australian Antarctic Division, the Institute for Antarctic and Southern Ocean Studies and the CSIRO Division of Marine Research are based. These organisations are three of the major contributors to the Antarctic Cooperative Research Centre located at the University of Tasmania. Other recipients of the grants are based at universities and research institutions in all States and the ACT.

For further information contact:
James Shevlin (Senator Macdonald's office) on 02 6277 3665 or 0417 717 935)

Commonwealth of Australia