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Media Release

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


22 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 geological dynamics of the Antarctic continent, the nature of the Southern Ocean, and the life forms that inhabit this unique 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."

The projects, which will be undertaken by scientists from all States and the ACT, will include studies of wildlife such as albatrosses, 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 projects of international importance involve studies of the distribution of icebergs, variations in the ozone layer, and assessment of the combined effects of contaminants and UV radiation on marine organisms.

Some of the projects will be conducted at Australian Antarctic stations and others at sub-Antarctic Macquarie Island.

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

Commonwealth of Australia