Australian government announces funding for Antarctic research

Research grants totalling AU $600 000 (US $350 000) for research projects into long-term climate change have been announced by the Australian Minister for the Environment, Senator Robert Hill.

Fifty seven projects based in universities and government research agencies throughout Australia will benefit from the funding, during 2000-2001.

“Our concentration on long-term environmental change reflects an increasing concern about the well-being of our planet’s life-support systems,” said Senator Hill. “Australia’s research in Antarctica provides vital baseline information on the Earth’s climate, covering a very large slice of the globe and going back thousands, even millions, of years.”

Included in the research is analysis of production of sulphur gases by Southern Ocean plants and their role in climate regulation in the region; and sea-floor mapping and drilling in Prydz Bay, Antarctica, to improve understanding of sediment deposits and the climate changes they signal. Others include, examination of biological formations in the Prince Charles Mountains, Antarctica, to help determine the history of past climate fluctuations indicated by the size of the ice sheet; and a study of the impact of global environmental change on the distribution of animal and plant species.

The coming year’s research programme will also focus on the geological and biological processes of one of Australia’s sub-Antarctic World Heritage sites, Heard Island. The survey will include studies of the island’s unique indigenous animal and plant communities, its cultural heritage, and what its volcanic structures reveal about the formation of continents.

Antarctica is also the best location on the Earth’s surface for observing the faint light of distant stars and galaxies, according the Australian government. Astronomers will be looking for a suitable site for an autonomous mobile observatory.

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