The Spirit of Mawson - Australasian Antarctic Expedition 2013 - 2014

Australasian Antarctic Expedition

Program of work

Over the course of the expedition an enormous amount of work was done by our science team, PHD candidates, and citizen scientists. The science was focused on the programs of work outlined below. Each of these programs has generated published material which we have linked from the program pages.

  • A changing planet

    The prevailing westerly airflow of the mid-latitudes of the southern hemisphere play an important role in the global climate, and the remoteness of the subantarctic islands offers a unique opportunity to study how these winds have changed over time.

    Analysing 40,000 years of peat, lake and ocean sediments from the region enable us to reconstruct past environmental, climate and human change to better understand what drives global climate change.

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  • Mammals

    The Southern Ocean and Antarctic systems offer remarkable natural experimental models for studying disrupted ecosystems.

    This program of work looks at changes in seal populations and diet since Mawson’s expedition 100 years ago, and also looks at what opportunities singing behaviour provides for us to learn more about the seals themselves.

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  • Trees and climate

    The New Zealand subantarctic islands are home to the southernmost-growing trees in the southwest Pacific, a region of global importance climatically and ecologically but for which there is a very little observational data. In sheltered locations, some Dracophyllum have been shown to reach more than four metres in height, with their growth strongly influenced by temperature. By measuring the thickness of annual tree rings, Dracophyllum offers the possibility of developing a natural weather record back to the 19th century to better understand past, present and future change.

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  • Sea ice

    There have been dramatic changes in the extent of seasonal sea ice recorded over the past decade.

    Given the role that sea ice plays in regulating the exchange of heat, moisture and saltiness it is critical to gather data that can be compared with climate model predictions and satellite observations.

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  • Botany

    The subantarctic islands make up for their lack of diversity in their spectacular range of large-leaved herbs.

    Alien species, human activity and wind all play a role, impacting the island’s plant populations.

    This program of work explores the how different species have responded to climate change and human activity in the area.

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  • Birds

    Communities of Southern Ocean birds are afforded some protection by the sanctuaries of the subantarctic islands.

    However these birds face new threats that may be of even greater significance than those they faced 100 years ago.

    This research program looks at the population size and stability of a couple of key South Ocean bird populations.

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  • Life on the seabed

    This program of work seeks to expand the body of baseline data regarding the marine biodiversity of the subantarctic islands.

    Looking further south, the impacts of changes to conditions as a result of the giant B09B iceberg on seabed communities are investigated.

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  • Ice Ages

    Ice sheet and climate models are limited by a paucity of data regarding changes in the East Antarctic Ice Sheet, and the subantarctic landscapes further north are suggestive of a very different, glaciated environment from what we see now.

    This program or work seeks to better understand past glacial changes in the subantarctic islands, the changing ice sheet elevations of the East Antarctic, and climatic conditions of past ice ages in the Southern hemisphere.

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  • Oceanography

    The Southern Ocean connects all other oceans and plays a key role in global climate. It is also the least visited of the world’s oceans making new observation data extremely valuable.

    This program of work looks at the role the Southern Ocean plays in regulating our climate, the connectivity between Antarctica and the rest of the world, and specific conditions in and around Commonwealth Bay where giant iceberg B09B may be having a significant impact.

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