Antarctic Science Conference 2015: The changing environment

Earlier in the year three council members, Chris Kraus, Ngahuia Leighton, and Bella Duncan (now former) attended the bi-annual Antarctic Science Conference. The event was hosted by Canterbury University and the New Zealand Antarctic Research Institute (NZARI). The conference provided an opportunity for the Antarctic research community to come together, share their research and the progress they are making on understanding the scientific challenges relevant to this community.

The conference theme was the changing environment. This provided for interesting insights as researchers explained what the changes in Antarctica meant for them and their research areas from changing ice sheets, ocean-ice interactions, biological indicators of change to human presence in Antarctica.

The volume of research being produced out of Antarctica by scientists based in New Zealand was staggering. The science community is producing good quality scientific research about the area, and doing so under considerable pressures. Throughout the conference we heard of how research was conducted. It is the norm for those within the community but for someone new to the area the difficulties (albeit, exciting) were apparent. These included the strain of working in extreme conditions, the weather windows available to collect data and the resource constraints. Chris and Bella have experienced firsthand the constraints that apply to scientists wanting to study within the region, but it was really brought to life for Ngahuia. Dr. Richard O’Driscoll from NIWA gave a fantastic presentation on an ecosystems voyage made earlier in the year – video footage of the trip can be viewed here.

Throughout the conference, as we talked to those within the community, we heard that there is a desire for engagement between youth and the science community. There were many talented people with the willingness and ability to contribute and build a platform for this engagement and certainly no shortage of interesting information to share. The challenge in 2016 for the NZAYC, will be to develop this space in a way that helps the Antarctic science community share this knowledge and research with youth around New Zealand.
The council members presented a poster on behalf of the NZAYC. The abstract and poster can be found below.20150626 AYC poster small

Antarctica and the Southern oceans hold important scientific and historical context for New Zealand, yet for many people the Antarctic appears irrelevant to everyday life. Although Antarctica is one of the closer continents geographically to New Zealand, its inaccessibility for most people creates a sense of mystery and distance far beyond that of any other continent in the world. The New Zealand Antarctic Youth Council Incorporated (NZAYC) was recently formed to open communication channels and to raise awareness about Antarctica amongst young people in New Zealand. The NZAYC aims to focus on three key areas: education, policy and science. A resource offered by the McGuinness Institute in the initial stages of the NZAYC formation highlighted many of the existing New Zealand organisations involved with Antarctica and the Southern oceans and their levels of engagement with New Zealand youth. The types of organisations presented in this list included scientific, exploratory, conservation and a small number of tourism focused organisations. For many of these, engagement with New Zealand youth was not a primary focus. Looking to the future, the NZAYC would like to increase the levels of engagement offered to New Zealand youth to connect with Antarctica and the Southern Ocean. As the NZAYC is still within the initial stages of development, the council are open to suggestions and new connections between themselves and those already working on areas of interest in Antarctica and the Southern oceans.