Science ace goes polar

NORTH Perth’s Alex Hickling is one of two Western Australians involved in an “unprecedented”  expedition around Antarctica.

Carrying scientific teams from all over the world, the Russian research vessel Akademik Treshnikov is hopping around the craggy ring of islands which surround Antarctica to collect data for 22 different projects in a wide range of interrelated fields – including oceanography, climatology, and biology.

Known as ACE, the circumnavigation has been organised by the Swiss Polar Institute and aims to further understand how the poles are affected by climate change.

SPI also hopes to enhance scientific collaboration between countries and ignite an interest for polar research in a new generation of young scientists.

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One of these fresh-faced scientists is Mr Hickling, who will join senior research scientist Nerida Wilson who he met at the WA museum.

Their project is trying to understand the history of marine life on the sub-Antarctic islands to see whether animals living there now are recent(ish) arrivals, or whether they endured through regular climatic change over the last 40 million years.

Mr Hickling, who studied marine and environmental science at Curtin university, is in the early days of his research career and says he’s absolutely chuffed to be working on the ACE expedition.

“The expedition is unique in that it’s taking on a wide range of projects that cover terrestrial, atmospheric and oceanographic work. Each project will, in turn, add pieces to the giant picture of the Antarctic and sub-Antarctic area,” Mr Hickling said.

“With climate change becoming such a hot topic recently (pardon the pun), Antarctica is one of the places most likely to be impacted. We are already starting to see signs of this and when this starts to increase, there will be repercussions for everyone.”

by TRILOKESH CHANMUGAM

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