Prof Gary Wilson, of the University of Otago, pictured last
year at the Skelton Neve, the upper part of the Skelton
Glacier, at the Ross Dependency, in the Antarctic. Photo
Establishing a new Antarctic science foundation is a
"fantastic" move that will accelerate global research on the
frozen continent and the Southern Ocean's role in climate
change, Prof Gary Wilson, of the Otago University, says.
A leading Antarctic scientist, Prof Wilson heads the Otago
marine science department and is "excited" to have been
appointed director of the newly established New Zealand
Antarctic Research Institute.
"Antarctica and the Southern Ocean hold the solutions to many
of the key questions scientists and policymakers need to
answer in order to manage the threats of climate change and
global resource depletion.
"I think for Antarctic research this [the institute] is great
progress and gives us a lot of scope and opportunity that
wasn't available before," he said.
The move "for the first time allows us to work at the scale
that the science demands".
New Zealand had highly skilled Antarctic scientists, but
budgetary constraints meant overall research funding had
previously been "lean".
Much work would be required to develop the institute.
But the institute, and its crucial funding from New York
philanthropist Julian Robertson, meant researchers could
start working at the scale of the problem, rather than
"around the edges".
The role of director is half-time, and Prof Wilson will
continue to be based at the Otago marine science department
and work mainly from Dunedin.
He will travel regularly to Christchurch to work closely with
Antarctica New Zealand, the crown agency which provides
logistic support for New Zealand scientists in the Antarctic
and the Southern Ocean.
The institute would be a "virtual" organisation, not
requiring money to be spent on bricks and mortar, organisers
Prof Wilson is a former chairman, and still a member of, the
science implementation committee for the Andrill Antarctic
scientific drilling project, which had proved "very
His involvement in that project had been good preparation for
the highly collaborative work required at the institute, he
The institute initiative was announced this week by Prime
Minister John Key, and was launched after Mr Robertson, a
billionaire, provided $5.3 million through his Aotearoa