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Otago researcher heads new Antarctic science foundation

The Clocktowers clock

Tuesday 21 August 2012 8:34am

Gary WilsonProfessor Gary Wilson

Leading Antarctic scientist Professor Gary Wilson of Otago University is the inaugural director of an innovative new science foundation, the New Zealand Antarctic Research Institute (NZARI).

The NZARI aims to accelerate global research on Antarctica and the Southern Ocean’s role in climate change and will be funded by some of the world’s wealthiest philanthropic foundations.

Prime Minister Rt Hon John Key yesterday formally announced the formation of the institute at a ceremony at Premier House, Wellington.

Professor Wilson said, “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. NZARI’s goal is to strengthen Antarctic research capacity in New Zealand, through international collaboration on multi-disciplined research projects.”

NZARI is closely aligned with Antarctica New Zealand, the crown agency responsible for providing logistic support for New Zealand scientists in Antarctica and the Southern Ocean.

Antarctica New Zealand chairman Rob Fenwick, who will chair NZARI, said, “The model for NZARI represented a significant advancement for science funding in New Zealand through a public private partnership.”

“Last year the Government adopted an Antarctic science strategy to order priorities for Antarctic research. It’s expected Government funded projects through crown research institutes and universities will be strengthened by collaboration with NZARI projects,” said Fenwick.

The international science community believes what happens on the Antarctic Continent over the next fifty years will be critical in predicting the human impacts of climate change.

“Through the strategic location of Scott Base and the excellent reputation of our New Zealand scientists, we’ve attracted interest from some international philanthropic foundations to develop a new and more collaborative model for Antarctic science based here,” said Fenwick.

New York billionaire Julian Robertson has provided NZ$5.3m through his Aotearoa Foundation to launch the initiative.

A list of Otago experts available for media comment is available elsewhere on this website.

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