On the 17th of November, Hon David Parker, Minister for the Environment opened the National Modelling Hub. It is the first of its kind in New Zealand and is a collaboration between the Platform, Te Herenga Waka—Victoria University of Wellington, NIWA and GNS Science.
Four research fellows are based at the National Modelling Hub, at the University, with a focus on future projections. The Hub is a new approach to bring together some of the brightest minds and leading experts in diverse fields to accelerate progress. The fellows are working with leading researchers here and overseas on key questions around better predicting the future contribution of Antarctic meltwater to sea level rise, changes in ocean uptake of heat and CO2, changes in ocean currents, sea ice extent, nutrient fluxes, ecosystem dynamics and impacts.
Following the opening our inaugural Antarctic Science Platform Conference got underway along with collaborators, the wider science community and stakeholders discussing science updates. Of note a dedicated stakeholder plenary session and discussion forum explored how the platform can most effectively support policy needs. Over the course of the three days 120 researchers and stakeholders attended the conference and workshops, which were kindly hosted by Te Herenga Waka-Victoria University of Wellington.
Early career researchers and established researchers shared important highlights and focus areas from each project during four sessions; Understanding the Stability of the West Antarctic Ice Sheet, Understanding the Impacts of Change in the Antarctic Atmosphere and Southern Ocean, Understanding Threats to Ecosystem Dynamics in the Ross Sea region and Understanding Change in Terrestrial and Nearshore Antarctic Environments. We also welcomed our colleagues from RossRAMP, NZ Sea RISE and the National Science Challenge Deep South, who shared research updates and areas where each programme’s research supports and collaborates.
An important focus of the conference was the dialogue between scientists and policymakers. For this, a dedicated stakeholder plenary session followed by a panel discussion explored relevant policy needs and how platform research can contribute to evidenced-based decision making and policy design. The conference then split into eight expert workshops. Dr Neil Gilbert, chaired a Ross Sea Marine Protected Area Stakeholder workshop which allowed policy makers to help researchers identify policy needs, timelines, information delivery and ways to engage in the future. Sandy Morrison, Aimee Kaio and Ruia Aperahama from the joint ASP – Deep South Kāhui Māori also hosted an inspiring Vision Mātauranga workshop, connecting researchers with the stories of early Polynesian explorers, the values of mātauranga Māori and the role they can play in improving our understanding of pressing issues facing the Antarctic, such as climate change and ecosystem resilience. The remaining workshops ranged from assessing priorities for future projections, to ecosystem threats in a warming world, to prioritising sea ice research, and to how to tell our stories to New Zealanders.
The conference was an excellent opportunity for us to all connect kanohi ki te kanohi, especially in a year where our field season has been heavily impacted by COVID-19. We are looking forward to continuing further discussions at the Antarctica New Zealand conference in February and are currently planning future Antarctic Science Platform conferences.