28 March 2024

Dr Nicholas Gales appointed chair of Australian Antarctic Science Council

| Andrew McLaughlin
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suited man at press conference

Dr Nicholas Gales has worked in Australia’s Antarctic Science Program for more than 30 years. Photo: Screenshot.

One of the world’s leading Antarctic and sub-Antarctic scientists, Dr Nicholas Gales, has been appointed to succeed Philip Marcus Clark as chair of the Australian Antarctic Science Council.

The council provides independent advice to government on the priorities of the Australian Antarctic Science Program, which investigates the role of Antarctica in the global climate system.

It is made up of scientists and representatives from key government agencies involved with Australia’s Antarctic Science Program.

These include the Department of Climate Change, Energy, the Environment and Water’s Australian Antarctic Division, the Australian Research Council, the Bureau of Meteorology, CSIRO, Geoscience Australia and the Australian Academy of Science’s National Committee for Antarctic Research.

The government says Dr Gales brings a wealth of expertise to the role in Antarctic research, leadership and diplomacy.

He joined the Australian Antarctic Division in the 1980s as a veterinary scientist studying elephant seals and penguins on Heard and MacDonald islands and at the Davis research station.

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He has worked in a variety of roles over more than three decades in the Australian Antarctic Program, including as chief scientist of the department’s Australian Antarctic Division and then as head of the division from 2015-18.

Dr Gales has been the Australian Commissioner to the International Whaling Commission (IWC) since 2016, and was a witness for Australia in the successful International Court of Justice finding against Japan’s Southern Ocean whaling program.

He was awarded the Antarctic Medal in 2021 for his contribution to the Australian Antarctic Program.

Minister for the Environment and Water Tanya Plibersek congratulated Dr Gales on his appointment.

“I congratulate Dr Gales on his appointment to this strategically important Antarctic science role, and I look forward to working with him,” she said.

“I would also like to thank outgoing chair Mr Philip Marcus Clark AO for his exceptional contribution.

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“Dr Gales will have a critical role in leading the strategic vision for Australia’s Antarctic research, including advising government on the ongoing development of the Australian Antarctic Science Decadal Plan.

“Through his role, Dr Gales will take a lead role in defining Australia’s Antarctic science priorities for the next decade, building on Australia’s reputation as an Antarctic science leader.”

Dr Gales said he was humbled and excited to take on the role.

“My aim is for the council to act as a champion for the Australian Antarctic Science Program, with a sharp focus on the science of greatest priority for all Australians,” he said.

“I greatly look forward to working with the whole Australian Antarctic science community, the AAD chief scientist and head of division and of course, supporting our minister in her oversight responsibilities of Australia’s Antarctic Program.”

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