Prestigious prize for work in Antarctica
Professor Steven Chown has received the first Martha T. Muse Prize. In his Prize Lecture, he focused on changes in the biodiversity in Antarctica.
The Martha T. Muse Prize (www.museprize.org )
is awarded to individuals who have demonstrated excellence in Antarctic science or policy and who show clear potential for sustained and significant contributions that enhance our understanding of Antarctic science or policy and promote Antarctica's preservation for future generations. The Prize, which carries with it a US$100,000 monetary award, is supported by the Tinker Foundation and administered by the Scientific Committee on Antarctic Research (SCAR). The support of the US Polar Research Board and theAcademy of Sciences were instrumental in establishing the Prize. The Prize is inspired by Martha T. Muse's passion for Antarctica and is a legacy of the International Polar Year 2007‐2008.
Professor Chown receives the Martha T. Muse Prize for his outstanding work in science and policy in Antarctica. The US 100,000 monetary award is supported by the Tinker Foundation and administered by the Scientific Committee on Antarctic Research (SCAR).
From science to policy
- Professor Chown clearly exemplifies the attributes of the prize, said Renate Rennie, Chairman and President of the Tinker Foundation.
She referred to the prize criteria demanding a recipient who is not only excellent in science in Antarctica, but who also contributes substantially towards preservation of the area.
Chown is a professor at Stellenbosch University in South Africa, as well as a world renowned advisor to the Antarctic Treaty System. To him, policy advising is of vital importance.
- It is insufficient to go to a meeting of experts and formulate 20 recommendations without ensuring that they are enforced, he stated in his Prize Lecture.
Fifty years of change
Chown reminded the audience that in the fifty years that have passed since the 3rd International Polar Year, the earth's population has increased from 2.9 billion to 6 billion people.
- Changes in the global system influence the Antarctic and vice versa, he stressed.
Photo: John Petter Reinertsen, SAMFOTO
To Steven Chown, policy advising is of vital importance.Chown showed how these impacts have been seen in his own region, in particular on the small, sub-Antarctic island Marion Island which is located at 47 degrees south.
- On Marion Island, the average temperature has increased by 1.5 degrees over past 50-60 years, and the annual precipitation has decreased by 600 millimeters, said Chown.
He showed photographs from the 1960s and compared them to photographs taken in 2009, illustrating a major change in the island's climate and biodiversity.
Alongside the changes in the global climate, the world has witnessed a dramatic increase in biological invasions over the past fifty years.
- The Antarctic is a very special place, being basically free from invasional species at most sites due to the absence of human interventions. However, we find more and more alien species on the sub-Antarctic islands, he pointed out.
He presented data showing the correlation between the increased number of visits to the islands, and the increase of alien species.
- The more occupants in an area, the more likely are alien species. This is true for mammals, vascular plants and insects.
One example is that of Mediterranean mussels that are transported to the islands on the hull of ships.
Prevention better than cure
- The world today is very much connected, Chown stressed. - How we change one area, has an effect on the biodiversity in other parts of the world. We can not afford to ignore that message, he said.
To illustrate the complexity, Chown cited an example from Australia, where the eradication ofonce led to an increase of rabbits, and the more recent eradication of rabbits has had a negative impact on plant life.
Photo: John Petter Reinertsen, SAMFOTO
Professor Steven Chown receives the Martha T. Muse Prize from Renate Rennie, Chairman of the Tinker Foundation.- The lesson from this is that prevention is always much better and more cost effective than cure, said Chown.
Vision for the future
Chown ended his lecture by expressing his hope for the next generation of scientists.
- I hope they will look back and say that the 4th International Polar Year really changed the way things are done, he said. - May our future scientists be able to say that we succeeded as scientists and as people, and that we no longer have the problems that our ancestors had, he concluded.
Lead photo: Two princes were present when Steven Chown received his prize. From the left: Professor Chuck Kennicut, Prince Albert II of Monaco, Professor Steven Chown and Crown Prince Haakon of Norway (John Petter Reinertsen, SAMFOTO).
Last updated: 09.06.2010