First Installment of Science In The S.E.A.A. for 2019: Antarctica And Its Evolution

Did you know that Antarctica has an average ice thickness of approximately 2km deep and a maximum thickness of around 4.5km?

GOTS members and SEAA Annual Pass Holders had a real treat with the 2019’s first instalment of Science in the S.E.A.A., which saw Associate Professor Jan Strugnell of James Cook University (JCU) Australia  sharing on various insights into the evolution of Antarctica using marine animal genes, and how it will curb rising sea levels. A/Prof Jan Strugnell is a molecular biologist, and was the first-ever James Cook University alumnus to receive a Rhodes scholarship.

A/Prof Jan revealed a startling discovery: If we were to melt all of the ice on Antarctica, it would raise sea levels by 60 -65meters. Imagine that!


Image source: http://flood.firetree.net/

She also shared a very alarming picture of Singapore if all the ice on Antarctica were to melt, and raise the sea level by 60m. She also talked about how important it is to reduce uncertainty over the rate of melt of the West Antarctic peninsular, which is one of the fastest warming places on the planet. Making projections of sea level rise accurate is crucial for mitigating this rise, and adapting our cities for it.

A/Prof Jan sharing on how DNA is used to investigate a range of different historical patterns, including which populations were connected in the past even if they are not connected today. She uses genetic data contained within octopus and brittle stars that live in Antarctica today to look at past connections between their ancestors across Antarctica, to determine whether seaways existed Antarctica a long time ago. This will help decrease our uncertainty around sea level rise.


A/Prof Jan Strugnell in Antarctica sorting animals from the mud, to obtain genetic data on animals which would determine whether they might have migrated across seaways.


Picture credit: A/Professor Jan Strugnell


Members of the audience also took the opportunity to ask A/Prof Jan questions about the topic during the Q&A session.


A/Prof Jan stayed on to answer big questions from young minds


Senior Manager, Conservation & Research Jim Hudson presenting a token of appreciation to A/Prof Jan Strugnell

Apart from sharing the effects of rising sea levels in our ocean environment, we also hope to inspire participants to question what individuals can do to curb the impact of rising sea levels.

We have other exciting Science in the S.E.A.A. sessions planned for the year. Stay tuned for more details!

You can find out more about A/Prof Jan Strugell here.

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