Aus Antarctic researcher receives prestigious award

Wednesday, 09 June, 2021

Aus Antarctic researcher receives prestigious award

Professor Steven Chown (pictured), an internationally renowned ecologist and biologist at Monash University, has been recognised by the French Government for his extensive environmental research and policy contributions on Antarctica.

France, which initiated the Antarctic Treaty System, worked alongside Australia in 1989 to drive international negotiations that led to the signing of the Madrid Protocol in October 1991. The treaty designates Antarctica as “a natural reserve, devoted to peace and science”, and has set principles for framing human activities in the area for the overall environmental protection of the continent.

The French Government wanted to reward a scientist whose research supports the spirit behind the Protocol, and so the Medal of the 30th anniversary of the Madrid Protocol was opened to all researchers from the 41 countries that have ratified the Protocol. The award recognises outstanding contribution in a number of science fields, including environmental changes in Antarctica and the Southern Ocean, and legislation studies that aim to reinforce the Madrid Protocol.

Medal winner Prof Chown has delivered insights into the biodiversity and ecology of the region; shown how these are threatened by human impacts; and delivered, through rigorous evidence, a means to mitigate these impacts. He serves as Director of Securing Antarctica’s Environmental Future, a Special Research Initiative of the Australian Research Council, hosted by Monash University. He is also an Objective leader of Revitalising Informal Settlements and their Environments, a program to improve the livelihoods of at-risk people in the Asia–Pacific.

His major contribution has been as Chair of the international Scientific Committee on Antarctic Research (SCAR) for the past four years, with his leadership helping to advance the commitment of SCAR communities to better understand Antarctic environmental change and associated ecosystem impacts. He has long been active at the meetings of the Antarctic Treaty System to ensure that scientific evidence finds its way into policy and practice through clear, timely and focused communication.

Last year, Prof Chown was one of just 37 individuals from across the world elected as an Honorary International Member of the prestigious American Academy of Arts and Sciences.

“I’m deeply honoured to be the recipient of this medal, which recognises simultaneously the contribution of science to the Antarctic Treaty’s deliberations and the significant role of France in the development of the Environmental Protocol,” Prof Chown said.

“At a time when environmental pressures, both local and global, are threatening the conservation of the Antarctic and its unique ecosystems, appreciation of science to support conservation efforts is most welcome. I am indebted to the French Republic for selecting my contributions for such recognition.

“This extraordinary recognition by the French Republic belongs also to the many researchers, policymakers, colleagues and friends with whom I have had the pleasure to work.”

The award will be presented at the 43rd Antarctic Treaty Consultative Meeting, to be held in France on 15 June.

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