The evolution of Antarctica

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There are some fundamental questions that remain unresolved in biology. How did life evolve and spread around the Antarctic region? And how is it evolving now?

Monash Professor Steven Chown is leading an international group of 24 scientists across the sub-Antarctic and Antarctica to find out. Professor Chown’s endeavour, which focuses on terrestrial biodiversity, is one of 22 projects within the Antarctic Circumnavigation Expedition (ACE). The scope of ACE  is deliberately vast – it’s run by the Swiss Polar Institute, a platform for global experts in polar research to combine their knowledge.

The expedition will last from 20 December to 18 March – a doddle for Professor Chown, who’s spent 25 years going back and forth to the Antarctic. The terrestrial biodiversity team will use new genetic and computational approaches in their work. Professor Chown expects to uncover new species of animals and plants.

“Crucially, the findings will help us develop new ways to help conserve biodiversity in the Antarctic region,” says Professor Chown, “as well as providing innovative tools to help managers reduce threats to ecosystems from invasive species as a result of climate change.”