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Antarctica has offered a rich, diverse opportunity for scientists over the past decades. Researchers from the University of Wollongong shared their images and work from the field, in a fascinating, stunning exhibition called Antarctic Footprints

A ntarctica is the last great remote wilderness, an extensive landscape largely unexplored by humans. Or so we think. In fact, people have had a significant impact on the southernmost continent, despite Antarctica having no native human population.

Antarctic Footprints, hosted by Global Challenges, iAccelerate, and Science Space, was on display at the University of Wollongong’s Innovation Campus early in 2019. The exhibition, curated by Dr Anna Lewis and Dr Diana King, examined the human presence in Antarctica over the last century and offered the wider public a glimpse into its industries, its wildlife, its ecosystem, and its environment.

First discovered just 200 years ago, Antarctica is the coldest, driest and windiest continent and one of the harshest and most unique environments on Earth. In the 19th century, whaling and seal hunting caused major declines in wildlife populations within only a few decades. Tourist operators are now also tapping into the huge demand to visit this one of the most spectacular landscapes on Earth.

Antarctica’s ice-free coastal regions are rich in biodiversity consisting of highly specialised Antarctic flora and fauna, which have evolved over long periods of isolation. However, recent human-induced changes in climate, including the ozone hole over Antarctica, are having profound impacts.

More than 50 countries are signatories to the Antarctic Treaty, which signed in 1959, obligating these nations to protect the Antarctic environment as a “natural reserve, devoted to peace and science”. Many of these countries have active research stations, and human impacts are present even in the most remote regions of the continent.

Scientists from the University of Wollongong have conducted research on the continent for decades. Antarctic Footprints gave a visual insight into the history of the science and exploration from a predominantly Australian perspective.

Herewith, researchers and students from UOW share their images from the field, and images of the exhibits that were captured in Antarctic Footprints.

Photos courtesy of Aristo Risi, Professor Sharon Robinson, Dr Melinda Waterman, Rachelle Balez, Keith Budnick, Dr Darren Koppel, Dr Johanna Turnbull, Professor Gustavo Zuniga, Krystall Randall, Claudia Kielkopf, and Dr Diana King. 

For more information about Homeward Bound, read Rachelle Balez and Dr Sarah Hamylton’s piece on The Conversation.

With thanks to Carol Devine for allowing us to include her Antarctica Women’s Map.

And with thanks to Dr Mary Rosengren for allowing us to include her artwork. For more information, see her Re-Imaging Nature installation video.

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