CSIRO to end Antarctic ice research, victim of budget cuts

By @vitthernandez on
Icebergs
Giant tabular icebergs surrounded by ice floe drift in Vincennes Bay in the Australian Antarctic Territory January 11, 2008. Reuters/Torsten Blackwood

While CSIRO engineers could design a 19-beam receiver for China’s FAST, the agency has to close its ice research in the Antarctic because of budget cuts. The jobs of 74 employees of the Oceans & Atmosphere division, a key climate science unit, are on the line.

The Sydney Morning Herald cites leaked union documents it got that the 74 would be informed this week of their axing which is part of CSIRO’s plan to cut 275 jobs and shift the resources elsewhere. The job cuts would be broken down into 32 in Melbourne, 14 in Canberra and 12 in Tasmania.

To be shuttered is the CSIRO Aspendale site in south-eastern Melbourne where the 32 are assigned. The cuts would affect the operations of Australia’s bases at South Pole, Mawson and other countries where the ice core analysis work is done.  The staff are reportedly talking with US agencies for possible fresh source of funding to keep their jobs and the unit.

A CSIRO spokesman says the agency is still performing climate change measurements. However, it would use some of the funds to focus on preparing for climate changes and research work on prevention of climate change.

CSIRO insists that no decision has been made yet about the ice lab and it is still discussing with the Australian Antarctic Division  how to keep the lab operational. Professor Chris Turney, from the ice lab, admits that if the lab is closed or capacity is reduced, it would be “a facility you cannot get that experience back.”

Meanwhile, following Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull’s call on Sunday for a federal election on July 2, shadow science minister Kim Carr called to place the planned CSIRO job cuts on hold. Carr points out, “CSIRO’s globally unique climate science capabilities are world renowned and if they are lost, they will never recover.”