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Innovation in Chemical, Materials and Observational Engineering

A variety of synoptic, seasonal and interannual drivers influence the structure, texture, type and concentration of sea ice in the Marginal Ice Zone (MIZ) in the Southern Ocean (SO). The temporal and spatial distribution of the ice and its physical, structural, mechanical and biological properties are directly related to the natural variability of the oceans and atmosphere, but also anthropogenic climate changes. The decreasing sea ice extent and the seasonality thereof, has caused more attention towards the study of the ocean and sea ice.

Investigating the atmosphere-ice-ocean relationship will provide more understanding of the feedback mechanism of the climate system and thermohaline circulation. In an effort to understand this dynamic relationship and to improve future prediction of seasonal sea ice behaviour and properties, a multi-faceted approach is necessary.
This involves (1) in situ measurements, (2) area-wide satellite data, (3) numerical modelling and (4) experimental simulations of the natural systems. Climate and Earth System Models have limited sea ice variable parameterisations due to the scarcity of spatially distributed high-resolution measurements from the region. Improved design of cost-effective autonomous devices capable of persistent in situ sampling at finer spatial resolutions is key to obtaining the datasets needed to improve Earth System Models and to validate remote-sensing products. However, there is a lack of technology to monitor Antarctic sea ice at scales that are relevant for Southern Hemisphere climate. In addition, there is a need for controlled, lab based, experiments necessary to isolate and understand how different variables affect sea ice properties and behaviour.

The study of the process dynamics of sea ice is a convoluted one, as sea ice is a natural material, a habitat, a mediator and is an evolutionary product of all its surroundings. Thus, studying sea ice requires a multidisciplinary approach including engineering, oceanography, biological/physical/chemical sciences and climate science.
As MARIS is an inherently interdisciplinary body, this will facilitate the ease at which different expertise and resources are accessible for the meticulous study of sea ice.


Areas of research:

  • Methodology and technology development for remote, in situ and ex situ measurements and evaluation of sea ice and environmental features;  
  • Development of low-cost instrumentation for extreme environments (polar ocean, Antarctica, deep sea); 
  • Role of ocean hydrodynamics and chemical contributions to sea ice growth and biogeochemistry; 
  • Development and utilisation of artificial sea ice equipment and facilities for simulation and quantification of the environmental factors that give rise to observed sea ice behaviour. 


Research Coordinators: Dr Tokoloho Rampai, Miss Robyn Verrinder and A/Prof Marcello Vichi.