According to dynamical systems theory, crises occur because couplings within a system (geophysical, ecological and social) create instabilities. Nonlinear feedbacks means that relatively small changes in circumstances can cause a rapid change to the system state. For example, a small increase in tourism visitors could lead to the invasion of a new species. Or, a gradual change in the average global temperature could lead to the collapse of Antarctic ice-shelves.
In the coming decade, the Antarctic and sub-Antarctic are likely to face serious emerging crises. Among many others, these may include:
- incursions of terrestrial or marine invasive species
- rapid emergence of marine ice sheet and cliff instability
- outbreaks of wildlife diseases
- serious oil spills (i.e., >375,000L) in coastal environments
- breakdown of consensus around ATS governance
- the emergence (or re-emergence) of exclusive territorial claims.
In this project, we will use catastrophe theory to model and categorise historical crises in environmental systems, with a focus on Antarctica. Then, we will analyse these models to help prepare Antarctic governance systems (e.g., the Committee for Environmental Protection, or the Australian Antarctic Division) prepare for, search for, and respond to the next catastrophe.
You may be eligible to apply for a research scholarship.
Contact the supervisor for more information.