Study level

  • PhD
  • Master of Philosophy
  • Honours


Topic status

We're looking for students to study this topic.

Research centre


Dr Matthew Adams
Research Fellow (DECRA)
Division / Faculty
Faculty of Science
Professor Michael Bode
Division / Faculty
Faculty of Science


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.

Research activities

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.

Explore our research scholarships



Contact the supervisor for more information.