AAPP sea-ice scientist wins global glaciology award

23 February 2024

A Hobart-based scientist from the Institute for Marine and Antarctic Studies has received a prestigious honour from the International Glaciological Society (IGS).

Dr Pat Wongpan, a sea-ice biologist with the Australian Antarctic Program Partnership (AAPP) at the University of Tasmania, has won the global 2023 Early Career Scientist Award as “an emerging leader in the sea-ice community.”

“Dr Wongpan’s work is impressively multidisciplinary, with publications ranging from crystallography and platelet layer physics, to measurements of sea-ice nutrient distributions and algal biomass.  He strives to incorporate his research experience into public outreach,” the IGS citation states.

“For example, his community outreach in Thailand, Japan and New Zealand involves educating groups from diverse backgrounds, from elementary students through high school teachers, to better understand the Earth–Ocean system.”

Dr Wongpan’s research focuses on the physical, biogeochemical and ecological significance of Antarctic sea ice.

Originally from Thailand, he obtained his PhD from University of Otago in New Zealand on Antarctic landfast sea ice (sea ice fastened to land or ice shelves). Before joining the AAPP, he worked at the University of Cambridge and Hokkaido University and participated in Antarctic fieldwork with the New Zealand, Australian and Japanese Antarctic programs.

“I like to say that ‘sea ice is life’, and my work strives to understand the role of Antarctic sea ice as a global climate driver,” said Dr Wongpan.

“Receiving news of this award was one of the happiest emails ever in my research career. I am deeply honoured to be given this recognition.”

“Polar research is always a team effort, and I would like to dedicate this award to the wonderful mentors, colleagues and students I have worked with,” he said.

The International Glaciological Society was founded in the UK in 1936 to provide a scientific focus on snow and ice. The awards are made annually by anonymous nominations to a six-person multi-national selection committee.

Professor Nathan Bindoff, AAPP program leader, said the Early Career Scientist Award is prestigious recognition on an international stage from the key professional body for glaciology and ice science.

“I’m thrilled at Pat’s success and congratulate him on behalf of the University of Tasmania.”

“This award is global recognition of Pat’s significant contribution to sea-ice science and our Antarctic and Southern Ocean expertise at AAPP.”

Last year Dr Wongpan was co-leader of a team of 23 international authors from 11 different institutions across  six countries that produced the first-ever broad review of Antarctic ‘landfast’ ice, highlighting its far-reaching importance in the Earth system and identifying priorities for future research.

He has expanded outreach activities to reach the next generation of polar researchers globally as a founder and coordinator of the Frontiers for Young Minds’ Antarctica and the Southern Ocean Collection, a series of scientific articles covering all aspects of glaciology written specifically for children.