Climate change, resilience and adaptation of the Antarctic ecosystem are some of the areas of study that aim to strengthen and deepen knowledge about the polar environment.
On August 30, 1916, the first action of the Chilean State in Antarctica took place. It involved the rescue of the crew that were part of Sir Ernest Shackleton’s Imperial Trans-Antarctic Expedition by Chilean Navy Officer Luis Pardo Villalón.
Now, 106 years later, our country has 14 bases and shelters in different parts of the Chilean Antarctic territory, also known as the White Continent. In 1964, the Chilean Antarctic Institute was founded, part of whose mission is to encourage the development of scientific research in the area. The National Antarctic Science Program currently has seven lines of research:
The goal of this line of research is to understand current patterns of biological diversity, in order to differentiate between the impacts of processes based on signals from the past, and understand and develop future scenarios using a multidisciplinary approach. This research has allowed us to evaluate the contribution of environmental changes in evolutionary processes in both marine and terrestrial ecosystems.
The Southern Ocean and the Antarctic continent are not immune to the effects of human activities. The increase in atmospheric and sea surface temperatures, sea ice shrinkage, ocean acidification, changes in wind regimes, plastic pollution and the growing human presence are observable phenomena whose trends are becoming more evident year after year. This line of research studies how Antarctic organisms have adapted to the particular conditions of the region and how they might respond to environmental changes.
The threat of a global climate crisis urgently challenges both the ability of humanity to understand the key aspects of recent environmental changes and to take action. These research projects answer questions associated with climate variability on different temporal and spatial scales, characterizing the processes and variability of the cryosphere, and their interactions with associated terrestrial, atmospheric and oceanic geosystems.
Projects in this line of research focus on the interactions between terrestrial and cryospheric environments. They seek to understand the processes that occur within and at the interfaces of the planet’s terrestrial, oceanic, cryospheric and atmospheric systems. This area also includes the disciplines of space physics and astronomical observation.
This line of research considers the molecular, metabolic and physiological characteristics of Antarctic organisms, in an effort to use them or their derivatives (biomolecules) to create or modify products, applications or processes for specific uses. These include proposals for innovative solutions to problems such as drought, energy optimization or the fight against bacteria.
This line of research studies the impact of the human footprint in Antarctica by detecting persistent organic compounds in fauna and other harmful chemical compounds introduced through tourism, logistics operations and scientific activities. It seeks to answer questions such as: What significant consequences are observed from anthropogenic impacts on the Antarctic ecosystem? How do humans and pathogens affect and adapt to Antarctic environments? How do regulatory mechanisms evolve to cope with the increasing pace of Antarctic tourism?
These branches play an essential role in reflecting on the future of Chile and the world with regard to Antarctica. This line of research seeks to answer simple but profound questions: How can we distinguish between natural and man-made environmental changes? How do these understandings affect Antarctic governance? How will external pressures and changes in geopolitical configurations of power affect Antarctic governance and science?