Cold climes beckon for hot research

By Elliot Parker -
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BIG PLANS: Bella Duncan, seen here in Antarctica, has won a research fellowship to further her studies.
BIG PLANS: Bella Duncan, seen here in Antarctica, has won a research fellowship to further her studies.

The last big frontier is what Masterton's own Bella Duncan is looking to tackle.

With two years to go on her PhD at Victoria University in Wellington, Ms Duncan, 25, has been selected for the SCAR fellowship (Scientific Committee on Antarctic Research).

The fellowship gives her US$11,000 ($13,150) and the opportunity to study at the University of Birmingham for two months on her chosen area of study - developing new lab capabilities for fossil analysis in New Zealand using "bio- markers".

"I want to learn how the lab works, gather data from the Antarctic and set up the same thing in New Zealand."

Originally from Masterton and a former student of St Matthew's Collegiate School, Ms Duncan didn't start out as science fair material.

"I did all the arts subjects at school, but my dad was keen on geology. I started reading books on volcanoes and geology and it looked like something I would like to get into."

Ms Duncan visited the Antarctic last summer and it confirmed her love for seeking the answers to the unknown.

"It's the last big frontier, completely wild and isolated."

The SCAR programme has been running since 2005 and this year received 26 applications. Only six scholarships were awarded and Ms Duncan was the only New Zealander to get it.

According to SCAR the winners of the fellowships will carry out a range of scientific research in areas including marine biology, climatology, remote sensing and understanding terrestrial ecosystem complexity.

With her current thesis looking at Miocene and Pliocene Antarctic climate history and climate reconstructions, Ms Duncan is particularly interested in the climatology aspect of the programme.

"I guess the past is key to present and future, you can tell a lot more about where the Antarctic is heading by looking at past analogues," she said.

Her plans include getting more involved in Antarctic research and passing on her knowledge to others.

Luckily for budding climate change and Antarctic scientists, Ms Duncan hopes to lecture in New Zealand.

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