Mentor of the Month
Chief Executive – Antarctic NZ
1. What is your current Job?
CEO Antarctica New Zealand
2. What was your thesis:
BForSc (Hons) – Spread of Pines in Abel Tasman National Park
3. hy did you decide to follow a career in your field of interest?
My father wintered in Antarctica in 1964/65 and ignited a long held passion for the polar environment. I first worked as a field assistant at Scott Base in 1981/82 and found working in Antarctica one of the greatest experiences of my life at that time.
4. Name someone (or multiple people) who has had a great positive impact on your career development, and what did you learn from them?
Professor Peter McKelvey was a huge influence during my University years in terms of his knowledge of New Zealand Mountains and forest ecosystems and how they worked. This led me to a career in natural ecosystems management, firstly in managing remote environments in New Zealand (Fiordland National Park, Subantarctic Islands and Stewart Island) for Department of Conservation and over the last 11 years as CEO of Antarctica New Zealand.
5. What’s one of the most memorable experiences working with Antarctica?
My most memorable experience working in Antarctica was living in the McMurdo Dry Valleys doing hydrology research in 1981/82. To spend 3 months continuously living in Scott Polar tents amongst some of the most pristine natural environments on the planet was hugely inspirational.
6. What do you think are the key issues/challenges of Antarctic science today?
The key issue for Antarctic science I see is the impact of changes in Antarctica and the Southern Ocean on the climate system and oceanic circulation systems of the Southern Hemisphere. Living in New Zealand we suddenly feel very vulnerable to how changes of the ACC and Antarctic weather systems may ultimately impact our primary resource industries.
7. Do you consider yourself a leader or a follower, and which do you think is more important in science today?
I consider myself a leader as being CEO of Antarctica New Zealand has enabled critical influence for New Zealand in how we shape our Antarctic science programme, how we model our behaviours in Antarctica on Health and Safety and Sustainability and how we work with 28 other countries in the Antarctic Treaty System and COMNAP to collaborate together and ensure greater long term protection for Antarctica and the Southern Ocean.
8. As a manager, do you implode or explode in the face of adversity? Provide an example.
In adversity I prefer to take a steady hand as a leader of Antarctica New Zealand. As CEO you can neither afford to implode or explode but instead work under pressure to address the problems facing the organisation at time of crisis. The most significant crisis I have faced is the Scott Base A-Frame fire in May 2009 when our field hut adjacent to Scott Base was burnt down and one person was injured during the Antarctic winter. This caused us as an organisation to relook at all our safety management practices and completely redo our induction and management systems to focus on “Zero Harm”.