Australian Antarctic Division appoints first female chief scientist

By on 14/12/2015 | Updated on 25/09/2020
Dr Gwen Fenton is the Australian Antarctic Division's new Chief Scientist

Dr Gwen Fenton has been appointed the Australian Antarctic Division’s (AAD) first female chief scientist.

The AAD is a division of the Department of the Environment tasked with advancing Australia’s strategic, scientific, environmental and economic interests in Antarctica and the Southern Ocean.

As chief scientist, Fenton will head up the science branch – one of four AAD departments.

She has been acting in the role since August and is replacing Dr Nick Gales who has been promoted to AAD director – the organisation’s most senior role.

Fenton, who has been employed at the AAD since 2003, managing science planning and coordination for all projects within the Australian Antarctic Science Programme, said she was honoured to be offered the position and to be the first woman in the role.

“This is an exciting time for the Australian Antarctic Science Programme and I am looking forward to ensuring that we maximise our opportunities to deliver world class research,” she said.

AAD chief Gales said Fenton brings to the role a depth of experience from marine research, environmental policy and managing Antarctic science.

He added: “I have no doubt that Gwen will be an outstanding Chief Scientist; her depth of knowledge of Antarctic science, excellent judgement, positive people-skills and passion for the role will ensure that.”

Before joining the AAD, Fenton spent seven years with the Tasmanian government, managing the state’s marine environmental policy issues within the marine resources division of the Department of Primary Industries Water and the Environment.

In her early career, Fenton gained her PhD in marine zoology from the University of Tasmania and subsequently spent 11 years conducting post-doctoral marine research.

“My previous research used innovative technologies to study issues of practical importance, such as stable isotope analysis of marine coastal food webs, and radiometric ageing of deep-sea fish such as orange roughy, blue grenadier, oreo dories and deep-sea sharks,” she said.

“I also conducted ecological research on krill and mysid shrimps.”

Fenton is best known for the research she led to determine the age of orange roughy.

This work revealed that the fish live to over 100 years old.

About Winnie Agbonlahor

Winnie is news editor of Global Government Forum. She previously reported for Civil Service World - the trade magazine for senior UK government officials. Originally from Germany, Winnie first came to the UK in 2006 to study a BA in Journalism & Russian at the University of Sheffield. She is bilingual in English and German, and, after spending an academic year abroad in Russia and reporting for the Moscow Times, Winnie also speaks Russian fluently.

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