[Interviews]
2 November, 2009

Mariano Memolli, Argentinean National Antarctic Director

Mariano Memolli, Director Nacional del Antártico

A few months before the beginning of the summer campaign, the National Director of the Antarctic, evaluates the present state and future prospects of the Argentinean Antarctic activity. 

Mariano Memolli’s Antarctic carrier began almost 20 years ago when he travelled for the first time to the continent appointed as the doctor at Jubany station.

Sitting on a couch that he assures belonged to the first Argentinean Antarctic National Director, Jorge Leal, Memolli strongly supports the Argentinean Antarctic activity and acknowledges the job done by the Foreign Affairs Minister in defense of national projects. At the same time, he guarantees that budget cuts will not affect this year’s campaign: “We will sort it out with less flights”, he says.

What is the Dirección Nacional del Antártico (DNA)?

DNA is the office in charge of attending all national Antarctic policies. It has the mission of supporting  scientific activities, protecting the environment, making decisions in political matters and developing the annual Antarctic plan.

The DNA is also in charge of cultural, educational and artistic activities, which are  new projects that are getting started.

What relationship do you have with the Antarctic Institute (IAA)?

It depends from us. It is the oldest institution devoted to Antarctic science in the world; it was created in 1951. The Director of the Institute is the second authority of the Argentinean Antarctic system. He is in charge of all the projects and guidelines for scientific research in Antarctica.

How do you work with the Armed Forces?

It is a very close relationship that has grown a lot during the past years -and I am very proud of that- to reach a complete integration in which everyone works with a common interest.

This, what should be the rule, unfortunately, is an exception. But reaching this, a comprehensive way of working, is very encouraging. We are talking about a complete integration that is very productive. And that can be seen in the reports made both by scientists and military men.

Mariano Memolli, Director Nacional del Antártico

How is Argentina positioned in Antarctic science?

Argentina, according to Norwegian authors in an study on the world scientific activity between 2004 and 2007, is ranked in the 12º place. We are comparing ourselves with countries likeUnited States,Australia,Germany,Rusia,China, Francia andNew Zealand.

We observe those countries, but without the arrogance of forgettingLatin America. According to the report,Argentinadoubled the percentage of papers published in English. This means the Argentinean production is much bigger.

And with regards to Latin America?

First, but Brazil and Uruguay are growing fast.

We are working together a lot with them because they have a lot to do with the Atlantic coast. And at the same time,PeruandEcuadorhave a very interesting activity on marine life. They have very good fishing techniques.

We have to compare ourselves against the ones who have a good scientific production but without forgetting our Latin American roots.

“Some people believe that Antarctica has to be a natural reserve for humanity. I don’t know how long something like this can be kept that way when you think of the following 50 years”

Science and sovereignty

Why is it important forArgentinato work in Antarctica?

To begin with, the world is running out of space, therefore every space is important. The North Pole is water, ice floating over water. But the South Pole is different, there are sovereignty matters.

Argentina claims sovereignty over around 4.5 million square kilometers, with everything that implies. This has an important scientific projection and science is used to preserve the environment. We can learn about what is going on in the continent and work thinking on the future.

We are going to observe the Antarctic treaty. We are not going to talk about sovereignty and mineral prospecting or exploitation. But I believe that nobody can forget that it is an important issue, specially for the ones who pursue that.

And there is a second position of people who believe thatAntarcticahas to be a natural reserve for humanity. I don’t know how long something like this can be kept that way when you think of the following 50 years.

“What happens with the world in the next 10 years is decisive”

Why are the results of scientific research so important?

Because Antarctica generates the world’s climate and because changes happen very fast. Science is important everywhere, but in a continent that is so isolated and still unknown there are very interesting discoveries to be made

Climate, marine currents adaptation and what will happen with the world in the following 10 years is decisive.

Besides, every country shows with it’s discoveries it’s scientific potential.

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