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2023 Hutton Medal: Looking to the ice for our future

Professor Nicholas Golledge has been awarded the Hutton Medal for his cutting-edge contributions to modelling of the Antarctic ice sheet, and research on climate change, including his role as a Lead Author for the most recent Assessment Report from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC).

Through establishing capability in observational and theoretical approaches to Antarctic ice-sheet modelling for New Zealand, Nick has become a world leader in his field. 

He has significantly advanced knowledge of the ice-sheet’s response to climate change and the impacts of melting ice on global sea-level, ocean circulation, and climate variability.

Nick’s research has received international recognition and media coverage, and has informed government policies.

As well as being a lead author on the IPCC’s Sixth Assessment Report on Climate Change, Nick leads initiatives of New Zealand’s Antarctic Science Platform which aim to project how changes in Antarctica’s ice sheets will cause sea-level rises that will affect our coastlines.  His research on “Melting Ice and Rising Seas” aims to reduce uncertainty for communities around Aotearoa New Zealand by predicting the timing and magnitude of increases in sea level. These should help us to develop strategies to mitigate the risks of some of the effects of climate change which are now assessed to be unavoidable.

Nick began his career as a research geologist with the British Geological Survey in Edinburgh, Scotland, where he worked for 12 years. 

Since 2009, he has worked at the Antarctic Research Centre at Te Herenga Waka—Victoria University of Wellington as a glaciologist and ice-sheet modeller, where a key part of his work is the integration of field observations and numerical modelling.

This has enabled him to work across disciplines and develop robust models and simulations that are used by researchers worldwide, and are included in the IPCC’s Sixth Assessment. 

Nick Golledge in Antarctica

A nomination supporter described Nick’s research as “absolutely critical”.

“We are totally exposed to what happens in the vast Southern Ocean, and one of the keys to anticipating future change are the ice sheets of Antarctica and elsewhere.”

They said the complexities of the interaction of ice sheets with the ocean, and in turn with the atmosphere, can only be dealt with by careful observation backed up by numerical models.

“Nick is a world-leader in this simulation and modeling field, as is well demonstrated by his publication record, the quality of the researchers with whom he collaborates, and the journals in which he has published.” 

Nick’s research and expertise in the environmental and climate-change field has been widely read and valued by Aotearoa’s policy makers and advisors.

In 2018, he was one of four scientists who represented Aotearoa New Zealand on a Working Group which reviewed the latest research on the climate system, the cryosphere and sea-level change for the IPCC.

He was selected by this group of internationally recognised scientists to be one of the Lead Authors for one of the Chapters of the IPCC report. 

Recently, he was elected to a Group creating a Climate Action Plan for Masterton District Council.

About the Hutton Medal:
The Hutton Medal is awarded for work of outstanding scientific or technological merit in the animal, earth, or plant sciences.

To Nicholas Robert Golledge for cutting-edge contributions to Antarctic ice-sheet modelling, climate-change research and the impacts of melting ice on global sea level, ocean circulation and climate variability.