AS Brighton Council’s new climate resilience officer Mel Fitzpatrick believes local government plays an important role in implementing climate change action.
Mel who studied physics at Sydney University before completing a PhD in geophysics is also a PhD in glaciology and was Australia’s first female glaciologist to conduct fieldwork on glaciers in Alaska, Greenland and Antarctica.
Mel has completed 11 seasons including one winter as a crew member at Australia’s Antarctic base undertaking a role as an ice core researcher and a field training officer. During her winter on the base, she lived with just 14 other individuals.
One of the most significant areas of research she undertook in her career was studying the first high-resolution ice core in the mid-1990s, which at the time was the best-kept record of the past 10,000 years of global climate patterns.
She also loved being part of a team which conducted a census on the 30,000 emperor penguins found at rookeries not far from the base.
Her time in Antarctica truly shaped the way she views the world.
“I formed a greater respect for our planet. It was truly majestic, so big and so beautiful,” Mel said.
She likes living in Tasmania because the climate, terrain and environment is very close to her relatives’ home country of Ireland.
Mel also has worked for a variety of non-profit environmental organisations in the United States, where there are both similarities and differences with Australia’s attitudes to climate action.
One of the things she is looking forward to undertaking most as project officer in Brighton Council is breaking down the barriers that stop people from making environmentally conscious choices.
“This is apparent in a lot of the new Brighton Council-supported initiatives such as the pop-up bike lane and ‘ride to school’ program which give individuals and families resources to reduce their carbon footprint.
Despite the severe impact it has had on the world, Mel says there has been one silver lining in the wake of COVID-19.
“I think it has allowed people a chance to stop, think and reflect which is a really good thing,” she said.