Antarctic Climate and Ecosystems CRC, University of Tasmania

Physical Oceanography



Dr Downes is a physical oceanographer, investigating how the oceans move and how it is linked to the Earth’s evolving climate. The ocean’s plants produce more than half of the oxygen in the atmosphere, and the oceans absorb about a third of the carbon dioxide that humans produce.

So we need to understand what the oceans are doing to fully understand the Earth’s climate. Stephanie’s research focuses on the deep Southern Ocean circulation, with particular interest in the underwater volcanoes and hydrothermal vents, and how the salt and temperature of water at the bottom of the ocean change over several decades. Understanding the deep ocean helps to properly estimate global sea level rise and the Earth’s temperature changes.

Stephanie is actively involved in National Science Week’s Festival of Bright Ideas (FoBI), accompanying school groups, giving talks, and coordinating a large exhibit on Hobart’s marine/Antarctic research. She works with teachers to link her research into the National Curriculum, and recently wrote a blog on the importance of STEM skills in education and in careers.

This year Stephanie is coordinating a ‘Climate 101’ lecture series for teachers to provide current information on climate change, oceans, polar and carbon research.