Mr Geoffrey Copson, is a Wildlife Management Officer with the Tasmanian Department of Primary Industries, Water and the Environment (DPIWE), and has been associated with Australian Antarctic expeditions for nearly 30 years, and was the DPIWE officer principally responsible for conservation programs on Macquarie Island. His impressive record of service includes 5 winters and numerous summers interspersed with round trips.
He was the Officer-in-Charge at Mawson station on the Antarctic continent in 1982. The wintering party, which numbered 33, was the largest to have spent the year at Mawson to that time. Almost a third of those expeditioners were engaged in construction of the new station, the remainder carrying out the normal mix of station-based science and support activities. The party included an exchange scientist from the Peoples’ Republic of China and a lone female who was the first of her gender to winter at Mawson. Despite the particularly heavy station-based workload, an impressive total of 14 separate field trips were conducted during the year to places as diverse as the Auster, Taylor and Kloa Emperor penguin colonies to continue scientific studies there, inland of the Framnes Mountains to establish an automatic weather station, and Scullin Monolith. In addition to the size of the wintering group the presence of a large number of construction personnel on station provided a particular management challenge. Despite this, his leadership skills were such that the year was a particularly productive one with all major projects being completed as planned and overall morale remaining high.
Mr Copson’s service on Macquarie Island, both as a biologist in the Australian National Antarctic Research Expedition program and subsequently as the Tasmanian Parks and Wildlife Service’s Officer has made a substantial contribution to the understanding of the dynamics of the island’s ecosystem, especially in relation to the progressive elimination of vertebrate pests. His knowledge of the subantarctic is encyclopaedic and his deep — and probably unparalleled understanding of Macquarie Island has led to his becoming widely known and respected in the international subantarctic community.
Mr Copson was responsible for the initiation, planning and implementation of the vertebrate pest control system that has seen the eradication of cats and wekas, and control of rabbits and rats on Macquarie Island and has done much to restore the island to a near natural subantarctic environment. His vision of a pest-free Macquarie Island, enormous though such a task might be, was instrumental in attracting Commonwealth funding, and his innovative programs have played an important role in Australia’s ultimately successful efforts to have Macquarie Island inscribed in the World Heritage Register.
Mr Copson is a dedicated researcher who spent most of his time on the island off station and in the field. He is generous with his knowledge and encourages others in their understanding of the region. His knowledge and patience are immense, and his quiet, infectious enthusiasm has given confidence to many a young researcher.