critter banner18

Science Menu

Antarctic Wildlife Health Network (AWHN)

load more hold SHIFT key to load all load all

A working group of EG-BAMM

The Antarctic Wildlife Health Network was founded in 2014 by Andres Barbosa at the 6th SCAR Open Science Conference and is a working group within SCAR's Expert Group on Birds and Marine Mammals (EG-BAMM). The group consists of scientists that have an interest in the health of Antarctic and sub-Antarctic wildlife. 

Our members conduct scientific research and provide expertise on Antarctic wildlife health and disease. Our membership consists of biologists, wildlife veterinarians, microbiologists, virologists, parasitologists, immunologists, molecular biologists and pathologists. 

Our mission is to coordinate and lead international action on wildlife health to support Antarctica's wildlife health and biodiversity. 

Our vision is to coordinate the research and assessment on wildlife health and to establish protocols, provide training and recommendations for the prevention and management of introductions of pathogens, disease outbreaks, and anthropogenic impacts that could affect wildlife health or lead to mass mortality events in Antarctica. 

Why are we needed?

Currently Antarctica is suffering environmental changes due to global change, including climate change and local human activities, that could increase the risk of the introduction of new pathogenic organisms, outbreaks of endemic pathogens or a reduction in the ability of birds and marine mammals to adequately respond to disease due to immunosuppression associated with stress or the effects of environmental pollutants. Current knowledge on pathogens, parasites and viruses in Antarctic and sub-Antarctic wildlife is scarce with limited baseline data or ongoing monitoring programmes. 

Two key priorities listed in SCAR's Horizon Scan, ‘Understanding how climate change will affect the risk of spreading emerging infectious diseases in Antarctica?’ (Q56) and ‘how will humans, diseases and pathogens change, impact and adapt to the extreme Antarctic environment?’ (Q80), are a key focus on the network. 


  1. To monitor the health status of Antarctic birds and marine mammals.
  2. To provide advice and risk assessments to the Antarctic Treaty System, the Council of Managers of National Antarctic Programs (COMNAP), the Commission for the Conservation of Antarctic Marine Living Resources (CCAMLR), the Committee for Environmental Protection (CEP), SCAR's Standing Committee on the Antarctic Treaty System (SCATS) and EG‐BAMM about matters related to health and disease status of Antarctic wildlife.
  3. To coordinate research about the health of Antarctic wildlife, identifying scientific gaps and compiling the existent information.
  4. Establishment and coordination of a “Disease Surveillance Network” for wildlife in the Southern Ocean (including Antarctica and sub-Antarctic wildlife).
  5. To promote the generation of knowledge and information about the presence and effects of pathogens and parasites on Antarctic birds and marine mammals.
  6. To work with other components and scientific programmes of SCAR (Ant-ICON, ImPACT, JEGHBM, EG‐ABI, AntaBIF) and key Antarctic Research Initiatives (e.g. Securing Antarctica’s Environmental Future) to achieve multidisciplinary approaches to animal health issues.

Current Projects

  1. Conduct a risk assessment for Avian Influenza in the Antarctic and sub-Antarctic;
  2. Conduct a risk assessment for Antarctic and sub-Antarctic wildlife for health in the Southern Ocean, including identification of major threats to wildlife health;
  3. Establishment and coordination of a “Disease Surveillance Network/Database” for wildlife in the Southern Ocean (including Antarctica and sub-Antarctic wildlife);
  4. Biobank and Sample Database;
  5. Coordination of Epidemiological research and ecological models on wildlife health and risk of disease outbreaks;
  6. Organisation of workshops on wildlife health and disease in polar regions.