Climate champion

Revealing the significance of the human-climate-environment interaction is the research focus of Australian Research Council Future Fellow Dr Helen McGregor

One of McGregor’s major contributions to climate change science so far has been to document for the first time, profound seasonal-scale changes in past El Niño behaviour, providing insight to ocean-atmosphere interactions that are critical to the success of predictive models of global climate change. 

She was invited to co-lead Phase 1 of the Ocean2k project (2011-2015) and was lead author on the resulting 2015 Nature Geoscience article, the first study to produce an ocean-only synthesis of temperatures for the past 2,000 years. She is now overall lead of Phase 2 of the Ocean2k Project. 

McGregor’s work has also led to outstanding contributions in the understanding of the regional context of climate change and its impacts on sea level, ecosystems and humans. Her research substantially advanced our knowledge of how highly productive coastal upwelling zones respond to global warming. Published in the journal Science, the research has implications for marine ecosystems that sustain approximately 20 per cent of the world’s fisheries. 

As co-organiser of the 2015 Global Climate Change Week, McGregor was instrumental in fostering greater understanding of climate change action and solutions. Featured in a Nature Climate Change ‘Spotlight’ article, Global Climate Change Week united 301 academics from 51 countries in activities that encouraged climate change awareness and resulted in 2498 academics in 80 countries signing an open letter calling for world leaders to take action to prevent catastrophic climate change.  

Beyond a well-cited publication record in top tier journals, her contribution is evident in invitations to participate in international conferences, projects, and fellowships in her leadership roles. In recent years she has received conference and fellowship invitations to the United States, Sweden and Paris. Her fellowship at the Lamont-Doherty Earth Observatory, Columbia University, USA was aimed at world-class female Earth scientists.