Dr van Ommen has a background in experimental physics (PhD in astrophysics, University of Tasmania) and worked in radioastronomy with NASA/JPL before transitioning to Antarctic science. His research interests are primarily in the area of ice core palaeoclimate, and associated glaciological studies. He also has a strong interest in general Antarctic ice sheet studies, particularly from airborne geophysics.
Dr van Ommen has been on six field expeditions including the deep field Aurora Basin Ice coring expedition and associated traverse.
His ice core research has primarily centred on high resolution studies, particularly from the Law Dome ice core and has been focused on comparison and calibration of ice core records with meteorological data. This work includes the discovery of a link between Antarctic snowfall and drought in Australia.
Other research includes a leading role in 2000 year Antarctic climate reconstruction work for PAGES and the mapping of bedrock across the Aurora Basin region with ICECAP.
Dr van Ommen co-leads the Oceans and Cryosphere Program (R1) within the ACE CRC. In this role he jointly manages work across projects in ice-ocean interactions, sea-ice, atmospheric research and palaeoclimate.
Dr van Ommen is Senior Principal Research Scientist with the Australian Antarctic Division where he leads the Program for Antarctica and the Global System – an earth system science program covering glaciology, atmospheric science, palaeoclimate and ecosystem modelling. He also has an associated Theme Leader role across the broader Australian Antarctic Program.
His primary role is in research management, although he is still actively engaged in aspects of the research. This includes further exploration of teleconnections between Antarctic climate and Australian drought, and research on the recent Aurora Basin North ice core. Dr Van Ommen is also involved in ice sheet studies arising from the ICECAP project, including surveys aimed at finding ice over a million years old for future coring.