Adopt a Scientist
Student Questions and Scientist Answers
Dr. Jessica Reeves
Name: Dr Jessica Reeves
Institution/Organization/Affiliation: Federation University Australia
Job Title: Senior Lecturer
1. What have been some of the challenges you faced in order to become a research scientist as a woman? Did you ever face a problem where you just felt like quitting or wondered whether it was worth all the work? How did you overcome these challenges? Most times I think of myself just as a person doing a job, until someone reminds me that I am a woman. Going through Uni there were probably 4 males for every 1 female studying Geology. This didn’t really create any problems for me. As a PhD student and Post Doc there were probably 2 males for every 1 female – and again, no gender specific issues. However my current work is different, where I am the only female in my discipline. There is a risk that female lecturers at a University, particularly in physical sciences, do a lot of the first year teaching – which means big classes, lots of marking and lots of looking after students, whereas males get the third year classes and therefore a greater influence on students that are likely to want to do research projects for Honours or PhD. I have had quite a few issues that are more related to my age or my status (being a lecturer, not a professor), rather than my gender). I worked part time when my children were small, which meant that there is a gap in my publication record. I was happy to spend that time with my lids though. I went back to full time work when my daughter started school. So this has meant that my track record is not as competitive as many of my colleagues, but I am trying to maintain some sort of balance between work and home. I have had difficult times – and worked with some difficult people, but there is no other job I would rather have. In the face of challenges, I try to find creative solutions and have a very long-term approach to problem solving.
2. What are your expectations for this research project? What do expect to find in the Antarctic with regard to climate change? What do you hope to learn from the leadership portion of the project? This is more of a leadership program than research project. This is the first time I have been to the Antarctic, but I am interested to hear from the researchers at the base stations that we visit what their experience of changing climate has been in the time they have been there. As for the leadership component, I want to develop more trust in my leadership style and learn some skills to be a more effective leader. In particular, I want to learn more techniques to increase the visibility of my research. So this project with your school is a great start!
3. What have you found in your research about the human impact on wetlands that helps us understand the processes of change we are seeing in the world around us? How might this apply to, or connect to, your understanding of processes of change in the Antarctic? A lot of the research I do is understanding the natural change and variability in wetlands before major human impact – and then how this has changed due to human impact. This includes major changes to flow regimes – both the timing and amount of river inflow, changes in nutrient fluxes from stock in the catchment, changes in turbidity due to land clearing and contaminants entering wetland systems from mining, industry and agriculture. We know that there are contaminants in Antarctica – some of them from base stations and ships, but others that have been transported either in the atmosphere or in water. It is important to understand what the natural variability of a wetland system is in order to be able to assess the degree of impact we humans have had, so we can manage that impact better in the future.
4. How did you come to be interested in the challenges of global warming and climate change? How long have you been working on understanding these processes? What courses and/or areas of study have been most helpful in developing your perspective on the issue? I was first interested in archaeology and how civilisations in the Ancient Middle East that developed agriculture then collapsed. By studying archaeology and geology, I realised that people have had impacts on the environment and indeed climate and the environment has impacted people through all time. In Australia, First Nations people have managed to adapt to extreme changes in their environment, and we have much to learn from their knowledge and resilience. I have been working in this field for over 15 years. As well as geology and archaeology, basic understandings in chemistry and biology have also been valuable. But I am always learning more.
5. What do you think you can do to change people’s minds about pollution and increasing global warming? At the moment I am working with government agents of natural resource authorities to help them better understand the systems they manage. I am also planning to open a Research, Education and Discovery Centre on the lakes that I am currently working with. This will include citizen science programs, school programs, school holiday programs, workshops and research forums so that people of all ages can learn more about the amazing living laboratory they have at their doorstep. Getting all people engaged with their natural environment by observing it, playing in it, learning about is the best way to get people to connect and care about the environment.
6. What is your roll on the expedition? Is there a specific data that you are in charge of monitoring or collecting? So although this is an expedition for women scientists, we will not be undertaking scientific research onboard. I am involved in a project with other member of the expedition on transdisciplinary research – which is collaborations with scientists and other types of researchers. This is really important to address some of the wicked problems that we are facing today – such as climate change – where the facts are one thing, but bringing about societal and political change is a whole different matter.
7. Is there evidence of climate change in Antarctica? If so, what impact does this have on the animals that live there? How could it potentially impact humans? Yes, Antarctica is one of the areas on the globe where we can see climate change. At a minute scale, each year new ice is deposited which captures a snapshot of the atmosphere from the time it was formed and accumulates year after year like a layer cake. From this we can see that greenhouse gases are higher than they have ever been over a 4million year record. We can also see that temperature is increasing at a relatively rapid rate, compared to earlier times in the record. Also, the warming of the oceans is impacting the distribution of biota. The smallest organisms – the krill and microscopic plankton – are particularly vulnerable to rapid changes in temperature, but also changes in seasonal cues. These are the foundation of the food chain, so can impact all organisms that feed on them – and feed on those organisms – and so forth. Breeding grounds of both marine mammals and waterbirds are also being impacted with shorter seasons of sea ice. The changes in Antarctica will not immediately and directly impact humans, although the warmer temperatures will increase ice melt, which will may in turn increase temperatures. It is important to understand that Antarctica is directly involved with all of the world’s climate systems, so impacts in Antarctica indirectly affect us all. Also impacts on the marine food web will also ultimately impact food sources.
8. Did the weather and harsh environmental conditions affect your ability to collect data, or preform any tasks? Did you have to modify anything because of the weather? Not as yet. Although it is very difficult to take photos with frozen fingers. Considering it is Antarctica, the weather has been very kind to us so far (I would touch wood, but there is not so much around here!)
9. Where did you stay in Antarctica? Was it weird sleeping on the boat, or in tents? What did you eat? How did the weather impact this part of the journey? We sleep on the boat, but will be visiting a few base stations and other significant features. It takes a little while to get used to the rocking on the boat at night, then it becomes quite relaxing, like being in a big cradle. I am in a bunk bed, with a large bar, so we don’t fall out. We ate too much! The boat was very well catered, with three-course lunches and dinners. The crew on the boat are all excellent.
10. As a successful female scientist, how have you balanced your career and your family? This is always a tough one and I do miss my two kids (Poppy – 10, Henry – 8) when I am away. I often bring them on field trips with me so they can understand what I do. They are proud of me and I often go to their school to give talks. Their Dad gets them to school in the mornings, but I try to be home as much as possible on school holidays. I worked part time when they were very young, but started lecturing full time when Poppy started school, five years ago. This is the longest time I have been away from them.
Name: Deborah Pardo
Institution/Organization/Affiliation: British Antarctic Survey
Job Title: Population modeller
1. How many days are you going to be on land and how many days will you be on water? We are going to live on the ship for 20 days, it will move around the Antarctic peninsula to bring us to different fascinating points of interest. If the weather and ice conditions are good, we will use the zodiacs to land in those places. I think in total we have 16 landings to do, and by the time I am writing to you, we have done 4. They were all as incredible as the previous one. On Barrientos Island we were touched by the behavior of two species of penguins that were starting the breeding season: chinstrap and gentoos. On Half moon Island, we saw seals, the ice shelf right in front of us and a skua drying to drawn a shag to try and still its fish. In Paulet Island we saw a colony a 100 000 breeding pairs of Adelie penguins and the remnants of a house were 20 Norvegian scientists and sailors survived for a whole year as they ship got destroyed by the sea ice of the Wedell sea. Yesterday at Brown Bluff we were for the first time on the Antarctic continent! Remnants of volcanic eruptions, surrounded by glaciers and icebergs, with penguins gathering together before going at sea in order to increase the probability of escaping the leopard seal that was waiting for them.
2. What types of tools will you be using? I am not going to do my research there, because the aim is more to live a very strong adventure with the 76 women scientists that will be social with us bonding and talking as much as possible and training on board as well. In general we have a 3 hours landing in the morning (it is a good length of time because in general after that we start getting cold). We come back on the ship to have lunch and then start the leadership training for the whole afternoon.
3. How are you going to travel on Antarctica itself? Still on the ship, that’s the magic, it would be very hard to travel on skis like a sports expedition but instead on the ship we can explore many different places in a few weeks.
4. How did you get chosen to go on the trip? I applied to the Homeward Bound call in July 2015 with a 2 minutes YouTube video. I had never done such a thing before and it actually was a very fun experience. They must have liked it because I was chosen. Maybe they liked the fact that I was a young mum and that I was French as it increased the diversity of women on the ship?
5. How does climate change affect bird colonies in Antarctica? That is a complex problem that scientists are trying to understand, including myself. The global temperature is warming and there are more and more extreme events, that means days were temperature or wind or rain/snow is much higher or lower that the expectations of that season. Maybe you have noticed something like that were you live? In Antarctica it means that some places will warm (most of them) but some places will also get colder due to oceanic currents. For the birds it will be more difficult to understand their environment and if their food or breeding success (the survival of their chick) depends on the ice, they might have a hard time and try again the next year. Many populations have declined a lot in Antarctica because of this and some have started to migrate to more southern positions in order to find their optimal breeding conditions. But if the climate warms too much, there will be no issue for polar species. And it is the same for some alpine species that cannot migrate higher than the mountain when temperatures increase.
6.What is your preferred field of science and how will it apply to this research experience and help the environment? I liked all science really but my favorite was biology because I was fascinated by the interactions between plants and animals and their environment. So I specialized in Ecology and later in Demography that is analyzing why a population of a species would increase or decrease over time according to changes in their environment. That includes food, competition, reproduction, survival. It is very important to update the red list of endangered species and decide where to try to protect them. That is called Conservation. It is the application of Demography and Ecology and what I wanted to do in order to have an impact.
7. What are you most looking forward to studying or discovering in your trip to the Antarctic – what was the most important lesson that you would like to pass along from your journey to the Antarctic? I am really looking forward for the great wilderness again watch the albatrosses following the ship (do you know that they can measure up to 3.5 meters wingspan?), this will bring back memories of when I was working with these amazing birds in Kerguelen and the Falklands. Also I had never seen icebergs and just was shocked by their size and beauty when we saw a forest of them in the Weddell sea, you just cannot believe how beautiful it is! As there is almost no night where we are, I just could not stop looking at them until I was exhausted and had to go to bed. The lesson I would like to pass along is that Antarctica is a very isolated place, but it is the witness of the impact of human actions on the planet because in the small bubbles of air that accumulate in the snow over the years, everything is recorded and you can recompose past climate up to 800 000 years ago! We can see, the crazy increase in carbon dioxide concentrations that are linked to an increase in the world temperature, you can find the pollutants both pesticides… and plastic that are discarded in Western countries and end up there in the body of animals or on pristine beaches. You can detect the signal of the nuclear bombs that have been used…. Antarctica is telling us the story and it is also telling us that we really need to adapt our ways of living to be more respectful of the planet as our Home.
8. What is some of the cool technology you will use on the expedition? I am using my Go Pro to make movies. I have a selfie stick so I can be in the image and a claw that I can attach on the ship to film how it moves between icebergs. It is going to be beautiful hopefully I can show it to you. I also have my camera with a big zoom to capture the intimacy of animal behavior without disturbing them.
9.After this expedition what will the scientists be doing to ensure that a change is made in the world to help Antarctica? We will continue doing our science as it is important to understand what is happening. But it is also very important that as scientists we open up to kids and the general public and even the corporate and political world, for everybody to understand what we can do to modify the circle of auto-destruction we have built over the year by maximizing economic profit over environmental respect. I want to maybe rebuild my career around science communication as it is now determinant to bridge this gap. We are also working hard on creating a group of skilled and determined women who can rely on each other and be stronger as we rediscover the strength of working as a group instead of individually. We really want to change the way leadership is currently made in our societies.
10. When you go to Antarctica, what are you there to achieve? As I said above, we are living an incredible adventure to build a strong network of women who are trained in leadership and ready to get more responsibility in order to improve the current conditions.
Name: Alison Davies
Institution/Organization/Affiliation: Met Office, UK
Job Title: Operational Meteorologist
1. What happens to penguins when they pass away? Are the bones easy to find? It depends where they die. If they die while at sea, their bodies will go to the ocean floor and be eaten by starfish and crabs and worms so you won’t be able to find them. If they die in the middle of the Antarctic ice sheet then their bodies will be frozen and remain there as there is unlikely to be any birds or animals that will eat them. If they die near the coast like in one of the colonies we have seen during our trip, then they will either rot or be eaten by birds like petrels or skuas but their bones will remain there for a while.
2. What is causing the icebergs to melt? How is that going to affect us? The ice bergs are melting quicker as a result of climate change and the increase in sea temperatures. Ice bergs melting doesn’t itself increase sea level as ice bergs are floating in the sea and so have displaced a quantity of water equivalent to their weight. However, if the iceberg came from a glacier on land, then when the iceberg came off of the glacier (calved) then that will have resulted in an increase in sea level rise. If all the ice in Antarctica melted, the sea level would rise by 60 m.
3. How long could a human live in the Antarctic without support from planes and ships? This would depend on how many clothes the human was wearing and how many supplies they had. If they had no suitable clothing then it could be as little as 4 minutes. However, if they had suitable clothing and some simple supplies then they could build a shelter and feed themselves on penguins and such which would mean they could survive much longer. When Antarctica was first being explored, many of them found their ships getting stuck in ice and were then stuck in Antarctica and they managed to survive many months, and some groups for more than a year.
4. What is the closest you can get to penguins without disturbing them? Are they like other birds that will abandon their chick if they smell like humans? Penguins do not have fantastic eyesight so you can get reasonably close without disturbing them. As a rule, you are told to keep at least 5 m away from penguins and if they seem distressed then crouch low and retreat. Penguins don’t see us as predators and so they wouldn’t abandon a chick if it smelt like a human.
5. Of the small amount of precipitations happening in the Antarctic, which percentage of it is due to climate change? How is climate change affecting snow fall and weather In the Antarctic? There hasn’t been that much of a change in weather patterns in Antarctica. The South Annular Mode, which we have been in a positive mode for a few years, means that there are stronger westerly winds coming over the peninsula which has lead to a warming on the eastern side of the Antarctic peninsula. This has resulted in some ice melting and a reduction in ice sheets in that area but this has not been directly linked to climate change. However, warmer air and water temperatures has lead to more precipitation in Antarctica and this can be linked to climate change.
6. What is the most challenging part of your job as a meteorologist for the RAF? The weather changes every day and there is not much time in the morning to prepare everything before I have to brief the pilots at 7:30 am. This means you had to be very switched on early in the morning and have to make decisions quickly and have evidence to back up your decisions. This can be very challenging if it is a complicated weather day.
7. What problem solving skill set do you need to have to make your job possible? A lot of my job involves looking at vast amounts of data and applying meteorological theory and local knowledge to come up with a forecast. Problem solving can come into play when something happens that you weren’t expecting to happen, for example some fog appearing at the airfield. You then have to use problem solving skills to try and work out how and why it formed. This is important because if you can’t answer those questions then you can’t work out how/when the fog will disappear which is a key thing to work out for the pilots as they cannot operate in fog.
8. How does the climate change affect your work with the RAF? Where/how do you see the biggest impacts? Climate change doesn’t have much of an impact on my work with the RAF as they are mainly just thinking short term – the furthest out they ask for forecasts is a week into the future. The area where climate change comes up is when the pilots ask questions about it and we can help them understand it more. As for how it will affect their operations in the future, they will obviously be affected by the more severe weather events and storms which is likely to occur with climate change.
9. What is the craziest weather phenomena you have ever seen? I’m afraid I haven’t seen any particularly crazy weather phenomena as the UK is quite tame as far as extreme weather events are concerned. I’ve seen some pretty impressive thunderstorms and fog that has stuck around for the whole day but that is probably it. Where I am based we get some really strong winds because of the topography around the area and that also leads to these very pretty lenticular clouds which are lens shaped.
10. What three attributes do you feel the scientists of the future(male or female) need to have to in order to be successful? I think the three key attributes are persistence, respect and adaptability. They will need persistence so that they keep going and not giving up when things get tricky/experiments don’t work/there are minor setbacks. Respect is very important as science is increasingly being carried out in multi-disciplinary groups and being able to work together and respect the other people you work with is key for those collaborations to work. Adaptability is crucial as the world is constantly changing and you need to have the skills set and mindset to adjust to these changes and still flourish.
Name: Robyn Lucas
Institution/Organization/Affiliation: National Centre for Epidemiology and Population Health, The Australian National University
Job Title: Professor and Head
1. As an epidemiologist what parts of the animal’s health will you study when you look at the affects of climate change on the body? Epidemiologists don’t study animal health! We study how diseases are distributed in the population (how common they are, how many new cases there are each year, who gets the disease and so on), and what things increase or decrease the risk of getting a disease. So, for climate change we know that the world will get hotter. People have evolved to be healthiest in temperatures that are not too hot and not too cold. With climate change, there will be more risk of very hot days, and we know that that can kill people, and make some diseases worse – for example, multiple sclerosis, heart disease. With warmer temperatures, mosquitoes and ticks that carry diseases will move to places that they have never existed before. So diseases like malaria, that is usually only seen in tropical regions, may become more common in places where it does not exist at the moment. Climate change will result in more extreme weather events – floods, heatwaves, droughts – and these all have effects on human health, changing the distribution of disease.
2. What is the most interesting thing that you learned while you were in Antarctica? There were so many things that I learned. Antarctica is a unique and amazingly beautiful (but harsh) environment. I learned how amazing it is to be in the company of 75 women scientists who really care about what is happening to our world and to listen to their insights and thoughts. I think we learned how difficult it is to contain colds and flu when you are all working together in an enclosed space! And I learned a lot about myself – the many things that sit at the back of my brain that I waste mental energy on that really just need to be dealt with. I also learned not to jump out of a Zodiac when people are still pulling it ashore!! If you do that you end up knee deep in cold water! I learned not to eat pineapple on the Drake Passage – it doesn’t stay down for long!
3. Why did you want to go to Antarctica and how is your work there going to help with climate change? I wanted to go on this trip both because of the chance to go to Antarctica but also the chance to be part of building the strength and leadership of women in driving initiatives that act on climate change. Who would not want to go to Antarctica – I love being on the ocean, I love the ice/snow (I like being cold!). It is a pure, clean environment – and I am scared that if I don’t go now it will be lost and I won’t ever have the chance to experience that amazing place. I hope my work on the ship and in Antarctica will help me set a direction with my research so that the imperative of maintaining the health of populations can be used as a strong argument to act on climate change.
4. Can we ever use the water in Antarctica to supply water to those poor countries with a lack of clean fresh water? No, I don’t think so. Water is the most important resource and it is very scarce in places. Sometimes access to fresh clean water is limited not by lack of availability but by arguments over who owns it. Working out ways of better managing our water resources is very important (but outside the scope of what I do). There is recent evidence that the Antarctic ice sheet is melting – this will cause sea level rise that could be catastrophic for some low-lying countries.
5. What adaptations have penguins acquired because of climate change? Climate change has been caused by man’s use of fossil fuels, like coal, to generate energy, e.g. electricity. This has only been happening over the last couple of hundred years – so much too quick for the penguins to have adapted in any way. Over evolution, penguins and other animals (including humans), have become well-adapted to their specific environments. Now as a result of climate change, those environments are changing, but changing so rapidly that evolutionary adaptation can’t cope. So the penguins may have to learn to eat different foods, breed in different places, change their lifestyles – just like us. That will put some of them at risk.
6. What are the essential items that you need to pack for a trip to Antarctica? (What's your MUST have item?) I think my must-have item was waterproof socks! I bought “Sealskinz” from the UK – they are not real seal skin, but some sort of knitted fabric that is waterproof. They saved my feet from getting cold and wet when I ended up knee deep in cold water and when I got snow down my boots. So the very best things. Other things were sheepskin insoles in my boots, a warm hat, and sunglasses – we had amazing weather and of course we were under the ozone hole, so the UV radiation was very intense.
7. What was your journey on the ship like? Could you describe it for us? What was your journey on the ship like? Could you describe it for us? One of my colleagues has put up a video of the ship that gives you a really good idea of what it was like. I was lucky for the first 10 days to have a bed that I could sit up in – after that I had a bunk that definitely did not have space to do that. It was a small ship, compared to most that go to Antarctica. That had good and bad bits – we all lived closely together and got to know one another very well. But the ship did not have stabilizers so it moved around more than a larger ship. We had an amazing expedition leader and crew – there were a few places that we could not get to because of sea ice, but they worked together to make sure that we got to even better places. And we always felt safe and secure. The ship had great outside deck areas for walking and seeing the scenery. The area we mainly worked in had very large windows so that we could always keep a good watch out for scenery – big icebergs, whales, penguins and so on.
8. After this expedition what will the scientists be doing to ensure that a change is made in the world to help Antarctica? The changes that will help Antarctica have to be made globally. We can’t just help Antarctica in isolation. I hope that after the trip there will be a strong community of women who are all fired up, and have the support of the rest of the community to stay fired up, to try to get more action on climate change.
9. What are you most looking forward to studying or discovering in your trip to the Antarctic – what was the most important lesson that you would like to pass along from your journey to the Antarctic? I am most looking forward to learning more about myself and how I lead, as well as more about climate change from fields outside of my own (health) field. I really like being able to see things from other perspectives – so understanding where ecologists, geologists, science communicators, engineers are coming from about climate change will be amazing. I am hoping that I will pick up some skills (and drop off some things that are the opposite of skills!) that make me more able to get out there and lead and advocate for action on climate.
10. What is some of the cool technology you will use on the expedition? I’m not sure that we will use any cool technology – sadly! I will be limited to my laptop, camera, binoculars. Others will have GoPros so that they might be able to film whales and penguins under the surface. We are visiting several bases, so hopefully we will be able to see some of the amazing technology that they are using to test carbon dioxide levels over time, and to monitor the ice sheets and the weather.
Name: Betty Trummel
Institution/Organization/Affiliation: The Science Roadshow (my own business--educational outreach). I am retired from 35 years of elementary classroom teaching and 10 years of university teaching.
Job Title: Education Outreach Specialist.
1. How does the melting of icebergs impact sea animals? The melting of icebergs can impact sea animals in many ways. First, icebergs can clog channels used by animals to navigate the Southern Ocean. This is more true of places where sea ice freezes and thaws during the “summer” and “winter” seasons in Antarctica. Another way there is an impact is that the melting icebergs are fresh water…and that can ultimately change the salinity of the ocean if enough ice melted. The temperature of the water can also affect the animals.
2. How is global warming and pollution affecting the Antarctic? The concern about the hole in the ozone layer is greater in the Southern Hemisphere, and particularly over Antarctica. Global warming is of great concern because scientists are worried about the break-up and melting of the West Antarctic Ice Sheet. Underneath this ice sheet…islands and channels in between. Although this ice is quite thick, the buffer of the ice shelves (like a shelf hangs over the space in a room, the ice shelf hangs over the water; an ice sheet is like a sheet on your bed…covering the continent) is important. Lose the ice shelves and gravity will be at work and the ice on the continent will make its way to the ocean. That will be when ocean levels can really change.
3. If you find out that the ice is melting much faster than expected what can we do to help prevent more ice melting? I think that the biggest thing we can do to protect the environment is to be more aware of our own actions and how we treat Mother Earth. Things like recycling, reducing our waste, looking for better packaging, and using less fossil fuels are all great steps in helping to reduce our footprint on this planet. We need to think smarter, act more responsibly, take care of this Earth. Avoiding pollution of ANY kind, teaching others how to be earth-friendly…those are important actions. We need to walk softly on the Earth.
4. What is some of the cool technology you will use on the expedition? This voyage is all about leadership and we will also have some instruction on marine and climate science. It’s not a research expedition, so we are not using specifc technology for science. BUT…having said that…think about the cool technology on the ship, and what cool adaptations it has to get through the ice and move in the environment we are going to be in. There are communications challenges and also cool bits of equipment on board the ship, for example the zodiacs that we will use to get off the boat and onto land, or view icebergs up close. In my past research experiences in Antarctica, I’ve seen SO many cool tools and uses of technology. I’ve been a part of geologic drilling projects that have set up enormous drilling rigs on the Ross Ice Shelf or sea ice and drilled into the ocean floor to bring up sediment cores. The drilling equipment is specially adapted to work in the cold environment, and just the amount of drill pipe used was staggering. The drill rig is computerized, but they still used man-power to assemble and run things. Calculations were made to take into account the bend of the pipe as the ice shelf moved slowly over time…how much bend could the pipes take before they would break or things sent down the pipe got stuck? Even the tools to assemble the rig were incredible…giant wrenches, special drilling “mud” to lubricate the pipes sent down inside other pipes, and cool casings around the core to keep it from falling out. Miles/km of pipe were layered inside of one another. In another project (WISSARD) scientists used many different types of ROV’s (remotely operated vehicles) send down a hole they melted in the ice sheet, to access a glacial lake that had never been sampled. Just melting the hole took a week of hard work, thousands of gallons of hot water, and a special filtering system to purify the water so they wouldn’t contaminate the lake once they reached it. What I’ve seen in terms of cool tools and technology is amazing. The engineering that goes into designing these robotic tools and specials systems is so clever, and I think of all of the applications of STEM (science, technology, engineering and mathematics) that goes into each and every project. See my blogs at: www.scienceroadshow.wordpress.com To learn more! I talk about cool tools and all kinds of equipment throughout my blogs.
5. My teacher said skuas are very aggressive birds what do they do? Skuas are very aggressive birds…they are just trying to stay alive! They steal penguin eggs and smaller chicks. They will dive bomb people (at the various research stations) carrying food or other items that they view as food. They are part of the complex food web, and they just happen to be more annoying and aggressive…and we all love penguins, so people get upset when they see a skua at work. Sad as it might be to see a chick or egg get snatched, that skua is just part of the food chain.
6. If all glaciers and ice melted, how much would the oceans rise, and would any islands disappear? The amount of sea level rise is something scientists talk about all the time, and to be honest, I’m not sure how much it would actually be, because it depends on where you were around the globe. I do know it would be significant. Yes, islands would disappear. If the West Antarctic Ice Sheet melted, the islands under it would be exposed, and some of those could be covered with water. Other small islands around the world would disappear.
7. What are your favorite animals in Antarctica, and why? My favorite animals are (big surprise here) the penguins. I love their curious nature, and the fact that they will come right up to you to check you out. I’ve had wonderful opportunities to observe penguins in their natural habitat, which is quite different from seeing them at a zoo or aquarium. They aren’t afraid of people, because their predators are in the water, not on land. If you make yourself smaller or sit down, they are not intimidated by your size and will waddle up to investigate. I’ve had them so close to me I could have reached out to touch them, but of course that is not allowed. We are the visitors…we need to respect these wonderful creatures. This is true of any wild animal. Penguins are fun to watch because of movement on land looks awkward at times…with the waddling and tobogganing (laying on their bellies and sliding through the snow or on the ice). To see them “fly” (swim) through the water is amazing…they glide and jump out and make this look easy. They use their wings to fly through the water…not air. And, they also use their wings and feet to push themselves while tobogganing. I love their curiosity, their playfulness, their determination (to sit on eggs and to raise those chicks, taking turns between the mother and father going to eat and feeding the chicks) and the way they spend lots of time preening their feathers, and being quite social.
8. What is the most dangerous thing you've done on your expeditions? Safety is something you think about EVERY day when in a remote place like Antarctica. The ice roads, built on the ice shelves, are flagged so people do not stray away from safe areas that have been checked for crevasses. I’ve snowmobiled on the ice shelf, which can be dangerous if you aren’t paying attention. I have also camped out for three nights during snow survival school and although that is not necessarily dangerous, it certainly was something I found challenging. I think I’ve been fortunate not to have much danger in the three times I’ve been to Antarctica. I’ve flown in helicopters, which of course is usually quite safe, but the weather conditions can change very quickly down there…so many people have found themselves in dangerous situations when working out in field camps doing research. Our projects have been based at McMurdo Station, a large research base on the coast of the Ross Sea/Ross Ice Shelf, and this base is well-supported and very safe. In fact, it’s like a small community.
9. When you go to Antarctica, what are you there to achieve? On this particular voyage, I’m a participant/member of the Homeward Bound expedition. We are taking part in a state of the art leadership and strategic planning training, with some science information being taught as well. Most of that will relate to the Southern Ocean and its role in the Antarctic ecosystem. We will learn more about communicating information on climate change as well. Homeward Bound seeks to elevate the role of women in science and leadership on a global scale. I am one of 76 women in science chosen for this expedition. On my three previous Antarctic trips I’ve been involved with research scientists from not only the United States, but from all over the world. The three projects I’ve worked with have all been geologic drilling projects…retrieving sediment cores and other samples from the Ross Sea floor, or from a subglacial lake located under the ice sheet. For more information on two of the projects (2006 and 2012-13) please see: http://www.andrill.org/iceberg/arise/2006/index.html# www.scienceroadshow.wordpress.com
Name: Shelley Ball
Institution/Organization/Affiliation: Biosphere Environmental Education
Job Title: Founder, president and chief operating officer of Biosphere Environmental Education
1. What are the essential items that you need to pack for a trip to Antarctica? (What's your MUST have item?) Certainly a warm jacket is essential. We are headed to the Antarctic Peninsula, which isn’t nearly as cold as the middle of the Antarctic continent. I’ll have to wait and see, but from what I have heard, temperatures will be around minus 5 to plus 5 degrees Celsius. So for me, growing up in Ottawa, Ontario, Canada, that’s not very cold. But we will also be in small zodiac (inflatable) motorized boats and it will probably be pretty cold zooming around icebergs in a small boat. It’s the wind that will be cold so we have to have clothing that will protect us from the wind. We also have to have strong sunscreen with us since the sun will be so strong here and it will be reflecting off of snow and ice. We have also packed special anti-sea sickness devices because we will be passing the Drake Passage, which are the roughest seas in the world. We hope for smooth seas, but you never know and you have to be prepared. For me, I brought lots of camera and video equipment because as a photographer, I just can’t pass up the opportunity to capture incredible photos and video.
2. What was your journey on the ship like? Could you describe it for us? Our journey on the ship was fabulous! It was a very comfortable home for the 20 days we were at sea. It wasn’t fancy. In fact, the MV Ushuaia is an old supply ship that has been converted into a tourist ship. But that’s ok because we were warm and comfortable and the food was great! We switched rooms half way through our journey. I started off in a room upstairs. It was fairly big, had two single beds - one against each wall. It had a small desk in the middle and one cupboard for two of us to share. And we had our own bathroom. When we shifted rooms, I then was downstairs in a much smaller room, but it was really cozy. It had bunkbeds. I was in the upper bunk. You couldn’t sit up in bed or you’d hit your head on the ceiling. We shared a bathroom with the room beside us. Although it was smaller, it was still a very comfortable room. We ate all of our meals in a dinning room. The chairs in it are bolted to the floor so that you don’t tip off you chair if the boat rolls in big waves. We had a small room with tables and chairs where we could work on our laptops and on other things we were doing. And there was our main meeting room that had mostly bench seats in it as well as a few tv screens for when we watched science videos. We could also walk around on the outer deck of the ship although when the waves were really big, we were encouraged to stay inside. The best thing was going up to the top deck on a sunny day to see the scenery that we were headed to.
3. What do people (and you) do for fun on the ship and in Antarctica? We were working at least 16 hours a day so we didn’t have a ton of spare time and when we did, many of us were working on other things such as organizing our digital photos, sending out info and pictures on social media with our limited internet connection and even working on our Adopt A Scientist questions you sent us. In the evening, after dinner, some nights we would watch videos - interviews of famous women scientists and leaders - recorded just for Homeward Bound. These videos taught us about leadership and inspired us. One of the videos was by Jane Goodall, who is famous for her work on chimpanzees. When our work was done, for fun, we would get together in the main room in the evening and talk and maybe have a drink. A few nights we did have a party, including a special costume party where everyone dressed up. It was just a fun thing to do to take a break from all of our hard work. And we even had a special Christmas party since we were on the ship so close to Christmas. We did a Secret Santa gift exchange where you bring a gift for someone. You pull a name out of a hat and that’s the person who gets your gift. It was a ton of fun. We even had a little artificial Christmas tree in our main room. We also had fun off the ship. Some of our shore landings had us hiking up big, steep hills to get to the top to see incredible views of our surrounding landscape. Other times we hiked to a penguin colony. But there were a couple of times where we ended up having huge snowball fights, friendly ones, with each other. We would laugh and throw snowballs and have a great time. At two of these landings were were tired after getting to the top of the hill. The easiest and fastest way down was to slide. Since we were all wearing winter jackets and rain or snow pants, all we had to do was to lie back, keep our feet off the snow and we would slide down the hill like we were tobogganing, but with no toboggan! It was like being a kid again. We laughed SO hard on the way down the hill. The second hill was a huge one and it looked a bit scary from the top, like you were going to slide right down into the ocean. But it flattened out before the water and all you had to do was dig your boots into the snow to stop. Many of the women on the expedition also did a polar plunge where they swam in the Antarctic water. I had hoped to do it because I had done two polar plunges in the arctic. But I had a cold that just didn’t seem to want to go away (most of us on the ship were sick with colds and flu) so I decided not to do the polar plunge. I’ll do it on my next visit to Antarctica though!
4. What's the most unusual living thing you saw in Antarctica? (plant or animal) This is an good question. We saw so many wild and wonderful things. Penguins are just so different from any other bird I’ve ever seen so they were definitely unusual. When we were going along the Antarctic Peninsula one sunny day, there were several Humpback Whales feeding near our ship. Two of them came very close to our ship and then started to vocalize. They were so loud and the sounds they were making were so deep that you could feel it vibrate in your chest. That was unusual, but also one of the most incredible experiences I had in Antarctica as far as wildlife was concerned.
5. What effects of climate change did you observe in Antarctica and how do you hope to address it? We did observe effects of climate change in Antarctica. While out in our zodiac boats, we watched huge glaciers calve, which means big chunks of the glacier broke off and fell into the water in front of us. Glaciers calving is a natural process, but climate change has caused glaciers to calve more often so that big chunks of the glacier are lost. We visited the Palmer Research Base, which is the smallest of the three American research bases in Antarctica. When it was built in the 1950’s, their backyard consisted of a huge glacier. That glacier has melted so much that it is no longer in their backyard. Instead, it is several hundred meters away from where it used to be. That’s a lot of melting in about 6 decades. When we talked to other researches doing science in Antarctica, all of them told us about glaciers melting. Also, most of the penguin species in Antarctica are in decline. Their population sizes are getting smaller, meaning there are fewer penguins in Antarctica. The only penguin species that seems to be ok are the Gentoo penguins. These penguins are very adaptable. It’s like they are the weeds of the penguin world. As the planet warms, most penguin species are moving further south, toward the south pole and colder areas. The Gentoo penguins seem to be moving into the areas where the other species no longer live. But overall, penguin numbers are lower than what they use to be. What happens to Antarctic wildlife as climate change occurs boils down to one thing - krill. Krill are small shrimp-like invertebrates about a couple of inches long. They are food for just about every animal species in Antarctica. Penguins eat them, seals eat them, whales eat them, fish eat them, seabird eat them. Everything does. And so, if the krill disappear then all of the other animals will disappear from Antarctica. This means krill are a keystone species, which means that all other species in the region depend on them in some way. This means it is critically important to protect the ocean around the Antarctic continent. Lewis Pugh has just helped some of this happen. He actually has been swimming in Antarctica to raise awareness about protecting the waters around Antarctica. The Russian government were the last to need to sign on to special agreement to protect these waters. It was Lewis who went to meet with the Russian government who then agreed to sign to protect these waters. We were lucky enough to have Lewis come to our ship for a visit (he was on a nearby ship and he was doing some of his swimming in the icy Antarctic waters); he told us his story about how he convinced the Russian government to help protect Antarctic waters.
6. What challenges and opportunities will climate change present for our generation? Climate change is a huge challenge, but I do believe that it is something that we can address successfully. But it will require a truly globally collaborative effort to tackle it. Climate change will challenge us through creating more extreme weather, such as severe storms, hurricanes, floods, and droughts. The rise in temperature due to climate change is melting glaciers, worldwide. The impacts of climate change at the poles are far more severe than around the rest of the world. We talked to scientists today at Carlini Base (an Argentinian research base) here in Antarctica. They said that they are seeing glaciers melt at a very fast rate. Climate change will certainly create opportunities for jobs for people who want to study climate change, set policies to deal with climate change, develop technologies to enable us to adapt to climate change, and more.
7. What do you think we need to do to address climate change? We need to address climate change very urgently because the planet is warming significantly and climate change is causing more extreme weather all around the world. The next generation will likely experience global temperatures that no human civilization has ever experienced before. Climate change is causing drought in some parts of the world and floods in other, but both of these extreme affect our ability to grow food. Global sea levels will rise, affecting coastal communities. And some places will not have enough water to drink due to drought. Extreme weather events such as hurricanes, floods, and wildfires from droughts will become more frequent and affect many people across the earth. These are just some of the impacts of climate change. Climate change will affect how we live. The amount of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere is greater than 400 parts per million. We need to act now to prevent CO2 levels from rising any more.
8. How do you hope your expedition will encourage more young women to enter the field of science and research, and why is that important? We really hope that the Homeward Bound Women In Science Leadership Expedition to Antarctica will encourage and inspire more young women to pursue science careers. Homeward Bound is not just an expedition, we want it to become a global movement. There will be 9 more Homeward Bound expeditions over the next 9 years or so. We hope that over 10 years, 1,000 women will have participated in the Homeward Bound experience and will have helped to increase the leadership of women in science and their representation at important decision-making tables around the world. We live in a society that, more than any time in human history, depends on technology. So we need young people pursing science to ensure that technology evolves. We also needs lots of young people to study climate change, its effects and how we can address it or adapt to it. And we need young people to do the science that allows us to understand the impacts of climate change on species and ecosystems and how we can best manage them so that we don’t continue to lose biodiversity. My career in science has been extremely rewarding. I hope that many young people will pursue science careers and help
9. What inspired you to enter the field of science and found Biosphere Environmental Education? My career as a biologist began when I was 2 years old. Growing up in Ottawa, Ontario, Canada, I used to go around our backyard, collecting insects, putting them in jars to observe them and then letting them go. I was always so fascinated with the nature world and wanted to understand what species were part of it and why they were there. My love for nature and biology never went away and so it was a natural thing for me to pursue a biology career. I did my undergraduate degree in biology, my Masters degree and my PhD, then became a post doctoral fellow for a few years and have worked at a university professor and research scientists. I loved my career as a professor and researcher. But in recent years I have felt a strong desire to do something to help people understand the environmental issues our planet faces. I want to connect people to nature and inspire them to love it and to protect it. This is why I founded Biosphere Environmental Education. A core part of my organization is taking young people around the world on environmental learning expeditions, to experience nature first-hand, to learn about the earth’s environmental problems, and to inspire them to do something about it.
10. How will your research expedition to Antarctica help us learn more about issues like climate change and ocean acidification? Our expedition to Antarctica will help us learn more about issues like climate change and ocean acidification by raising awareness about these issues. By raising awareness through social media, connection with schools like yours, and through radio and tv, we hope to raise awareness of these issues and get the attention of leaders who can influence policy and make decisions that will help combat climate change and other environmental issues. We also hope that Homeward Bound will inspire some young people to pursue science careers and address climate change and other environmental issues.
Name: Joanna Young
Institution/Organization/Affiliation: Geophysical Institute and Girls on Ice, University of Alaska Fairbanks
Job Title: PhD student and lead instructor of Girls on Ice Alaska
1. What will happen to the earth if we continue using chemicals for many years to come? That’s a very good, and very complicated question! The chemicals like carbon monoxide that are released by burning fossil fuels for energy (for driving, electricity, and industry) mostly end up in the atmosphere, and are causing our Earth to get warmer. This is a problem because a warmer Earth means more melting glaciers and sea ice, more droughts in some places and storms in others, and overall different seasons and temperatures than animals and we as humans are used to. While those things might sound a little bit scary, the good news is that there is lots we can do to reduce many of these changes. I’ll talk a bit more about those things in the questions ahead!
2. Can the ozone layer fix itself? If yes, How is this done? The ozone layer can fix itself! It is a natural process that occurs on its own, as long as we keep the bad kind of chemicals that destroy the ozone out of the atmosphere. The good news is that those nasty chemicals have been mostly banned by countries of the world, and are no longer present in products that used to contain them, so there are not many of them entering into the atmosphere any more. This means that the ozone is in the process of repairing itself as we speak.
3. Has there ever been any natural disasters in Antarctica? There have been natural disasters in Antarctica just as in other parts of the world, yes. Great question! During the first week of the trip, we actually sailed in our boat into the caldera (or crater) of an old – 3 million years old! – underwater volcano. Imagine an island that is shaped like a horseshoe, with the middle of the horseshoe connected to the open ocean – that is what it looked like. We learned that the volcano, which is 800 m tall if you dive underwater, originally formed 3 million years ago but continues to erupt every so often. Most recently, it erupted in the 1960s and a group of buildings that made up an old Norwegian station there were destroyed by mudslides that followed. Nobody was hurt, but we walked around in the old buildings, and they were pretty well flattened!
4. How many more years will Antarctica survive if we keep using chemicals? The good news is that Antarctica has a lot of ice – a LOT of ice. In some places, the ice is actually up to 3000 m thick! So, there is little chance that all of the ice of Antarctica will disappear completely. But, a lot of the ice may disappear if the climate keeps warming as people on Earth continue to burn fossil fuels for energy, and that will have impacts that affect the whole world. Scientists project that we will melt enough Antarctic ice to raise all of the oceans of the world by around 1 m by the end of the century, which will sadly impact lots of people and buildings along the coasts of the world.
5. After this expedition what will the scientists be doing to ensure that a change is made in the world to help Antarctica? There are lots of things that scientists can do to help make good changes in the world. Doing research on how quickly ice is melting, how penguins are doing as their food sources are changing, and how the marine food web is changing are all good ways to make sure we understand how our Earth is changing now and will change in the future. Scientists can also be sure to share what they know with schools (like yours!), with adults, with newspapers and TV, and with the government, so that everyone understands what is happening to the health of the planet. In particular, scientists can help change policies in government and industry so that we burn fewer fossil fuels for energy, and have more plans in place for living more sustainably. But, it doesn’t only take scientists to make a change! Each and every person on the planet has the power to help keep the environment healthy and to help reduce climate change. Making smart choices about what we eat (locally grown foods and less meat), how much energy we use (not overheating or overcooling our houses, biking and walking instead of driving), and what we buy (products from environmentally responsible companies) are all important and all has the power to help keep our planet healthy.
6. How will the results of this expedition be used? The expedition is focused on helping scientists to be better leaders, so we can be better at educating everyone about Antarctica and the health of the planet, and be better at helping government, industry and everyday people make smarter decisions about how to be sustainable. The scientists on the expedition will all go back to their homes and, in their own way, help our schools, communities, and governments make good decisions for the planet.
7. What will you pack for your big trip? How much are you allowed to take? We are allowed to take as much as we need, but I limited myself to one medium-sized duffel bag so that it would be easy to carry on the airplane and wouldn’t take up too much space on the ship! I packed as many warm clothes as I could – hats, scarves, gloves and mitts, warm socks, fleece tops and pants that are insulated and waterproof. The good news is that they are providing rubber boots and a very warm waterproof coat with our expedition logo on it, so we don’t have to bring those things! We also need our computers and a camera. And, for fun, we were asked to bring a gift for one another that we would exchange on the boat, a costume item for a fun party we will have one night, and a fancy outfit for a formal dinner we will have on the very last night. I am excited for those events!
8. What kind of food are you eating on the ship? The food has been really good! We eat a lot – three times a day, plus a snack and tea at 3pm. I am amazed at how much fresh fruit and vegetables the chefs are incorporating into the meals – they must have a great cooler system to keep things fresh! They also serve lots of hot soup, both at lunch and dinner, to warm us up after we come inside from the cold. And, they spoil us with two desserts a day (at lunch and dinner), and a treat at tea time, around 3pm. It seems like we are eating a lot of food, but one thing to keep in mind is that people need a lot of calories to keep themselves warm in cold temperatures! Our appetites have been growing since we arrived.
Name: Joana Correia
Institution/Organization/Affiliation: Natural Resource Institute in the University of Manitoba, Winnipeg
Job Title: graduate student
1. What would temperatures in Antarctica been like 2000 years ago? Or 1000 years from now? In Antarctica we can experience the most extreme weather conditions as well as the fastest climate change impacts. In only 70 years, there have a been a number of glaciers in the Peninsula of Antarctica that have retrieved, and in Palmer station, the U.S. permanent research station, there is a lot of visual and descriptive data pertaining to temporal temperature changes. They have a very informative website you can use to fully understand these changes, I still don’t quite understand them yet, and I also still have a lot to learn when it comes to Antarctica.
2. In your personal opinion, what suggestions do you have to battle pollution? Climate change? Carbon foot print – the exercise of calculating your carbon foot print can be very helpful, first for you to recognize how much energy and natural resources you use everyday, and second to understand how much of what we use everyday (e.g.: your daily food and hygiene products) ends up in land fills and water reservoirs. The fact is that we cannot survive without water and fertile land. The depletion of natural resources along with the pollution of these given resources, by not having the appropriate laws that regulate for instance the water quality, is really what drove us to the biggest crisis we have ever faced - Climate change. As this is a very complex global issue, it is always helpful to ‘act locally and think globally’. So while Climate change is the global issue, taking care of your local environmental issues, advocating for the right of good quality air, water and land, and making sure your government is accountable for such human rights is how you can battle pollution and climate change.
3. What happens to your expedition if you lose radio contact temporarily? Permanently? When you are off the ship on an expedition? This ship (called the Ushuaia) is very old and has a lot of communication instruments. Upon asking the expedition cruise planner that has 4 decades of experience, what she explained is that if they were ever to be temporarily out of radio, they would use: long-wave radio, mores code, and if all of that was not possible they still have a flag system if visibility allows to communicate with people on other ships and on land.
4. We understand that the ice in areas is over 2 miles thick - how is this determined? From the limited polar science knowledge I have as well as from living in Winnipeg I know that one effective way to do this is to use eco-sound instruments. These instruments can be used on airplanes, ships, boats and also manually. The manual instrument can actually be very simple, where it sends out a pin sound down to the ice and then depending on however long it takes for the instrument to receive that same pin the thickness of the ice is calculated. There are a number of online resources that can help you with this question, the only one I can think of right now is in Manitoba. As this is very important information in terms of ice safety, your own provincial government might also have those resources available online.
5. How is pollution contamination and its effects tracked and monitored in Antarctica and the surrounding oceans? Antarctica is a very unique continent because it does not belong to any nation; it is governed by an international treaty - the Antarctica treaty system, which was signed in December 1959 by 12 countries and entered into force in 1961 and has since then been acceded by many other nations, it has up to 49 nations. This treaty has a scientific committee at the very center banning any country from owning or exploiting the land, which means the only potential sources of pollution are research and touristic activities. These activities are mostly concentrated in the peninsula of Antarctica, the North of Antarctica, where weather conditions are mildest. To minimize the impact of having permanent research stations in Antarctica as well as tourists coming and going, there is an organization IAATO (International Association Antarctica Tour Operators) that provides information about the do’s and don’ts. For tourists, one of the don’ts is to not take any food to shore, to any penguin colonies they might go visit and the same goes for the researchers, where their food is eaten inside their stations. Then there is also the issue of the everyday garbage we produce, for the garbage on board of a ship, this is never to leave the ship and be taken to its country of origin, and usually the same goes for the garbage of research stations. The only differences here is that it can be very costly to transport tones of garbage from Antarctica to for instance Argentina, which is what the Argentinian research station we visited (Carlini station) does. To address this issue some stations, such as the Carlini station, have started to build incineration facilities to burn all organic materials, everything else still has to be transported back to Argentina. More information about the monitoring and tracking of pollution contamination can be found on the IAATO website.
6. What are the experiments you will be conducting on this adventure and how will you be testing your hypothesis? The main purpose of this trip was not such much to conduct scientific experiments, as it was to observe and participate in very important discussions about women in science, gender equality and leadership, while in a very isolated and impacted (by climate change) environment – Antarctica. With leadership at the centre of our discussions one hypothesis I guess I could say we tested was how well we could all work together and how passionate we all were about putting our ideas into action. Homeward Bound participants this year consisted of a variety of women from different age groups and disciplines that recognized the amount of work that still needs to be done, to make both this experience as well as the experience of being in science more inclusive and diverse. This was the first realization we all had, and having in mind our hypothesis the results we got were narrowed down to the fact that as a collective there is still a lot of work to be done to have not only women being part of decision-making processes around the globe, but also to have a diverse socio-cultural dynamic. If we are to change this planet for the better and/or make it more sustainable, it is important that we raise awareness about environmental, social and economical issues in a diverse framework to start with so as many points of view as possible are raised. Only then will we be able to work together and constructively collaborate.
7. In the news, global warming is a controversial topic, what is your perspective on global warming and what is it based on? To fully understand how controversial this topic is, in my opinion, we have to understand the why as well as where the term originated from, and so I will split this answer in two sections. Section 1 Global warming and climate change, are two terms that are constantly misused by the media, and this is simply because these were not meant to be used by the media without having any content. It is then essential to understand how these terms are used and communicated in today’s media, whether this is on the radio, television or newspapers. To do this I often refer to George Lakoff, as he explains very well how our brain works and how we receive and perceive messages that are given to us, particularly by the media. George Lakoff talks about environmental framing and how this is everywhere in the news, and it is at this point that we have to think, where such controversy comes from. To clarify, I will give you two examples of when someone might use the term global warming or climate change: If we are to discuss direct human impacts on our planet then a journalist/politician might be more incline to refer to global warming, because here we are not removed from the equation we (humans) are causing the greenhouse effect, and by using that clear frame we can perhaps explain the drastic effects of meat industry in North America. We are the ones that built the industrial infrastructures, destroy fertile pieces of land and then consume the meat that was never meant to be there in the first place, without implementing appropriate environmental assessments; On the other hand if we are to discuss both direct and indirect human impacts on the environment, then we are talking about climate change, which is the rise of sea levels, change of plant life cycles, damaged corals, change in animal migration and life cycle, less snow and ice, and much more. Often when journalist/politicians talk about climate change on the news it is to promote a solution that translates into the continuation of burning fossil fuels while regulating for the decrease of CO2 emissions. When in fact this is not the solution at all and would never be the scientific recommendation. The purpose of this section is just to get you to be curious and always ask the why questions, e.g.: why is that person referring to global warming and/or climate change in that particular context? Very often it is self-interest, particular if it is a politician. This is a big failure on our part; over the years scientists have not taken the time and training needed to best communicated their data to the general public. Interestingly, this is in fact what we are trying to do as part of the Homeward Bound; this is one of the reasons why Homeward Bound exists, to help us best communicate science and to prevent this type of controversy from occurring. Section 2 Global warming is based on the very dense evidence of increased CO2 emissions around the globe and how that has affected the planet’s ozone layer. While increasing our CO2 emissions, through the burning of coal, fossil fuels and other mundane human activities, we never thought to compensate and plant more trees, coral reefs, seagrasses, mangroves, and other marine life that segregates CO2. We have done the opposite, we have cut and destroyed the species that remove CO2 and give back O2. This process can be very well understood through physiological studies, where the link between CO2 emissions and pH levels of both terrestrial and oceanic organisms is clear. It is according to such studies and the above mentioned evidence that there is no doubt that human activity has artificially increased CO2 emissions, to such an extent that there is a hole in the ozone layer, which is visible in satellite imaginary. It would be great to get the class to look up those images as well as some of the physiological studies.
8. Since there are no restaurants in Antarctica, how and what will you be eating and drinking? The company that owns the ship Antarply provides all the food and drinks, as well as some of the research stations we landed on gave us some snacks and hot drinks. And all dietary requirements have been meet by the ship company as we filled out a form with that information prior to the trip.
9. What inspired you to be a scientist and what fascinates you about this adventure? What inspired me to become a scientist was my ability to dream big. From a very young age until now I have always wanted to discover and be part of something bigger than myself, and in the end that is what science is. Science is the discovery and understanding of our planet, and it is never just about following the scientific method, because we constantly have to think outside the box to be able to tackle the issues we face, whether these are technical or holistic issues. What fascinates me about this adventure is that Homeward Bound is not about our science skills and credibility, it is about our vision for the future. As women in science, our skills and credibility is often undermined, but the same could also be said about certain fields of science, what we are focusing on in this adventure is on leadership and how we can collaboratively work together to bring the science we are so passionate about to the public eye. Now more than ever, this is what we need, to raise awareness about climate change within a message of love and inclusion, as to create more and more opportunities for collaboration, only then can such complex global issues, such as the regression of glaciers, be addressed.
10. How many hours of sunlight will there be during the days and will this affect your sleep patterns? In the summer season in Antarctica there are no nights, the sun kind of sets and rises, but there is no actual darkness in the night, there is daylight 24/7. There is also no particular time zone for Antarctica as we are on latitude zero, and so we pick whatever time zone we want to work with, because we are in an Argentinian ship, we use their time zone. So far I have seen a ‘sunset’ at around 11pm and then a ‘sunrise’ at around 2am, but still it never gets dark just a dimmer light as the sun goes around the globe. This can affect sleeping partners, but it’s mostly ok because we can just go inside the ship and close the blinds. Just think about what you would do if you were to take a nap during the day, as long as you are in complete darkness you can sleep, and if you are not really sensitive to light then you won’t have a problem at all.
Name: Carol Devine
Institution/Organization/Affiliation: Médecins Sans Frontières/Doctors Without Borders, Society of Women Geographers, Member of the Humanities and Social Sciences Expert Group of the Scientific Committee on Antarctic Research
Job Title: Humanitarian Advisor, Policy Researcher
1. What do you think the hardest part of this research experience will be? I think the hardest part of this experience will be not enough time to write and analyze and now on day eight this is proving true. We have so much going on. A typical day is we get up at 7am, have breakfast, are on a zodiac boat all dressed warmly to go onshore by 9am, then we have a kind of landing which may be to see a penguin colony or visit one of Antarctica's scientific stations. We may stay two to three hours on such a landing. We eat by 1230 and have afternoon sessions on Antarctic science or leadership until say 6pm with a break in between. Then we often have evening programs be it a film or a filmed lecture by a respected leader in science or environmental protection such as Jane Goodall and Sylvia Earle. The sun barely sets so it's light out too and that impacts our sleep and biorhythms here in the Antarctic austral summer. The hardest part is carving time to digest all the incredible learning but sometimes it's sitting quietly alone observing a seal on an iceberg or walking with one of the other 76 women that I'll be able to process information and see new ways of thinking about combatting climate change and inequity in my work. Though we have a shortage of time, this isn't a complaint - I wouldn't trade a busy schedule here for the world!
2. What are ways we can combat systemic sexism in education, especially the sciences? We can combat systemic sexism by creating new policies, and monitoring and enforcing older policies and practices that make sexism illegal and unacceptable culturally and professionally. We also need to modelling positive practices, ensure women are treated equally and have equal opportunities and to work harder to have women in leadership positions and representation at scientific fora. We need to tackle unconscious and conscious bias which means saying things like girls are not good at science or boys are not good at arts. There are interesting free tests on the internet to test your own bias about women and men's roles. I found I am slightly biased and have 'traditional' or sexist thinking about what is male or female professions. So I'm trying to be more conscious!
3. What animal or plant are you most excited to study on this trip and why? Will you allow me to say that I'm looking more at glaciers though I'm so intrigued to learn than juvenile penguins mimic behavior of older penguins and practice to sit on old or broken eggs for the time both male and female penguins will incubate their eggs.
4. What is your preferred field of science and how will it apply to this research experience and help the environment? I am a social scientist meaning I study people and behaviours, I research and I write. This is also called the humanities. This is incredibly important field of science alongside the natural sciences such as studying biology or geology because nature is silent. My friend and colleague Dr James Orbinski with whom I work at Médecins Sans Frontières/Doctors Without Borders said it perfectly: “Stories, we all have stories. Nature does not tell stories, we do. We find ourselves in them…if we are the stories we tell ourselves, we had better choose them well.” I want to tell stories to humanize the climate and health issues we face today. I use facts and I also use anecdotes. I can tell you that one great barrier for poor people to get life-saving medicines for HIV was the price of the medicine, and I can also tell you that I have a friend named Mo Barry from the Gambia who is 22 and is living with HIV. He got it from his mother when she gave birth to him. Thanks to preventative medicines now in many countries around the world there are next to no babies born with HIV/AIDS but in poor countries still some women are not accessing the drugs. Nobody should be "too poor to cure". Luckily Mo has access to HIV treatment and will live a long life. He fights for others to receive HIV medicines and is a student at York University in Toronto.
5. What are your top predictions for the environment over the next 20 years and did the trip change them in any way? The top predictions for the environment are a combination of hopeful and fearful. I'd like to tell you particularly about the Antarctic environment that is related to environment everywhere. I did not make these up but learned about them from a fantastic scientist in Australia, Dr Steve Chown at Monash University who presented at an Antarctic Science conference I attended in Auckland, New Zealand in 2014. In the next 10 years big concerns for Antarctica Antarctic conservation: natural reserve for peace and science? 10-year horizon Climate change • marine ecosystem effects • Ocean acidification • Invasive alien species • Habitat alteration • Pollution • Regulatory failure 50 year horizon Climate change impacts on marine and terrestrial systems • Hydrocarbon exploration • Mineral extraction • Bioprospecting• Permanent human settlement
6. How did you come to be chosen for the Homeward Bound expedition and what will you be responsible for during the expedition? I'm not totally certain why I was chosen for the HB expedition but I think it may be for the following reasons: I am a global health professional and activist, I do science communication especially on marine debris and I have Antarctic and Arctic expedition experience. I led a civilian clean up expedition to the Antarctica in 1995/6 which means I brought volunteers from Canada, the US, Europe and Japan etc to help clean up a research station - Bellingshausen, run by the Russians. We worked collaboratively to literally clean up garbage and take it out of the station. This was in the spirit of the Antarctic Treaty and Madrid Protocol for Environmental Protection that required scientific stations in the Antarctic to improve their environmental policies. I think it showed I have been a leader in the past and that I'm interested to be a more effective and visible leader in the future. I write and blog about Antarctic, global health and earth health issues and I wrote a book about the expedition I led, it's called The Antarctic Book of Cooking and Cleaning (telling about our time and prior Antarctic times through food stories, images, journal excerpts and snippets of Antarctic science and wisdom). My responsibility on the expedition with Homeward Bound is to participate and contribute fully, support my fellow participants, share my learnings both on the voyage and afterwards with my family, colleagues, community and beyond. I feel responsible to make the most of the incredible learnings and experiences I've had and to translate knowledge gained about Antarctic science, environment and women's leadership. These things are incredibly meaningful to me.
7. What have been your struggles as a female scientist? In my workplace in Canada and when I'm overseas, a medical humanitarian organization, I do not struggle as a female social scientist but I do still face sexism and at times I am vulnerable because of security conditions in some war zones and instable countries I work. Often women are more at risk of sexual assault. At times when I work in countries where women's rights are not equal to mens nor are women considered key decision makers in some political situations it is difficult. For example, when I was in South Sudan with Médecins Sans Frontières/Doctors Without Borders where there is a long civil war, health crises and pockets of famine at times women would be called 'honorary men' to be accepted voices at meetings. I work for equal rights for women through my work and I see how women are more vulnerable to the health impact of climate change.
8. How much ice do you predict will melt over the next 50 years and what will be the large scale effects of this ice melt? I consider glaciers alive - I guess they are to some degree as they have microbes and snow algae living in and on them. Some glaciers some half a million years old, some are newer, perhaps a few thousand years. (Sea ice is different, it's seasonal ice that comes in then melts again.) Glaciers are under threat of retreating, or melting which means a big change to how animals and marine life in Antarctica feed and thrive such as krill who feed on the underside of ice. Melting glaciers also mean sea rise which means communities in low lying areas are under threat and already some communities in the Pacific and Alaska are having to relocate because their areas are flooded. I want to learn more about Antarctic glaciers and so have been spending a lot of time with Joanna Young, a glaciologist who lives in Alaska. Glaciers are retreating around the world and fastest in the Arctic which is a huge worry and is already having big impact of people and ecosystems. If the whole ice sheet melted in West Antarctica, sea rise around the world would rise by 3.5 metres and that could - hypothetically, flow London, Florida, Shanghai and displace millions of people who live and make a living close to the sea. Warming around our globe is already causing extreme climate events, desertification and more hunger. Species are sensitive to warming In Antarctica there is much still to learn and observe what is happening to glaciers here but we know a few years ago a major ice sheet broke off and we know in both West and East Antarctica that glaciers are instable. Here in the Antarctic peninsula it is warming quickly and glaciers are definitely under retreat. We see incredible blue and white glaciers every day but I look at them wondering what will be their fate and I hope we do all we can to stop using fossil fuels which contribute to warming and melting of these beautiful elegant icy fields. Antarctica is one of the two 'heart' beats of the world and refrigerators that help us regulate temperatures. We need them to stay cold.
9. We see that phytoplankton is integral to the food chain of the ocean surrounding Antarctica. What are the ideal living conditions for phytoplankton? Are any of these being threatened? I don't know so much about phytoplankton but that krill feeds on it. If phytoplankton is impacted then the whole Antarctic and global ecosystem is affected as krill is the cornerstone of the entire food web. Everything is interrelated so we need to take care of the little to the big critters. I think this would be a great question to google and I urge you to do it and I will too when I get home and access to the internet. On my computer I have a cool photo of zooplankton think you might like - the sea butterfly pteropod, the dominant zooplankton in polar waters.
10. What kind of impact will ice melt have on penguins? Does it affect mammals such as whales? The impact of ice melt impacts different penguins differently. In general warming waters which is happening in Antarctica means a change in the whole food chain and ecosystem. I understand Adélie penguin populations are particularly impacted because they are having a harder time finding food. The primary drivers of ecosystem change are higher temperatures and acidification of water and this impacts habitats and availability of food. There's a woman on our voyage Dyan deNapoli, "The Penguin Lady" who has a website with awesome penguin facts. Definitely penguins across the penguin spectrum are impacted by the changing climate - we've seen chinstrap, gentoos and adélie's so far.
Name: Holly North
Institution/Organization/Affiliation: New South Wales National Parks and Wildlife Service
Job Title: Ranger
1. What is the most interesting thing you have discovered? The most interesting thing for me is that everything is interconnected - for example, pollution which enters the atmosphere in the Northern Hemisphere can reach Antarctic ecosystems because of atmospheric circulation.
2. If you couldn't be a scientist, what would you have done? I would have perhaps been a journalist to communicate the wonderful world of science to more people.
3. What place would you like to travel in the world to investigate/see new things for science? Why? I would like to travel to the Galápagos Islands in Ecuador because it is where Charles Darwin came up with the theory of evolution.
4. Do you feel you are making a difference in the world? Yes, I feel that I am inspiring the next generation to be curious about nature and be stewards of the planet.
5. How do you maintain a family and work balance? My partner and I plan fun holidays together. During the work week we take time to check in with each other and go for walks together. It takes work to maintain a balance!
6. We have studied many of the pressing effects of global climate change on the Canadian North - what are some of the effects you expect to see or study that are the same or different in the Antarctic? The retreat of glaciers and ocean acidification are effects of climate change that demonstrate the impacts human activities are having on global ecosystems.
7. What are you most looking forward to studying or discovering on your trip to the Antarctic - what was the most important lesson you would like to pass on about your trip to the Antarctic? For me this trip is about how to become an effective leader to effect social change. By working together, a team of women can change the world.
8. How do we encourage excitement for continued North and South pole exploration and protection in the future? The extreme ends of the earth are fragile, beautiful wilderness areas. Increasing awareness of the importance of protecting and investigating the polar regions will lead to enthusiasm for continued work in these special places.
9. What is your favourite species to study in the Antarctic? I like to study krill, because they play such an important role in Antarctic ecosystems. Of the 89 species of krill worldwide, 18 are found in Antarctica. Krill are like little aliens, the female has a tulip-like structure which comes out of the stomach to breed.
Name: Sandra Kerbler
Institution/Organization/Affiliation: ARC Centre of Excellence in Plant Energy Biology, the University of Western Australia
Job Title: PhD Candidate
1. The harsh climate of Antarctica makes it one of the most inhospitable places on the earth, allowing only a small number of organisms to live there. What are these organisms, how are they able to survive and where else in the world are they found? Would they survive in Perth? The most common animals inhabiting Antarctica are penguins, whales, seals, albatrosses and other seabirds. As the weather conditions in Antarctica are so extreme, animals generally have a number of different behavioural and physiological adaptations that help them survive: Antarctic animals are generally larger in size than their temperate climate relatives. Being bigger allows them to have a lower surface area to volume ratio, which means that they are able to retain more heat. They generally have smaller extremities (fins, tails and feet), which also helps prevent heat loss. They are generally well insulated (have large amounts of blubber, fur or feathers) to keep them warm. They eat lots of high energy food to generate warmth from within. All large animals (from the smallest birds upwards) in Antarctica are carnivores. Meat is a more concentrated energy rich source of food than vegetable matter (which doesn’t grow very well on the continent) They often gather together in large groups (huddle), which enables them to be protected from harsh winds and allows them to maintain warmth. Another adaptation of Antarctic organisms is that they often migrate to and from the Antarctic continent (that is when it gets to cold, they move to warmer, more productive waters). For example, blue whales (the largest animal on earth) migrate to Antarctica to take advantage of the huge seasonal supply of food (due to large upwellings of deep ocean water, carrying nutrients and continuous sunlight needed for phytoplankton growth) in the summer months. As the seasons change however, food becomes less available and so blue whales migrate to the northern hemisphere during the cold winter months. As many Antarctic animals migrate, they can often be found in many different places such as Australia, Argentina, Chile, South Africa and New Zealand. Animals can survive in these places for a time; however, as they reply on the food supplies in Antarctic waters, they would not be able to survive all year round as they would most probably run out of food or their adaptations for heat retention would make them overheat in warmer climates in the summer.
2. What is the difference between plants in Antarctica and plants in Australia – types, growth rate, size, colour, etc.? Plants in Antarctica are generally small, have a low growth rate and are relatively simple in structure (mosses and grasses). As temperatures can get very low, the plants in Antarctica only grow on the periphery of the continent and are super slow growing. Plants in Australia are also slow growing (mostly because it’s too hot), but warmer temperatures allow plants to grow larger and as such, Australian plants come in all shapes and forms from small mosses to tall trees.
3. Earth is a ball of fire. The Sun beats down daily. Considering these facts, how does the ice in Antarctica not melt? The Antarctic continent is the largest single mass of ice on Earth and covers about 98% of the Antarctic continent. It contains approximately 61% of all fresh water on the planet and is equivalent to about 58m of ice above sea level. As Antarctica is surrounded by oceans and that the ice sheet is situated on top of land, these two factors help the ice not to melt. Also, the two poles of the Earth receive the least amount of sunlight, so this also helps the ice caps from melting. In contrast to Antarctica, the North pole melts seasonally as the ice sheet is surrounded by land and is not situated on land. The ocean under the Arctic ice sheet is still cold, however it is still much warmer than the ice and so it will warm the air and ice in contact with it, causing the ice sheet to melt seasonally.
4. The ozone layer in Antarctica is thinner than anywhere else even though there are no factories producing CFC’s so why is this the case? Why is the ozone layer in Antarctica thinner than in the North Pole? What effect is climate change having on the growth and survival of plants and animals? Ozone is produced when oxygen in the atmosphere reacts with UV rays from the sun. During the southern hemisphere's winter months, the sun does not shine in Antarctica for many weeks at a time. During that time the sun does not deliver ultra-violet radiation to the upper atmosphere over the South Pole and so ozone production decreases. Also during the South Polar winter, a characteristic whirlpool of winds forms, which prevents the air from mixing with the rest of the Earth's atmosphere. The same type of vortex can also occur at the North Pole, but it is usually much weaker. Experts in the field think the difference is due to the fact that Antarctica is a continent with mountainous peaks while the North Pole is largely flat, frozen ocean. As a result of these two factors, the ozone layer above the South Pole becomes greatly thinner in comparison to other parts of the globe and so an “ozone hole” develops. It should be noted that the “ozone hole” is actually nothing more than an area of the atmosphere lower in ozone than the rest of the atmosphere, which will drift away from the South Pole as the southern winter vortex breaks up and air exchange resumes for the spring, summer and autumn.
5. Eye deterioration is a real issue. Exposure to UV rays and use of computers is said to be a contributory factor. How do you protect your eyes from the extreme glare of the snow due to the reflection of the sun? When we voyage onto the ice, we always wear sunscreen, sunglasses and SPF lip balm. The amount of UV radiation here is particularly high (especially during the winter months) and so protecting ourselves from the sun is really important to that you don’t get sunburn.