By Nicole Hellessey
This December a cohort of female scientists from around the world, 78 to be exact, will come together for a journey to Antarctica. The group will be promoting gender equality in science with the specific purpose of increasing women’s roles in combating climate change. As West Antarctica is one of the fastest warming areas on Earth, it provides the perfect backdrop for these women to raise awareness for an important topic.
Fabian Dattner (Founder of Dattner and Grant, founder of Compass and one of the most influential business women in Australia) and Jessica Melbourne-Thomas (Rhodes Scholar, Founder of the Women in Polar Science network) realized that there was a need for women to be seen as both leaders in the field of science and as influential decision makers when discussing policies that could have an impact on climate change. Thus, the movement of Homeward Bound was started with the aim of creating a program to connect 1,000 female scientists to a network of like-minded and passionate women in STEM disciplines. This year’s participants of the inaugural trip will partake in a three-week journey. For the past year, they have been receiving training on how to establish themselves as leaders and strategists as well as learning how to affect policy decisions at all levels of government.
Many of the participants have been using social media in conjunction with their extensive networks to spread and help amplify the message that women need to be on more boards, panels and committees in order to balance the discussion on climate change. These individuals come from a diverse range of professional fields and hope to use their collective voices as a strength to reach out to the global community.
Each of the women had to raise $15,000 USD to help pay for the ship that will be taking them to Antarctica, much of which was raised through crowd funding. With the final payments made and the number of days until departure dwindling, the women are now focusing their efforts on how they can spread their message of gender equality even further. Ideas include creating informational posters and a creating an educational documentary which will be made whilst they are on-board. Some women are even reaching out to schools and public groups to spread the message of women being great leaders in science.
One of the lucky participants is Nicole Hellessey, 27, a researcher from the Institute for Marine and Antarctic Studies in Hobart, Tasmania. Nicole studies Antarctic Krill and is interested in understanding how these tiny crustaceans adapt to the fluctuations in their environment caused by climate change. Nicole wants to come away from Homeward Bound with the skills to help influence the Krill fishery into becoming more sustainable long term. “It’s an amazing opportunity and I feel so blessed to have been chosen. It’s really mind blowing being a part of it.” In the short time she has been a part of the program, Nicole has connected with many other participants - both from within and outside of Australia. “We’re all Facebook friends already. It’s lovely getting to know more about each other before we go south together.” Nicole says she can’t wait to get back to see how far the Homeward Bound message of gender equality can reach.
For more information on the movement or the participants go to homewardboundprojects.com.au
About the Author
Nicole Hellessey, 27, is an Antarctic Marine Scientist. She is currently undertaking her PhD at UTAS on Antarctic Krill and the effect Climate Change is having on their population dynamics and structure. Nicole has previously worked on Antarctic Fur Seal foraging behaviour, sea urchin barren rehabilitation and freshwater estuary pollution levels.
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