Alex Jenkin (Natural Sciences (Biological) 2007) hopes her journey to Antarctica will help make a difference in educating others about the climate emergency.
The 30-year-old will next month travel to Argentina and onwards to Antarctica as part of the Homeward Bound project.
She told fitz.cam.ac.uk: “Homeward Bound is a climate-focused, women in leadership programme for women in science.
“It involves a year-long online training programme, collaborating with others, and culminates in a three-week voyage to Antarctica.
“There’s a cohort of 100 women for each year, and over 10 years they aim to take 1,000 women through this programme.”
Alex is in the fourth cohort, after a friend who has already been part of the global group recommended she apply.
The focus is on supporting individuals’ leadership skills and collaborative working, with a focus on climate and sustainability.
Alex added: “My drive for applying is because my job is science education. I want to think about how we can bring climate and leadership education into school education.
“Aside from the fact I care about these ideas anyway, the chance to go to Antarctica is unbelievable and it just sounded like a fantastic opportunity.
“In Cambridge we’ve got the Scott Polar Institute and the British Antarctic Survey. It sometimes feels like every second person has been to Antarctica when you move in scientific circles! But it’s hugely exciting.”
Learning about that environment and the visible effect of climate emergency – “It’s something you can very much see,” Alex says – is key to the project, which will see her live on a ship for three weeks, with visits to research bases, ice formations and penguin colonies.
The time on the ship will include a Symposium at Sea, which will see each Homeward Bound participant give a three-minute talk to about what they do and themselves, to help build collaborations.
She adds: “Whilst Antarctica might not be the most obvious context for plants – there are plants that live in those kinds of climates and also algae – and there’s some links I can make directly to Antarctica.
“There are some climate contexts we can bring in to our resources.”
The impact of climate change on animals is well publicised, but Alex wants more emphasis on plant life, too, and to further the engagement of the climate community with schoolchildren.
She added: “School education is the one opportunity we get to speak to, pretty much, the whole population.
“There’s a huge opportunity to really talk about climate, to consider that this is something real, dangerous and happening now.
“You see part of that with the school strikes – but there are plenty of adults who are still not listening.
“We have an opportunity to talk to young people about this, to have them share their views and think about what they want – both in terms of climate and in terms of leadership.
“How would young people want to lead in the face of these challenges, like climate change? Ultimately it’s their generation who are going to start really feeling the consequences, and we need to give them a seat at the table.”
The voyage will be carbon offset and being in Antarctica, a challenging environment, will test the cohort, as well as creating a bond.
“To go to Antarctica takes people out of their ordinary lives and gives them time just to focus on the experience, in an environment which is very powerful,” Alex added.
- To learn more about Homeward Bound, visit homewardboundprojects.com.au